I read the website Cracked quite a lot. Most days. They usually have 4 or 5 new articles a day, and they are usually in the form of lists. Some are comedic and some are serious, but they are always fascinating or funny or both. I was going to add a link, but for the first time I can remember, the site is down. Sigh.
For a few weeks, I have had the idea of doing a hardcore version titled: 5 Things The Hardcore Scene Needs To Learn In 2015
Having said that, it was more of a personal idea and something to think about, than something I would publish. But as it turned out fine, I thought I would share it. Also, it mostly relates to the US scene, as I live in the US now, but I think it applies all over to some degree:
5. Hardcore Needs To Realise Its Not A Big Scene Anymore.
“Hi, I’m happy hardcore, nice to meet you rest of the worlds music!”
This is the root of the problem I think. And part of it is due to old fucks like me who remember a bigger scene and forget that it has changed. We don’t know how to adjust because we lived through the vinyl selling years. To us (and you can count in this pretty much any artist or Dj who had their music released on vinyl), the current music industry is relentlessly disappointing. We were very used to selling records for a living, and Djing as a bonus, or vice versa. We always think we could “sell more units” if….something. We are not sure what that something is, but we still think it.
But we can’t. Not now, maybe never again. And this thinking leads to errors in judgement.
Another part of the issue is that the scene as a whole is optimistic by nature, and we all want the scene to be bigger and better. We just cant quite figure out how to go about it…but still, we hope. But that hope only lasts so long, and we don’t see anything change, so….
And the last part of it is pure mythology. I am constantly told by promoters and ravers in the US that “This party is nowhere near as good as the UK, right?”. But the UK has shitty and good parties, the same as the US. And many of the US parties have been as big or bigger as the UK parties I have played. The only thing the US currently cannot do so well is the “huge” rave. Those are getting rarer everywhere. But the main reason the US cannot do it is geography. Ravers are spread too far apart here to pull off 2000 plus parties with any degree of regularity, if at all. It used to be like that, yes – but hardcore needs to realise it is not a big scene anymore.
This error in thought leads to warped expectations that sour us on the scene. No one likes being disappointed. And while we all walk around thinking “It used to be better” or “It should be better” or “I wish it was better” we are not really getting anywhere. Instead, I humbly suggest we accept the scene is small. That’s okay. It leads us to better questions, such as “What can we do with it? How can we make it better for the people in it? What has not been tried before”. Being small has advantages – lower risks being a major one. If the party is gonna be small, if the sales on the new release are tiny, there is nothing to stop us trying out new ideas. And we need new ideas desperately. This will grow the scene. Nothing else will, and shit, we have tried everything else lol.
4. The Superstar Dj Has To Die
I got this image by searching Superstar Dj. Exactly.
Slightly controversial perhaps, but I have long thought that the superstar Dj is the epicentre of the problem. One of the things that drew me to raving was the sense of community. I was with all the other weirdos, listening to weird music in a weird place played by a weird fella, and it was great. We were all together, we were all odd, and we were all part of the same crowd. The raising of a Dj to superstar status immediately separates the Dj from the crowd. I am always flattered when someone asks for an autograph or does the bowing thing, yet it always leaves me a little uneasy too. Because of my history perhaps, because my best years raving was an era when you didn’t even know who the Dj was as often as not. I understand the intent, it is a thank you and a way to show respect etc, and thats a beautiful and appreciated thing. But I would much prefer a hand shake or a hug – those things are inclusive, meeting someone on the same level. Bowing etc cannot help but put distance between the Dj and the people, a distance that is not healthy for the Dj or the mentality of the rave. Rave culture as a whole should be about everyone being part of it, equally. We all do different jobs, be it raver, Dj, promoter, producer, and all of us are needed to make it work.
When the Dj is the star of the party, the parties without a star Dj cannot gain traction. It did not used to be like this, and does not need to be this way. Parties used to make a name for themselves by being good – the flyer would list the Djs, but it was not the sole reason to go to that party, or even the major reason. Parties built a reputation for being good regardless of the amount of fame the Dj had.
It puts an unfair emphasis on the Dj as well – promoters can’t help but think that if the party is not full, then the Dj does not have enough pull. But there are many reasons a party might not be full – geography for example. Darren Styles would pull about 3 people in my hometown of Raleigh, because Raleigh has about 3 ravers. I am certainly not blaming the promoters for thinking this, or for empty parties. Its just the Superstar Dj warps the perception right from the beginning because it leads to “Big name + party = good party”. Not so.
The Dj superstar thing affects the Dj too, with some having egos the size of planets, and others that expect their every whim to be catered to. It unbalances everything. We want a strong rave scene, not a strong fan base for a few of the Djs in the rave scene. We need promoters that can put on parties and have them be successful without having to have a big name. More small parties that are great will do a lot more good for the scene than a yearly Big Dj Worship Gathering, no matter how much fun that yearly gathering is.
3. Old People In the Industry Need To Charge Less
“I sure love playing HTID! I can easily afford my adult diapers for the month!”
And by people, I mean me. But I also mean other people like me, who have been around for long enough to charge a decent amount to play. If we accept the scene is smaller than it used to be, then we have to accept it cannot pay the same fees it used to. Now, this is a problem because like others, I have mistakenly learned to live on the money from music. And this leads to expectations. And hopes. And thinking the scene is big because that way I can still get paid and therefore survive like I used to. No! That is just bullshit.
