An Open Letter To Tom Petty About EDM, From His Biggest Fan

Dear Tom Petty,

I love your band. No, really, I’m not joking. I listened to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers non-stop in high school and still do on a fairly regular basis. I read and re-read the booklet that came with Playback, memorized every fun fact, song and B-side (Mudcrutch anyone?). I bugged the radio stations incessantly to play your songs—including calling repeatedly until I won the advanced promo copy of the She’s the One soundtrack. I painted your logo and likeness on my dresser. I admired your ability to play a 12-string. I’d only play “Christmas All Over Again” during the holidays. My high school boyfriend ditched class so he could buy me Echo on the day it came out (though you kinda lost me a bit with that album). I saved up money so I could pay way too much for a concert ticket the last time you were in Las Vegas years and years ago (didn’t you used to fight the man against high record prices? Concerts should be the same, but that’s a different letter). The only song I can currently play on guitar is “Free Fallin’.” I owned your VHS music video collection and even used “Don’t Come Around Here No More” as the soundtrack to a short film project. Needless to say, I AM A TRUE FAN.

What I’m also a fan of is electronic music. Not nearly as long as I’ve been a fan of yours, but 15 years is a good chunk of my life. Granted, I can’t even listen to the shit I used to when I started going to raves in the ‘90s, but back then it wasn’t about knowing who the DJ was (plus they all had to mix on vinyl, a skill few of the big names on the billboards today can do). It was about the vibe, the community and the fun of dancing. Were there drugs around? Are there still? Sure. But as someone who’s been to your concerts and gotten a sizable contact high, that many not be the best point to bring up in your argument against EDM. And you can have just as an enjoyable experience at electronic music events totally sober. I’ve done it plenty of times with not even a lick of alcohol, just like I can do listening to your music, too.

Here’s what I’m thinking. You know how there’s good and bad music in any genre? Well, the stuff you’re seeing/hearing in the mainstream? That’s the bad. I admit it. That’s, as Deadmau5 calls it, “Carbon Copy Cookie-Cutter” formulaic bullshit and a very bad example of the talent and creativity some electronic music producers have. You’re hearing the dumbed-down money-machine music that the masses eat up because they’re told by the man and their bros that it’s cool. I hate that stuff and only listen to it when I have to for work as a music journalist. And it’s torture. On the contrary, there are amazing, poignant, emotional works that stir the soul as well as the body, that innovate—in a good way—and inspire.

What I’m trying to say is: I promise it isn’t all bad. And a lot of the people and fans are cool, loving, artistic, intelligent folks. You’re just seeing the negative side of things. I’m sure older generations thought your rock ‘n’ roll music was the devil when you started playing. I’m from Florida, too, and I know how backwards they think there sometimes.

So, Mr. Petty, if you’d be willing to listen, I’d be more than happy to put together a sweet Playbutton mixtape or Spotify playlist for you of some of the best electronic music I think you might warm up to.

If you ever see this, thanks in advance for your time. And please come back to Las Vegas already. I haven’t belted my lungs out to your lyrics live in too long.


Deanna Rilling

Music Journalist

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