Perspective: Tales from the Comment Section
Online forums have long been platforms for dance music fans to express their enthusiasm. But with these spaces becoming defined by an aggressive tone, Sirin Kale wonders if there’s an unhelpful macho element to the online scrutiny.
On International Women’s Day last month, B.Traits shut down a guy who’d left a patronising comment on her Facebook page. “How about working on gain structure!” he’d written. “The leds are maxed out on the mixer.” “No they’re actually not,” B.Traits responded. “No reds there mate. Try hating somewhere else.” A few months earlier, Nina Kraviz had hit back at critics of her Melbourne DJ set who’d accused her of not playing enough techno. “People wanted techno and I offered none in their opinion,” Kraviz wrote. “In fact all I played was pretty much techno at least in my own definition but of a broader spectrum… What can I say.”
The fact that Kraviz and B.Traits — both DJs and producers of international stature, who happen to be female — are having to put up with this bullshit, points to two major problems within dance music. Firstly: dance music has become a service industry, and pissed-off fans will send their steaks back to the DJ if they think it’s overcooked. But most importantly, that social media is ruining the party for everyone.
Before the Internet and social media, DJs were the gatekeepers and curators alike of dance music. Only the true of heart, with enough time to scout for obscure records and pockets deep enough to buy them, fancied themselves able to match DJs with their technical and musical knowledge. Nowadays? Every person with Traktor S4 and a Soundcloud premium account knows how to do it better. And unfortunately, most of those people are male – electronic music has always been a male-dominated space, and this imbalance extends online. Chin-stroking keyboard warriors are destroying dance music. It’s getting tedious.
At one end of the spectrum: In October 2016, Boiler Room announced they’d be shutting down their chatroom after Glaswegian artist Nightwave received relentless misogynistic abuse. “She gotta be giving someone some good head,” wrote one dickhead. “I hope she’s better in a bed,” commented another. This sort of misogyny is nothing new – watch any Boiler Room video on YouTube and you’ll find bros dissecting the physical appearance of any girls who dare to stray in shot. This is obvious misogyny – but subtler strains still waft through the online dance music scene. As a female dance music journalist, I’m exposed to trolling every time I write.
"Chin-stroking keyboard warriors are destroying dance music. It's getting tedious."
Today’s makeshift forums and music sharing groups like the New Music Group will mostly consist of male admins and be full of male commenters. The vibe isn’t bad – I’ve never seen a woman being called out – but it does reinforce a particular type of scrutiny that’s not necessarily good for the scene. Against this, women create their own supportive spaces. Electronic music professionals Sister or collectives like Siren use social media to build networks between female and nonbinary DJs. Occasionally a tone-deaf bro will trespass into these spaces: there was recent furore when a booking agent solicited for “attractive female DJs” in Sister’s Facebook group.
In many ways, this opposition reflects a wider paradigm of what’s going on in dance music. The mainstream evolves towards a male-dominated model where dance music fans are consumers, quick to critique artists like Kraviz who don’t cater to a specific taste they’ve refined in Facebook groups and forums online. And women and LGBTQ and nonbinary people create online support networks to correct this imbalance. Arguably, this just reinforces division – a divided dancefloor, when we should be moving as one.
And as fewer and fewer of us can afford go out, dance music fans get their kicks online. Sometimes it’s innocuous, dweeby humor. For example, there’s this recent Change.org petition to “Ban Tech House From Ever Existing.” Obviously, the petition spread like wildfire – tech house is an easy target – but its motivations weren’t as simple as that. Turns out, the petition was only created to see if it would “get a reaction from predictable media outlets”, according to its creator.
Other times, online humor reinforces a laddish worldview that makes clubbing teeth-grindingly dull for the rest of us. As underground dance music achieves mainstream appeal, Facebook groups like International Rave Squad or much-beloved Humans of the Sesh riff on the popularity of “the sesh.” Whereas in the late 90s, lads everywhere expressed their masculinity through downing pints and necking girls on small-town dance floors, now these same men embrace dance music culture in online groups of their peers. Cue endless memes of passed-out or gurning guys on the dancefloor, or ironic tweets about Buckfast and Amber Leaf.
Even when online groups are relatively good-natured, they’re still just reinforcing a vision of the dance music community that exists in cyber-space, not in the real world (and I speak as someone who has shared a techno meme in the past.) Does that make me sound like a humourless dick? Maybe. But, as always: Let’s turn off our computers, delete Shazam, step out of our obsessive social media bubbles and onto a dancefloor.
Follow Sirin Kale on Twitter: @thedalstonyears