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electronic music history
electronic music history


Significant Events In Electronic Music History [Infographic]

The origins of electronic music may depend on your definition of “electronic.” Some would argue that certain music was infused with electronic invention long before the explosion of modern electronic instruments. From the 1700's to the late 50's, some incredible inventions took place like the Theremin in 1919.

RelatedBest Analog Synth Under $500

Dr. Robert Moog was one of the pioneers of electronic instruments. He established Moog Music in 1953, which started out as a manufacturing company of various theremin products and kits. In 1956, the transistor was invented and the inventors were given the Nobel Prize. The semi-conductor device was used to switch and amplify electronic signals and currents. This breakthrough eventually helped Moog develop some of the instruments used in modern electronic music like synthesizers we see today.

Let's take a look back at the significant events that helped shape electronic music over the years, starting in 1960 (including the fun pop culture transformations). At this rate, who knows what's in store in 2015. There's no doubt we're in the middle of a revolutionary age for technological advancement in music. This list does not focus on instruments alone, but highlights the events that helped the culture of electronic music evolve and take shape.


The 60's

1960 – Milton Babbit is hired by RCA as a consultant Composer on their RCA Mark II Synthesizer. This was was the first programmable electronic synthesizer, given to them by researchers.

1961 – Established in in 1959, the oldest center for electronic and computer music, the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, releases an album that includes Babbitt and five other composers.

1962 – Commissioned by avant garde composers to make live electronic instruments, Don Buchla forms an electronic music equipment company in Berkley, CA; Korg Electronics is founded in Japan.

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1963 – Australian composer and Pioneer Ron Grainer produced the theme song for the TV show, “Doctor Who.” This song was considered one of the first electronic songs; The first modular synthesizers were made.

1964 – The national center for electronic music and sound art, Elektronmusikstudion, is established and founded in Stockholm under the name “Electroacoustic Music in Sweden.”

1965 – The Moog Modular Synthesizer, considered the first instrument for electronic use, is manufactured for the first time by Dr. Robert Moog. Two years prior, Moog and Buchla invented the first prototypes.

1966 – Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones uses a theremin while recording their albums “Between the Buttons” and “Their Satanic Majesties Request,” which would be released the following year.

1967 – The electronic music group Hymenen starts performing in Cologne, Germany. Their live performance consists of early surround sound features called “quadrophonics.”

1967- Pop/rock musicians begin experimenting with Theremins and Mellotrons, including the Beach Boys and the Beatles. Bands like Genesis and Pink Floyd start using Moog synthesizers; BBC Radio 1 airs.

1968 – American composer Wendy Carlos used the Moog Synthesizer to make the album “Switched-On Bach,” which earned 3 Grammy Awards; Sennheiser releases the world's first open Headphones.

1969 – Electronic ambient acts emerge: Tangerine Dream records debut album, “Electronic Meditation.” Popol Vuh was also formed; ARP Instruments is founded; Synthesizer co. Electronic Music Studios is founded.


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The 70's

1970 – The German electronic band Kraftwerk is formed by Ralph Hutter and Florian Schneider. The duo started to play live with a variety of instruments processed through synthesizers and electronic-based effects.

1971 – Brian Eno starts out in London with the band Roxy Music, processing their instrumentals behind a mixing desk with synthesizers. He would become the “founder” of ambient music after starting a solo career.

1972 – Artists begin to use speech synthesis and music sequencers to cover rock and pop songs; Jazz musician Stan Free covers the 1969 song “Popcorn” by Gershon Kingsley using a Moog synthesizer to critical acclaim.

1973 – Digital audio engineers begin to emerge and contact the Audio Engineering Society in New York for inquiries. The organization would eventually be responsible for the birth of MIDI.

1974 – Kraftwerk's album “Autobahn” gains worldwide fame using the minimoog; “New age” artists with electronic rock roots emerge like Jean Michelle Jarre, Vangelis, Tomita, Brian Eno, and Osamu Kitajima.

1975 – U.S. hip/hop DJ “Grand Wizzard Thodore” is credited with inventing “scratching,” He mentored under “Grandmaster Flash” from the South Bronx, who is considered a pioneer in cutting and mixing records.

