We are going to set the way back machine to the birth of our culture. In 1989, house music and Detroit techno collided in the fields of England, creating a culture whose name became a dirty word less then 10 years later. Rave. Raving. Field parties. Warehouse Raves, Massives. All of these had one thing in common, a group of people behind the wheel who cared about the culture as much as the experience. At its heart, Rave culture was never meant to be mainstream. It was a place where the outsiders, misfits and artists could come together under one sky to find kindred spirits, celebrate life and be a part of something that had never been done before.
On Both coasts there were soldiers who loved the culture and kept it in their heart as they made their way though the growth and commercialization of the culture. 1995, 2000, 2005, 2010, 2013 and now in 2015 we see corporations controlling the markets. Buying out the smaller promoter teams and infusing them with huge sums of cash to produce bigger and better shows on one condition. You have to book these artists before you can get access to the top tier. I was a part of the machine. I worked in a record store then for a record distribution company and on to labels and studios. For the past 24 years I have been a part of this industry of music and I have been lucky enough for it to have treated me kindly. The same cannot be said for most, however.
Lately, we have seen a major explosion in the festival arena for Electronic Dance Music. What many people don’t know is how we got to this point. From warehouses, gay clubs, fields, punk rock venues and any place that would have us, all the way to Giants Stadium, The Los Angeles Sports Arena, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and more, this business has become no longer the underground scene we once loved.
I can hear people asking, “How does this affects DnB/Jungle culture?”
Well let’s talk about that.
SFX Entertainment is a company that has been buying up mid level promoters for several years now. Its founder, Robert F.X. Sillerman, established its first incarnation in the 90s and selling out to Clear channel for $4.4 billion dollars. Yes, billion. He since has re-launched SFX Entertainment as an outlet to monopolize the EDM world. The company now owns Beatport, who is arguably the top online provider of dance music, as well as Spring Awakening, Summer Set Music, Tomorrow World, Mysteryland, Electric Zoo, Sensation, Disco Donnie Presents, Stereosonic and Life in Color. Why does this matter? Why does this affect our culture?
Think about this; SFX owns the touring companies who then owns the store the music is sold through giving them the financial capital to make any sound or artist a hit, like it or not. It’s a monopoly of the highest magnitude. I have personally seen a lot of DNB artists starting to make major inroads into this system to only end up playing shitty time slots for crowds who’s main concern is finding molly and bro’ing down with their crew. It is disappointing when I have to explain to friends why drum and bass is not represented here at festivals the way it in around the planet. Sure Andy C and some other notable names are starting to get the attention they so rightly deserve but why aren’t those same names being pushed into the markets where SFX has such a control?
Is it a coincidence that the “Trap explosion” of the past few years came at a time when the concert promoters had to find a safe music to present as the next Brostep? I cannot think that it is.
It is hard for a DNB promoter in a smaller college market, who would normally get a couple hundred people on their night, to compete when an SFX affiliate brings in a touring act and splits the crowd. That effectively kills the night for the drum and bass promoter and shuts down the growth of the culture we love in that city.
When you can see people like Noisia, Ed Rush & Optical, High Contrast, Dj Marky and so many more headlining major festivals all over the world and they play from 2-3 pm on a Sunday in the states, something is wrong with the ear of the booking agent, festival promoter, the whole damn system. On top of that when the artists we want to see do end up playing a festival, they are now locked into a non-compete contract for up to 6 months and a certain circle of distance of that city. Meaning, for example, if Andy C plays EDC Vegas he is then unable to play in that city or a smaller local market for up to 6 months even if that market can afford him. Why? Because the Festival does not want the competition.
There’s the rub my friends.
As a person who loves and respects the work my elders did to allow me the chance to make a living doing what I do, it’s very disheartening to see push button producers of the moment taking the time slots on the so-called “bass culture stage” away from real performers who would really change the influence in a greater audience.
For the labels wondering why they cannot move 10,000 units in the first week in the E.U. yet or not even make a tiny dent in the North American market, it’s the same issue. Why would an online store put a small but interesting release on their front page if their systems are designed to push labels that are already exclusive or owned by certain media companies that they have a closer or even in house relationship with?
So what can we do about it?
I honestly don’t know how to fight it without hitting the Powerball! I would suggest however starting locally.
Cultivate local talent. Support your local promoters and Dj’s. They are the ones that are building the foundation that backed organizations count on for their audience.
Be pro active with education. Show the new kids that we as a scene aren’t the hoodie-wearing thugs that we like to think we are. Jungle is a way of life that accepts everyone no matter what. Just because they don’t know what a Reece bass is yet does not make them any less of a fan.
Push the music you love on everyone around you. With the way the internet works now any spike that your Alta Vista, Google, Yahoo, Bing can pick up can translate into information that the majors will take and try to exploit. Maybe we can turn it on them and create a wave too big to ignore.
Bandcamp! Bandcamp! Bandcamp! Labels, sell direct! Cut out the middle man! Open up your own store on your own site and sell direct to the consumer. Do not let the major stores burry your release and take all of your money.
Most of all support those who support you!