April 29, 2021
Let’s Talk Diversity In Dance Music… Again.
There’s no question that the discussion about diversity in dance music has been a repeated one. I touched on it back on this site in October and I even shared my experience about being an Asian woman in dance music on Mind The Cult in March for Women’s History Month. It’s a topic widely discussed in our community and it’s a topic that we should keep talking about until we see some change.
Kaytranada being the first Black artist to win a GRAMMY in dance music was a big step (and a huge win) for diversity in dance music. But it’s something that should’ve been achieved a long time ago. After all, dance music was created by Black people.
So when I see folks in the community saying that “we just need to focus on the music,” I both agree and disagree. I disagree because EDM is so much more than headbanging to heaters and slappers — it’s a whole culture. And I agree because even if we do “just focus on the music,” then we have to focus on the fact that dance music is rooted in the Black community and came out of a need to create a space where they finally belonged. So…. why is EDM white as fuck now?
Even as a person of color, I’m a guest of the culture as much as the next person. So I decided to talk to other influential people of color in the music industry (who I think do a great job in creating a more inclusive space) to ask them:
What does diversity in dance music mean to you? And what can other people in your role do to champion diversity in dance music?
Adrian Reed (capshun)
CEO, Founder, and Label Manager of Bonsai Collective & Denali Records
Really, diversity to me can be applied to all things. From literally a person’s cultural or racial background, music taste, location, and upbringing. I think what’s most important about diversity is to be open to all possibilities. You never truly know what a person can bring to the table until you learn about them as people. I have met so many great artists as a label curator and I have gotten to share my light in the industry — even if just in small ways, at the moment. The biggest thing I get from music is being open to everything: Music, race, religion, sexuality, gender. And being at peace that those differences in us create the melting pot that makes the culture. Not just what we see in the forefront a lot of the time.
Other label owners just need to be open and stop being afraid of actually supporting people because of their differences. It’s also about actively being open to working with different types of people and artists. Black, white, big, or small — We have to break down the not-so-diverse glass ceiling and lack of representation starting at our levels and build up this culture of diversity. I think it’s becoming better in some ways. I still unfortunately see a lot of… not so diverse platforms and communities. But people are opening their eyes up to culture more. We just have to keep up being active about our participation in creating a more diverse culture and community.
Music Producer & Streamer
To me diversity in music can mean a bunch of things, but what I would like to think is that you add both your creativity on top of, let’s say your heritage in that general genre. Adding in some instruments from your culture or that tune your grandma used to sing for you when you were a kid, just that experience from your roots can go a long way in dance music, and because everyone has different experiences, put that into music and you end up with a slightly different sound from what you’re used to.
Other artists can start talking about it and sharing. Sparking up a conversation about the matter is what moves it forward. When more people listen to those conversations, the more they go back and listen to different takes on dance music, and the more experience everyone gains from it. My motto is “also support the homies” and I feel that other artists can adopt that idea too.
Diversity in dance music for me means opening the door for Black artists and creatives to get their tracks signed by major labels in the space, get booked for major fests and shows, and get paid equal rates to their counterparts. I pinpoint Black artists because although POC are widely underrepresented, Black artists also have little visibility in the scene, and being a Black woman who manages two artists, that is a goal of mine. In addition, I would love to see more support and opportunities being afforded to Black creators and managers/industry people in the space.
Other artist managers can look out for upcoming POC and Black talent, plug Black artist managers and their artists for opportunities, show them the way a bit. Above all, try to create more spaces and getting more Black and POC managers in the room where important conversations are being made is really key. And above all, listening and learning. Hearing people’s experiences in this industry being POC or Black, and really learning from those experiences, validating those people and honoring their truths. I think that will make a huge difference.
Diversity means accepting EVERYONE. No matter their sex, race, skin color, size, weight, body shape, genre, sexual orientation, etc. Accept everyone for what they are. It also means inclusion… include everyone in your projects, you never what a different perspective will lead you to.
Other publications can highlight different groups in the community and not just based on their outer appearance. Looking deeper and find out their story and share it, along with their music.
Writer, Deep State Audio
Diversity in dance music means to realize and work against the many systems in place that actively put marginalized artists and industry professionals at a disadvantage. While many dance music publications and media outlets work to amplify marginalized voices in the industry, real change comes from giving BIPOC opportunities to lead from positions of power.
Writers in the dance music space can help champion diversity by highlighting real issues that effect BIPOC in the industry. This includes lack of opportunity and inclusion, and the lack of infrastructure that lets people from marginalized groups into the dance music scene in the first place. While I believe BIPOC artists should be highlighted more, many publications only do this in observance for a specific month. BIPOC artists deserve to be championed year round like their counterparts.
Artist Manager & Publicist
Diversity to me in dance music is making everyone feel included, having a space for everyone at the table. The dance music world can so easily get drowned out with what’s “poppin” and “trending” and that’s so often the white man, even though my inbox is full of talented BIPOC whose music won’t ever get picked up. We can hire and diversify our teams all we want but if everyone, artists included aren’t given the same opportunities then something still isn’t right.
Other publicists can start paying better attention. Do your job wholeheartedly. Dig deeper. The diversity in music is right in front of our faces, we are at the forefront of the problem. Let’s fix it.
As I worked through this article and interviewed the amazing people above, I had an epiphany that led me to question… Why are people of color generally the only people who talk about diversity? In a subculture as “accepting,” “loving,” and “PLUR” as EDM, why weren’t the people at the top (read: white people) contributing to finding a solution to this glaring issue in the scene?
I took to Twitter to ask more white folks if they’d like to speak up, but didn’t get much bite. So until everyone can join the conversation and work together into creating a more diverse and inclusive space, we still have a long way to go.
If you’re interested in getting involved, sharing your thoughts, or ideas, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, use Nightenjin’s general contact form, or tag us on Twitter.
Arielle Lana is on the PR + Marketing team at Nightenjin. Heavily involved in the music industry, she is also an editorial writer at This Song Is Sick and FUXWITHIT as well as the Head of PR at Bonsai Collective and Denali Records.