Cast your mind back to the days of the very first lockdowns last March and April. Nightclubs came to a complete halt for a time – same with festivals and most other dance music outlets. During this period, a lot of soul searching started to take place, with people vowing that things had to be done differently when nights out started to return.
I, of course, never believed for one second that any meaningful change would happen. Mostly because a lot of those people and companies who could bring about the aforementioned change weren’t involved in the conversation. They conveniently excluded themselves from any talk that was going on – they had no intention of doing anything differently.
And as nightclubs and festivals in Britain and large swathes of the world have returned over the past few months, I regret to say my words have been borne out. The festival circuit is as male and pale as it’s always been. The dance music world still refuses to call out racism within its ranks. And the divide between the top and the bottom has got even bigger.
An industry insider gets in touch with this blog from time to time, and allows me to publish his thoughts on matters on condition of anonymity. But his latest contact just left me worried. When the subject in the email is “We’re all f***ed”, you know it’s not going to be good.
He starts with some depressing words on festivals, saying “The pressure that DJs are under at the moment on the festival circuit is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Festivals are trying to avoid going bankrupt and are determined to book the biggest artists who’ll bring in the most income. It’s not unusual for organisers at the moment to send an email at 9am asking for someone to appear, and requesting a response no later than noon that day. It’s f***ing crazy”.
“The clubs aren’t much better either. They’re in the same boat, and they’ve got a similar attitude to the festivals to diversity. One person summed it up saying ’Booking blacks and women isn’t going to pay the bills’. It’s disgusting, but this is a prevailing attitude in big chunks of the clubbing world. They only care about making money.”
“I’ve also heard it’s starting to get too much for some of the DJs involved. They need money and they’re having to take more and more work – they’ve got expensive lifestyles, a lot of them. I reckon the human cost is going to become a bigger problem over the next few months. One of my mates in the DJ world actually tried to commit suicide lately – I sorted him out with some help as soon as I found out. Says he just doesn’t know how to handle this amount of pressure”.
“Over the next few months, you’re going to see more and more DJs burning themselves out. They’re going to work so hard that they wake up one day and their body just goes ’nah, f*** this’. Some of them are f***ing bombs wired up to a timer, and I think some of them are about to go off.”
He simply finishes by pointing out that “All that talk about mental health last year was forgotten about once they all checked their bank accounts”. It’s hard to disagree…