The term electronic body music was coined by Ralf Hütter of the German electronic band Kraftwerk in 1978 to explain the more physical sound of their album The Man-Machine. DAFfrom Germany used the term “Körpermusik” (body music) to describe their danceable electronic punk sound. The term was later used in by Belgian band Front 242 in 1984 to describe the music of their EP of that year, No Comment. Front 242 characterized their approach as falling between Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk. Nitzer Ebb, influenced by DAF and Cabaret Voltaire, followed soon after. Groups from this era often applied socialist realist aesthetics, with ironic intent. Other prominent groups include Die Krupps, à;GRUMH…, andA Split-Second.
In the second half of the 1980s, American and Canadian music groups such as Front Line Assembly, Ministry, and Schnitt Acht started to use typical European EBM elements. They combined these elements with the roughness of American industrial rock, particularly in the case of Revolting Cocks. Nine Inch Nails continued the cross-pollination between EBM and industrial rock resulting in their album “Pretty Hate Machine” (1989).
Meanwhile, EBM became popular in the underground club scene, particularly in Europe. In this period the most important labels were the Belgian PIAS and Antler-Subway, the GermanZoth Ommog, the North American Wax Trax! and the Swedish Energy Rekords. Significant artists included And One, Armageddon Dildos, Bigod 20, The Neon Judgement,and Attrition.
Between the early and the mid 1990s, many EBM artists split up, or changed their musical style, borrowing more distorted industrial elements or elements of rock or metal. The album Tyranny For You by EBM pioneers Front 242 initiated the end of the EBM epoch of the 1980s. Nitzer Ebb, one of the most important artists, also became an industrial rock band. Without the strength of its figureheads, the original electronic body music faded by the mid-1990s.