1976 – High-tempo disco, space disco, and hi-NRG genres emerge in England and the US, adopting a 140 beat per minute tempo; Italo disco originates; Synth pop emerges from Japan; Disco braces itself for a boom.

1977 – Giorgio Moroder works on the single “I Feel Love” with Donna Summer, which leads to more with Summer; Frankie Knuckles hones his craft as a DJ in Chicago and plays what would later be coined “house.”

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1978 – Moroder's instrumental track “Chase,” which was a part of the soundtrack to the film “Midnight Express,” led to mainstream use. Films “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease” take dance culture to new heights.

1979 – New wave and disco explode with success of Donna Summer and the Bee Gees; Notably, Stevie Wonder uses digital audio recording technology to record his album “Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.”


The 80's

1980 – In West Destroit, a trio of high schoolers who would become known as “The Belleville Three” discover how to mix and DJ from member Juan Atkins. Detroit techno would emerge from their work soon after.

1981 – Under the name Cybotron, Juan Atkins of the Belleville Three released a techno single called “Alleys of Your Mind”; Hip hop artists start becoming DJ's; Synthpop is popularized in the UK by Depeche Mode, others.

1982 – Neil Young releases an experimental album “Trans,” comprised of synth pop and techno with synthesizer use. The response was negative and led to his manager David Geffen parting ways with him.

1983 – The Music Industry starts to take club life more seriously with the success of Madonna, her pre-recorded work also defined a massive shift in producing; MIDI is introduced, the Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer is released.

1984 – The Japanese Roland Corporation introduced the TR-909 Rhythm Composer, an analog/sample-based drum machine; DJ Jesse Saunders from Chicago produces “On and On,” considered the first house record.

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1985 – Bill Kelly and Louis Possenti founded the Winter Music Conference in Miami and other related events; Sound Designer for Mac is introduced, the first consumer-level hard disk recording and editing software.

1986 – The first house song to use piano is produced by Marshall Jefferson called “Move Your Body”; Burning Man has its inaugural week-long event in San Francisco's Baker Beach; Madonna's album is #1 worldwide.

1987 – Musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter meet at school in Paris. In their first live band performance, a critic called them “daft punky trash.” Amused, they call themselves Daft Punk.

1988 – The UK “hardcore” sound leads to the beginnings of “drum and bass” primarily in London and Bristol. Richie Hawtin is a notable influence, his work will be called IDM or “intelligent dance music.”

1989 – In West Berlin, the electronic dance festival “Love Parade” is founded as a political demonstration for peace with 150 participants; Underground dance music gains popularity and new record labels are formed.


The 90's

1990 – Richard Hall produces the single “Go” under the alias “Moby” and then plays the track as a DJ at his first rave in England to wild applause. His experimental album “Everything is Wrong” revives techno.

1991 – The Prodigy debuts and intrigues audiences with big beat, jungle, and electronic rock. Liam Howlett named the group after his first analogue synthesizer, the Moog Prodigy; Ministry of Sound is born.

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1992 – Aphex Twin releases the LP “Selected Ambient Works 85-92” to critical acclaim; American drum and bass starts to take hold with the first mixtape from Dieselboy. East Coast underground artists take notice.

1993 – While attending a rave at Euro Disney, Daft Punk meets Stuart Macmillian, owner of “Soma Quality Recordings.” After giving him a demo, their first single “The New Wave” was released as a result.

1994 – The German project Enigma releases the single “Return to Innocence” to huge success. However, Enigma used a number of well-known samples without permission in the track which led to legal trouble.

1995 – The album “Maxinquaye” by Tricky breaks through with trip-hop and popularizes remixing further with high-profile collaborations; Frankie Knuckles hits a peak in his career with the success of his second album.

1996 – Steve Aoki founds Dim Mak Records; Norman Cook starts performing under the name “Fatboy Slim”; Native Instruments is founded; Orbital releases the album “In Sides,” which goes away from their rave origins.