We have to lower our prices because we need more parties. There are less parties when promoters cannot afford to do them. Those of us who are lucky enough to be able to spend the majority of our time making and playing music need to be doing more of it, for less. Its gonna be difficult, but it is what it is. Until the scene gets stronger, we will just have to deal. This applies to remix fees as well. And record label cuts from artists. Pretty much straight down the line. If the people with the most power want the scene to grow, then we need to encourage more people to stay in the scene. So we need more of everything – more producers, more promoters, more Djs. And to get that, we need it to be affordable and worthwhile to those entering the scene. So we need to lower our prices…but conversely…
2. New People In The Industry Need To Charge More
“Look, I want to be at the party for you, but I need a little help in return…”
We need new people. We need it desperately. We need at least five more S3rls, a few more Jakazids, a Rhythmics or two, a big pile of Jon Does, more Bangfaces and Tight Crews, more Rebuilds and more Hardcore Undergrounds ….we need more. We need more people making music, we need more people playing it, and we need more parties. We wont get that when the new people don’t get rewarded for their efforts. They get shitty Dj times and rarely get paid – the promoter cant afford it cos they got a big name in who is charging all the money. New producers give music to labels and don’t get paid or even accounted to. Its hard to do a years accounts for someone only to find that they have earned $1.63. Still, it needs to be done so that the artist feels it is worth doing and so that they know that they are not being taken advantage of. It’s one thing to say “your release made no money” but it is another to prove it with accounting. It makes a difference.
Promoters must start paying their home talent, and the home talent must start charging to play, even if its just gas money. If I were in charge of everything, I would make it a requirement that everyone who plays on the night receives a minimum wage of $50. Not because people won’t do it for free – they will. But they shouldn’t. And not because I think promoters have bags of money – they don’t. But it would establish a) the Dj’s time and effort is valued and b) make the scene more professional, so that the people in it would not feel used or like they wasted their time. It would also make promoters think about who was playing where. It is too easy to hire a venue, find you have an extra room, and then just get anyone to play because they will do it for free. All this does is spread a small party into smaller areas, so instead of one big room thats full, you have two big rooms that are half full. And it looks like its only a quarter full, because it doesn’t make a bigger party. You usually wont get more than a handful of extra people for the extra room. And the fact that Djs will play for free means that the promoter does not have to worry about how good the person is. The thought is “Its a free extra room with a free set of Djs, why not? It makes the party look bigger”. But it doesn’t. It makes it look smaller because no one room is ever packed out. The vibe is spread thinner. It also brings down quality because if you are not paying for something, it doesn’t usually matter if its not very good. But in this case, it really does.
1. Everyone Has To Take More Risks
“A whole article and not one mention of farts”
This is maybe the most important one. Man, the scene is stale. Look, I love hardcore, I have been here for 22 years now (on and off but mostly on lol), so I don’t think anyone can doubt me. But we need to pick it up, shake it out, and find new ways of doing things. There is nothing wrong with what we are doing particularly, other than its what we have been doing for over a decade or more and it is just stagnant. Hence the lack of growth. Producers need to risk much more in their music. Seriously. Its not just about what fills a dance floor – because although that is important, I find I am hearing the same formula for hours at every event and have been for years. And it cant help but get boring. I am not advocating any style other than “do something new”. This is not an easy thing to do. In fact, it is maybe the hardest. But unless we start getting a little more variety in the scene, we are destined to stay exactly where we are. Its no good when someone gets into the scene, loves it, and leaves it in the space of a year because the first and last party they went to had the same Djs playing the same music in the same venue.
Djs need to mix it up. Just…play other peoples stuff for fucks sake. Not just your friends and your own. Not just your usual sound. Its tough because we all like certain things, but we have to just get out of that mindset altogether. We have to be willing to use our power to push more variety.
Promoters have similar issues. They need to come up with things to do with parties other than the “theme” idea. We all love Mario, Xmas, Anime and Halloween, yes, but its been done. And done, and done and done. All the parties that I see being successful go the extra mile to make each event something unique. This is absolutely essential.
I hope no one reads this and thinks I am having a go at anyone. This is just what I think needs to change, and so I wrote it out. As with everything I write, I might be very wrong. But it feels somewhere in the ball park to me 🙂
Anyway, I am going to put my money where my mouth is and in 2015 I’m gonna try and do the following:
1. Drop my price as a Dj and remixer. I want to play more and do more, and believe in what I have written above. Therefore, it is necessary.
2. Try to play at least 5 small parties this year where I have not been advertised to play. I will play for free. If you are a small promoter reading this, hit me up and lets see if we can make it happen.
3. Give a greater financial incentive to my artists on the label. There is very little to go around, but I want them to stick around 🙂
4. Take risks as a musician and artist. I already have an E.P lines up called “Risk”, named as such because it is a very different thing to what people might expect from me. And I am going to keep pushing, in every direction, taking risks with the music I make even if it fails. Especially if it fails. There is no other way to find out what works.
5. Take risks with my Djing. And play some other peoples music, for fucks sake!