Sandstorm in the Stadium: Techno & Sports

Person Playing Dj Turntable
Person Playing Dj Turntable

A well-rounded sporting experience often includes a killer soundtrack. With tens of thousands of fans packing into a stadium, audio technicians remain at the ready to blast an appropriate song at every turn of play.

Songs like ‘We Will Rock You’ by Queen and ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ by Journey are common when the home team needs a comeback. Others, like ‘Run The World (Girls)’ by Beyonce and ‘Timber’ by Pitbull are played to rally the crowd into a fever pitch.

Aside from rock and pop, hip-hop and death metal have also proved popular. It’s common to hear Kendrick Lamar play right after Metallica—so long as the crowd looks ready for some adrenaline.

Apart from a big win, belting out a song with an excited crowd can be a highlight of any major sports game.

But it’s left some techno fans feeling left out. With older generations and contemporary peers still suspicious of electronic music, it’s likely the closest thing to modern techno fans will get is a face-melting Skrillex sample that jars the crowd or the maddening classic ‘Sandstorm’ that incites Chris Pontius Party-Boy moves.

Is there a better future in store? And does it possibly include names like John Talabot or Bicep?

The Half-Time Wish

When it comes to the world’s popular and lucrative sports leagues, half-time shows are a huge attraction. For example, NFL betting odds that cover the American football league will even include wagers on the half-time show for the championship Super Bowl match. Meanwhile, the Champions League will offer similar prop bets on the half-time show for the Finals match.

The NFL, in particular, seems far from a progressive techno choice for its Super Bowl halftime show. Not only does the group have to appeal to a family-wide audience, but historic favorites include jam bands like Bruce Springsteen and pop icons like Prince.

However, the Champions League made an exciting choice with Marshmello’s appearance at the virtual UEFA Champions League Final in late May earlier this year. The American DJ was featured as part of a six-minute video that played during half-time, which was targeted at a 20-something demographic.

Half-time shows aside, the MLB baseball league has also elevated electronic music by letting players sample songs. Known as a ‘walkup song’, batters choose a ten-second sample to get the crowd (and themselves) hyped up for a home run.

So far, players have sampled songs by Kygo, Moby, Avicii, Pretty Lights, Zedd, Martin Solveig, and Diplo. At the moment, this is the most exposure quality electronic music receives—and it’s all thanks to the star baseball sluggers that chose them.

Pic by Artur Kechter
Pic by Artur Kechter

Waiting on a Perfect Fit

There are a few key ingredients to a stadium banger. First is the ineffable feeling that the audio technician must correctly gauge to put on an appropriate song. Second is the familiarity of that song—fans like to sing along, and players like to hear their supporters get loud.

What’s barring electronic music from appearing at more sports games? The short answer is that it’s too new. Leagues like the NFL and the Champions League are incredibly storied and tied to culture. Electronic music has been treated as a fringe sector of music until recently, which means even big hits from stars like Swedish House Mafia or Tiësto still aren’t recognizable to most people.

Consider the examples of ‘Sandstorm’ and Skrillex above. Both are called on to enliven the crowd but might be the only exposure some fans have to electronic music (or EDM). It’s clear that other artists, like Swedish House Mafia or Tiësto, haven’t quite broken the mold enough to earn a play at a major sporting event—at least not yet.