For a scene that is rooted in grass-roots, DIY-structured counterculture in the 1980s and 1990s, debated developments such as rising fees of ‘superstar’ DJs, festival culture undermining club culture, and instances of corporate brands engaging in the field for marketing purposes, may possibly cause friction with the values and ethos of those involved. As various scholars have pointed out, professionalization and commercialization can corrupt artistic traits and (sub)cultural identities, which raises the question what the recent developments in the electronic music scene would mean to the beliefs, values, motivations, experiences and decision making of those involved – leading to the question central to this thesis: How does professionalism and commercialism occur in electronic club music in the Netherlands and what does this mean to the values and experiences of the actors involved? The theoretical framework builds upon theory on professionalization, growth, genre developments, commercialism, art versus commerce and values. In-depth interviews are conducted with DJs, clubs and festivals, differentiated in scope, scale, location and focus. The analysis resulted in a wide and nuanced perspective on the subject matters. Professionalism is in fact occurring, driven predominantly by a growing popularity and therefore a high competition. This high degree of competition, as well as experienced audiences and governmental regulations, drive organizations to professionalize their operations. This professionalization occurs frontstage and backstage, and is mostly illustrated by a strong service ideal in terms of quality and hospitality, and specialization within organizational structures. This professionalization is informal and non-hierarchical: bureaucratization of organizations does not strongly take place. The high competition, high costs, rising DJ fees and low margins drive organizations towards commercial decision making. However, commercialism in this field does not entail profit maximization for the sake of private gain, but rather commercialism as a means for sustainability and to cross-subsidize resources to enable experimental, non-commercial decisions. Perceptions and attitudes towards professionalization differ vastly, though generally positive, as opposed to commercialism which is looked down upon, even though it is to some degree unavoidable. Music is generally not neutralized, in the contrary: non-commercial, inaccessible music can still attract full clubs. However, professionalization can cause the authentic experience to be neutralized, and there is some neutralization in the social and political aspect, and in the sense that it lost the countercultural aspect. Diversity and inclusivity are still central topics, though there are still challenges here.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Cultural Economics, Cultural Entrepreneurship, electronic music, club culture, professionalization, commercialism, values
Thesis Advisor Hans Abbing
Persistent URL
Series Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship , Master Arts, Culture & Society
Leonard van Hout. (2018, July 21). MATCHING BEATS, BRANDS AND BELIEFS - Manifestations and Experiences of Commercialism and Professionalization in Electronic Club Music in the Netherlands. Master Arts, Culture & Society. Retrieved from