How DJ Diversity Clauses Can Make Dance Music a Better Place – Features



“I’m going to be pretty brutal with this,” Sherelle said of her own clause. Her demands are simple: “I’m asking for another woman in the line-up, cis or trans, but leaning towards trans. And then a person of color, male or female, cis or trans. Recognizing that she has trans fans at her shows, Sherelle knows she would be doing them a disservice if she didn’t do her part to get brilliant trans DJs booked with her.

What’s most important to Jordan is that it’s not enough to book a diverse line-up. “If the place is not safe or if the artist is not paid properly, then diversity does not make sense,” they say.

So how do you create a safe space when, as Abdulá says, “someone who doesn’t feel safe in a place has many different shapes and forms? Too often, says Jordan, sites can advertise a safe space policy, but the onus will fall on the victim to report an incident, rather than the site putting in place the structures to help prevent incidents in the first place. For Moorosi, the very concept of a safe space is rooted in white privilege. “I would go so far as to say that the electronic music industry is not a safe space for black artists,” he explains. “Is that a safe space to be a black person with a record label, but the media only cares about white artists on your roster?” But with diligent implementation, the diversity clauses could be a step towards artists like Moorosi (who makes music as Big Space and runs Wet Dreams Recordings), feeling safer, less exploited and less. violated in spaces that they should be able to appropriate.

The answer for Sherelle and Troxler is representation; Safe spaces will exist organically when punters see themselves represented in the stand. “I see a lot more girls and members of the LGBTQI community leading my shows, and that’s because they feel a lot safer because of the person playing,” says Sherelle. She notes that some performers don’t realize that bettors aren’t just there for the music, they also have to feel right at home. “I take it very personally,” she said, “I can’t think of anything worse than someone who comes to one of my shows and doesn’t feel comfortable.” Sherelle refers to Eris Drew, Octo Octa and the BBZ collective from South East London as examples of artists who organize inclusive spaces for people to come and party.

Read Next: Meet The Promoters Running Inclusive Club Nights Across The UK & Ireland

Troxler says it’s not just about seeing yourself in the booth, it’s about hearing the music that represents you and your culture. “Dixon is a really good friend of mine,” he says, “but I don’t know how many kids in the neighborhood think melodic house is the thing. For people of color, there is often a more polyrhythmic aspect to music. Troxler has seen it in practice with his label Tuskegee Music, which he runs with The Martinez Brothers. The more music they played and the more they celebrated black artists, the more the black community was reduced to their shows.

For a diversity clause to have a real positive impact, the responsibility also falls on the promoter; it must be a collective effort. Mixmag contacted two sites and two festivals for this piece, and while all four responded on first contact, unfortunately not all of them commented or answered questions.

In practice, Sherelle and Abdulá have already encountered resistance from promoters; some seem to think that it is enough to book a woman or a POC artist “sometimes”, as if a box checked every once in a while was a job done. “I hate to think people think they get two in one when they book me,” says Sherelle, “some people use excuses like” we’re just trying to book the best of the best “and it’s like, you are not, because we see the same names over and over again.

It’s having those uncomfortable conversations with promoters that can create change, says Abdulá, as well as sacrificing shows when it goes against the larger impact you’re working towards. Safo agrees, “forcing promoters to look further for dance music talent can be educational for all concerned.” Abdulá also had positive experiences with the bookers, where they reflected on the conversation and committed to moving their programming forward. Sherelle highlights Sheffield’s place booker, Hope Works, stating that “Hope Works is a perfect example of a place that actively wants to make a change. When they booked my line-up, they made sure it was very diverse.


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