In North America, in the late 1990s, the mainstream music industry adopted and to some extent manufactured electronica as an umbrella term encompassing styles such as techno, big beat, drum and bass, trip hop, downtempo, and ambient, regardless of whether it was curated by indie labels catering to the "underground" nightclub and rave scenes, or licensed by major labels and marketed to mainstream audiences as a commercially viable alternative to alternative rock music. By the early 2010s, however, the industry abandoned electronica in favor of electronic dance music (EDM), a term with roots in academia and an increasing association with outdoor music festivals and relatively mainstream, post-rave electro house and dubstep music. Nevertheless, the U.S.-based AllMusic still categorises electronica as a top-level genre, stating that it includes danceable grooves, as well as music for headphones and chillout areas.
In other parts of the world, especially in the UK, electronica is also a broad term, but is associated with non-dance-oriented music, including relatively experimental styles of downtempo electronic music. It partly overlaps what is known chiefly outside the UK as intelligent dance music (IDM).
Electronica benefited from advancements in music technology, especially electronic musical instruments, synthesizers, music sequencers, drum machines, and digital audio workstations. As the technology developed, it became possible for individuals or smaller groups to produce electronic songs and recordings in smaller studios, even in project studios. At the same time, computers facilitated the use of music "samples" and "loops" as construction kits for sonic compositions. This led to a period of creative experimentation and the development of new forms, some of which became known as electronica.
Electronica currently includes a wide variety of musical acts and styles, linked by a penchant for overtly electronic production; a range which includes more popular acts such as Björk, Madonna, Goldfrapp and IDM artists such as Autechre, and Aphex Twin to dub-oriented downtempo, downbeat, and trip hop. Madonna and Björk are said to be responsible for electronica's thrust into mainstream culture, with their albums Ray of Light (Madonna), Post and Homogenic (Björk). Electronica artists that would later become commercially successful began to record in the late 1980s, before the term had come into common usage, including for example The Prodigy, Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, The Crystal Method, Moby, Underworld and Faithless. Electronica composers often create alternate versions of their compositions, known as "remixes"; this practice also occurs in related musical forms such as ambient, jungle, and electronic dance music. Wide ranges of influences, both sonic and compositional, are combined in electronica recordings.
New York City became one center of experimentation and growth for the electronica sound, with DJs and music producers from areas as diverse as Southeast Asia and Brazil bringing their creative work to the nightclubs of that city.