Luminous Nights and Pretty Lights
An editorial on Pretty Lights’ new tour and his free music business model.
A veil of darkness curtains the stage. As the dubbed out bass from “It’s Bigger than Hip Hop” pierces the air, instantly amping the crowd, a 30 second countdown commences on the main LED. Derek ascends the stage, a giant, swagged-out figure towering over the decks. The haunting opening chords to “I Know the Truth” ring out like the melancholic overtones of a maddened organist. When the song drops, the crowd erupts, and a city of lights illuminates from within the murky fog.
This was a year ago at Identity Festival: the first time I’d seen Derek Vincent Smith, the mastermind behind Pretty Lights. Since Identity, I’ve seen the Colorado-native at both Ultra Music Festival and Electric Daisy Carnival, only to be further blown away by Smith’s saucy stylings and immaculate studio production.
Outside of the festivals, Smith has embarked on an even bigger endeavor: The Pretty Lights Illumination Tour. With more than 50 stops across the US and a dazzling new stage production, this is hands down Pretty Lights’ biggest tour to date. The effervescent urban skyline that formerly characterized his light show has been expanded into a full-fledged luminescent metropolis, complete with pastel clouds of vibrant hues and ethereal moonbeams of celestial descent. And oh yeah, did I mention that Derek has an entire album of new material?! A brand new full-length Pretty Lights album of electro hip hop soul, waiting to be released… If that isn’t enough to get your musical libido aroused, the hotly anticipated album will also be free.
One of the biggest things that separates Pretty Lights from other artists, aside from his unique brand of jazzy, groove-driven glitch hop, is his philosophy on the consumption of music. Pretty Lights has been a long time ambassador of free music. From the beginning, all of Derek’s music has been free. And we’re not talking one or two albums, but over 100 soul-soothing tracks of glitch hop, downtempo, and midtempo. Not only that, but the music of every artist on Pretty Lights’ label Pretty Lights Music is also free.
Pretty Lights represents the rising EDM business model of free music. The strategy relies on the concept of core becomes context, in which artists give their music away for free and garner a living via ticket sales for their shows. As people become less and less willing to pay for music (the original core), the new, profitable core becomes live performances, as music becomes the context. The increasingly popular method has been promulgated by popular artists such as Adventure Club, Gramatik, and Savoy, and has been met with great success, as it creates a mutually-beneficial relationship between artists and fans.
Pretty Lights Music is a glimpse into the future of the music industry. His live performances constitute a multi-sensory, audio-visual journey through a soul-nourishing dream and soundscape of beautiful, hip hop and soul-oriented electronica, while his free music business model is a righteous beacon of hope in an otherwise dismal landscape of corporate control and copyright infringement. There truly is no other figure like Derek Vincent Smith in today’s world. We can’t wait to see him throw down at the Bill Graham in San Francisco.
You are an inspiration to us all.
Keep fighting the good fight and spreading the PL love.
A loyal fan.