1997 – Daft Punk debuts their album “Homework,” Electric Daisy Carnival has its first event; The Chemical Brothers release single “Block Rockin' Beats”; The Crystal Method releases debut album, goes certified gold.

1998 – Drum and bass and 2-step garage reach a climax which leads to the first production of the genre, “”Dubstep”; The Gorillaz come to prominence and merge drum and bass, pop, hip hop, and indie electronica.

1999 – First year of Ultra Music Festival (UMF) in Miami; Moby releases the album “Play”; Dutch trance artists start to get recognized, Tiesto and Ferry Corsten collaborate on project “Gouryella.”


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The 2000's

2000 – London trio Above & Beyond is formed; Roger Sillerman sells his company SFX to Clear Channel for 4.4 billion. SFX promoters would later become leaders of Live Nation Entertainment's Concert Division.

2001 – Kaskade releases his first single, titled “What I Say.”; First commercial release of Ableton Live to public; Sirius XM launches first Electronic/Dance channel, “BPM” (there's now 5); Tiesto releases first album.

2002 – “The Bourne Identity” starring Matt Damon hits theaters with Moby's “Extreme Ways” in the End Credits. Following it's success, Moby's song is used in the next 3 sequels; Bassnectar releases his first single.

2003 – The Dance Music Hall of Fame is formed by John Parker of Robbins Entertainment and others; Benny Benassi's debut single “Satisfaction” is released worldwide; Jeff Abel starts “Excision.””

2004 – The online music store Beatport opens with 79 Electronic Record Labels offered. Beatport quickly becomes the top retailer for dance music sales online; Tiesto spins at the Olympic games.

2005 – The Grammy Awards add new category, “Best Electronic/Dance Album”; Deadmau5 releases first album, “Get Scraped.”; A-Trak tours as Kanye West's DJ; Danger Mouse's mash-up “The Grey Album” leaked.

2006 – Daft Punk's “Alive Tour” starts at Coachella Valley Music Festival, where a pyramid-style stage with unique lighting and visuals is introduced; Tommie Sunshine discovers Calvin Harris on Myspace.

2007 – In July, Kanye West releases the album Graduation, which includes the mega-hit single “Stronger” with Daft Punk. It's success encouraged hip-hop artists to use electronic elements and revived disco house.

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2008 – Diplo forms Major Lazer with DJ Switch after extensive touring, starts Mad Decent block parties in hometown of Philly. Sonny Moore officially starts performing in Los Angeles clubs as “Skrillex.””

2009 – David Guetta produces two hits: “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas and “When Love Takes Over” by Kelly Rowland. The overwhelming success leaves pop, R&B, and hip/hop artists desperate for a new sound.



2010 – The film Tron: Legacy hits theaters with a full soundtrack by Daft Punk; Two artists with heavy electronic influence break out: Lady Gaga named Billboard Artist of the Year, LMFAO goes viral with “shuffling.”

2011 – Swedish House Mafia becomes the first dance/electronic act to sell out Madison Square Garden. OWSLA launched; Avicii releases “Levels”; Insomniac and Madison House partner for first “Electric Forest.”

2012 – The album “18 Months” by Calvin Harris leads to unprecedented success; Baauer's “Harlem Shake” goes viral; Miley Cyrus enters the scene by collaborating and performing “Decisions” with Borgore.

2013 – Roger Sillerman re-emerges, buying into EDM festivals all over the world. SFX Entertainment buys Beatport; Live Nation and Insomniac Events start planning large-scale partnerships and additional festivals.

2014 – Grammys: Kraftwerk gets Lifetime Achievement Award, Zedd wins for “Clarity”; Diplo and Skrillex form Jack U; Deep house, downtempo, and experimental genres emerge on the heels of dubstep, moombah, trap.

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Year By Year Electronic Music History

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It's pretty amazing to see how far we've come. This year, Insomniac Events started a Record Label and Interscope Geffen A&M (owned by Universal) announced a partnership with them. You may remember that Geffen is the same David Geffen who cut ties with his artist Neil Young after he released a techno-based album in 1982.

What do you think are the most important events of electronic dance music in 2014 or other years? Tell us what experiences were influential to you and join the discussion.

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