Despite austerity hitting all but the most affluent, charity giving continues to rise.
“The bohemian soul of the scene makes for fertile ground when people come together and fight for what they think is right” — Bobby Connolly
Bobby Connolly agrees, citing the “liberal mentality” that has been at the heart of dance music culture ever since the early days of disco in New York, and which famously came to the fore during the UK acid house explosion and its subsequent high-profile battles with government and authority figures.
“If you’re smart and do things well, you can raise a lot of money for charity through music releases,” McIvor says. “Artists are much more likely to get involved and help out if they know that you’re doing it for a good cause, and not trying to make money for yourself. It’s an effective way of reaching people. Plus, people who are buying dance music releases would generally tend to be more politically aware and conscientious.”
“In a perfect world, the corporations and festivals reaping most of the financial benefits in the scene would be convinced or pressured to contribute more to charitable causes” — Jordan Czamanski
From the start, the pair found it hard to get established producers to release on the label and, even more surprisingly, found that some within the dance music industry were strangely cynical about their motives. “At the beginning it was very hard for us,” Lucas says. “When we were trying to explain what we were trying to do, a lot of people were sceptical. They would say things like, ‘Nobody does this kind of thing for free’.
“I first got involved because Andy Turner from Plaid had mentioned it to me,” he says. “The cause is important, and it is something that has affected people dear to me, but above all, Martin puts out great music. Touched is a great label, Martin is a great person and regardless of the cause, I would have worked with him.”
CAUSES WIN PRIZES
“In the case of Joe Goddard, he passionately wanted to support what we’re doing, but his manager was encouraging him to do it, too,” McIvor says. “Most managers or agents would tell their artists to shy away from anything that may in some way be controversial or divide opinion.” Most wouldn’t think that speaking out against fascism and racism would be controversial, but the Optimo Music founder has been surprised how divisive his new label venture has been.
Since acid house swept the UK 30 years ago and united a generation, British dance has proudly proclaimed its egalitarian credentials. Many believe that the loved up, misty-eyed utopianism that swept the country in 1988 has sustained down the decades. After all, when you’re lost in the music and blinking into the darkness, it doesn’t matter if the sweaty, smiling strangers around you are black or white; gay or straight; male, female, transgender or non-binary.
LESSONS FROM HISTORY
To understand where we are now and what can possibly be done to address it, we need to look at the roots of British dance music, how it developed, the kinds of people involved in the early years and the specifics of the era they lived in.
Despite the “get on your bike and find a job” rhetoric spouted by the governing Conservative Party, jobseekers were rarely sanctioned if they didn’t find work within a prescribed time frame. “I was unemployed for about 15 years in total,” says Lee Renacre, who released his first record as 100Hz (alongside then production partner James Chapman) in 1989. “I was blagging it, telling my dole officer I couldn’t find a job that week, but I got away with it. That help from benefits is the only reason I’ve managed to stick with music, and I thank the state for that.”
It’s true that club ticket prices have risen dramatically in the UK over the last few years. These days, it’s rare to be able to get into a venue with a top-tier line-up for less than £15. In some cases, prices are even higher, with big branded events such as Elrow often charging £30 or more for entry. Many club promoters try to keep ticket prices down, but it’s hard to do this and break even, given the increased costs for DJs and venue hire. The latter is a by-product of increased competition between promoters for a dwindling number of licensed venues.
“I just don’t see it,” he says. “It’s not so much that drum & bass has become middle-class, it’s just grown up a bit. You have drum & bass nights now that are run like corporate companies, with more expensive tickets and DJs who are paid a little bit more. But you never walk into any of these things and think, ‘It’s a bit middleclass in here’.
Priestley points out that much more could be done if available arts funding was pushed towards community electronic music projects. “In this age of austerity, one of the first things that gets cut is arts budgets, and the arts has traditionally been a great vehicle for social mobility,” he says. “This needs to be addressed. It will inevitably lead to patrimonial capitalism, where people are inheriting wealth rather than making it themselves. This goes completely against the ideals of entrepreneurialism, that have always been a part of dance music in the UK.”
Electronic Music Books
Despite the ever-growing gadget list for on-screen reading devices, few things beat an old-fashioned book to have and to hold. Every year, there are tons of new and repressed electronic music books, covering histories and eras from acid and Chicago house to disco, rave and everything in between. Here’s our pick of long-reads that’ll keep you inspired well into 2019. Give the gift of after-party one-upmanship this Xmas.
When DJ Mag Tech first heard of the Roland/Serato hook-up we were intrigued. Roland, which has cut its chops in the music technology industry for years, a leading player with an undeniable history in regards to its synths, drum machines and hardware now looking to enter the DJ controller arena; and Serato, one of the industry leaders in digital DJing software. What could they both bring to this already saturated marketplace?
Marcus Lambkin, aka Shit Robot, has his third ace album on DFA out this month — ‘What Follows’. It follows 2010’s ‘From The Cradle To The Rave’ and ‘We Got A Love’ a couple of years ago, but unlike those previous two pieces of work ‘What Follows’ is a lot more analogue. “I wanted it to reflect my DJing style a bit more — less pop, less disco, more machines,” says Lambkin.
At the age of only 20, Danny Avila has become one of the hottest acts in the world of EDM.
January is a notoriously slow month in clubland — a time when gym memberships take priority over all-nighters and pennies are scraped together. Many top flight DJs disappear off to warmer climes (Mexico etc) for the month. Bastards.
Initially, 2015 was a big year for label anniversaries, with Kompakt turning 20, Planet Mu 25, and Tri Angle five — putting out a host of standout compilation releases. While in the US, vinyl sales reached a 26-year high, reflecting the increasing desire to own wax.
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