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Dave Jenkins

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UKF Anti-Virus #6: How COVID-19 has re-inspired dance music’s original DIY spirit

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UKF Anti-Virus #6: How COVID-19 has re-inspired dance music’s original DIY spirit

Last weekend over 250,000 drum & bass fans from around the world locked into the Stay At Home Festival and helped them raise an incredible £16,743 for the NHS.

This is super impressive in itself. But the fact this was achieved by two relatively new names in the industry (Goat Shed and Onyx Recordings) and that it was brought together from idea to execution in just over a week makes it even more remarkable. Throw in the fact that a not insignificant proportion of the line-up were young up-and-comers who’d be lucky if festival promoters even listened to their demos, let alone give them a midday set opening a smaller arena, yet were getting thousands of views, makes the event’s success entirely unparalleled and inspiring.

Nothing like this has ever happened in dance music before. It’s never had to happen… But now it’s set a benchmark and the effects will be felt for years. Previously unknown names and organisations will come out the other side of this as influential, trustworthy figures to work with. Up-and-coming and middleweight artists are fast becoming headliners in this new fully online era, fans are uniting and supporting with a different senses of positivity and encouragement than previously. In a scene where things move rapidly anyway, they’re are moving even quicker and with even more affirmative action.

The situation outside is positively shit right now. Shitter than we’ve ever experienced. It’s likely to get shitter for a while to come, too. But this is a big fat poodle’s leg of a silver lining.

It’s a silver lining we’ve been documenting and celebrating since our first Anti-Virus article exactly a month ago, rounding up and highlighting some of the exciting things artists were doing to combat the sudden drop in bookings. This was before the UK was instructed to go under full lockdown, but it was clear our lives, our industry and our summer were all about to be turned inside out by the global crisis… Things have moved so quickly since then, that seems like a lifetime ago but what hasn’t changed is the attitude and spirit of people. In fact it’s only increased and amplified.

What’s been interesting is seeing how mindsets and reactions to the crisis have changed over these last few weeks… The first reaction was a natural immediate feeling of financial insecurity with artists setting up Patreons and thinking of different ways to recoup some of their lost booking income. But as time has gone by these actions have changed to things of a much more altruistic nature.

Sure, every artist has a right to be out there hustling for an income, but the bigger picture influences much more than individuals. ALL of us are losing work and money during this. The virus is currently killing hundreds of people per day here in the UK and the government, just weeks ago, was suggesting the UK public would be fine with ‘herd immunity’ and that we didn’t need lockdown. The Conservative government has left our health service in such a shocking, underfunded state we need to be raising money for it. It’s an awful reality, but it’s being countered in amazing ways…

Tonight, for example, The Prototypes will be hosting a 24 hour live stream on D&BTV Locked In to raise money for the NHS. They’ve already raised over half their £2500 target before it even starts. Last night we linked up with Holy Goof to stream his entire Globes 2 performance from Printworks on UKF On Air, the show raised almost £3000 in under two hours.

Last weekend bassline don Jamie Duggan hosted a 15 hour mix marathon and raised £12,000 and National Hype Service launched Thursday, already raising over £1000. Elsewhere we’ve seen Doc Scott raising money for different causes every weekend with his Saturday night streams, Calyx & Teebee selling VIPs for the NHS, Commix selling sample packs for the NHS and Zomboy raising thousands of dollars for malnourished children. Next week sees the release of two massive V/A compilations on Rebel Music and Sine (embeded below) and a single by Rene LaVice and A Plus, all of which will donate all proceeds to covid-related charities. Shogun Audio, meanwhile, are launching a massive D&B pub quiz. That’s just a handful of many examples.

 

 

This is the real power of the underground and all its contributors. The word ‘community’ is used a lot in rave parlance but, let’s be honest, 99.9% of the time it’s used pretty disingenuously. Right now, though, there is a tangible sense of community, in which everyone is active. In a matter of weeks there’s been a very real shift from passive consumption to participation. Artists and audiences are much more engaged, helping each other out more, creating things, donating things and doing things to make each other smile. This is the original DIY spirit. The same spirit that incubated rave culture in the first place: a generation who felt completely unrepresented and unacknowledged by their governments and took matters into their own hands and did things by their own rules.

This is what our culture has always been founded on. Not social media stats. Not big sponsors or commercial appeal or patronising marketing campaigns. Not agents spending weeks arguing with promoters about where an artist’s name should appear on the poster. Not who’s bigger or better than who. Or big egos and the same old names getting trotted around every line-up. Not backstage areas full of coked-up randoms who haven’t got a creative bone in their body, never pay for a ticket, steal the artists’ riders and don’t give so much as a shit for the music or the culture.

This is about people getting their sleeves rolled up and participating in something bigger than any one individual and the fans who appreciate that. It’s about making things happen with immediate effect.

The Stay At Home Festival is a great example of how things can happen almost immediately when the focus is on something bigger than personal gain or ego. In the interview we ran ahead of the event, organiser Chris Wickens explained how everything from the idea to locking in the line-up happened within days.

Of course this was a streamed charity event online and not a massive outdoor rave where so many other factors come into play. But even pre-COVID, an online charity stream would have been likely to take much longer to organise, mobilise, promote, market and approval sign off from a host of agents and managers, with many arguments taking place behind the scenes on line-up, schedule and presence on the bill along the way. It’s the attitude and immediacy of the Stay At Home Festival organisers that sets an example of how quickly things can happen, and how quickly fans get behind it, when you’re motivated for the right reasons.

While this global emergency has removed so many civil liberties it’s scary, it’s empowered people in other ways and levelled the playing field; this rife new level of streaming culture has given voice to a whole sea of DJs and talents all bubbling under the surface and all doing bits that are just as creative, sometimes even more so, than the regular big names. And we’re about to see this new groundswell of suddenly visible talent flourish more and more as the lockdown becomes more of a mainstay in our lives than the novelty it began as.

Forecasts reported earlier this week suggest that parts of our lives may potentially return to some sense of normality as early as this summer, but things like major sporting and music events may not return until as late as autumn 2021. If this is the case, streaming and online events are going to be the main platform to perform, test, push and support new music for the long-term foreseeable.

Of course it will NEVER replace that powerful visceral feeling you get on the dancefloor when you’re fizzy as hell and surrounded by your mates and confronted by a booming system and everything’s kicking off and you’re screaming at the DJ to fuck off and life is an absolute dream for those hours… But it’s a solution and it’s one that’s come through the DIY spirit inherent to the music and culture’s DNA.

It’s not something that people have waited to happen, it’s something that’s been taken up instantly and in the hands of people who want it to carry on because it drives them, it’s their expression and gives them purpose.

As a result, this will reveal exciting new names, encourage new sounds that aren’t so focused on peak time dancefloors and bring people together in different ways and different purposes, not just at big commercial ticketed events where the end game is to make money (no matter how sick these events may be!)

This can help engage people and could potentially lead to different discussions, projects and events that raise funds for all kinds of situations that have been affected by the pandemic: frontline workers, starving children, mental health charities, domestic abuse shelters, helping the homeless, helping those who’ve lost their work and aren’t covered by the government’s recovery plan, addiction treatment centres, animal shelters and so many other aspects of modern life that will be impacted by this much, much more than the music industry has been.

As we said in the first Anti-Virus feature; music and creativity will find a way despite the challenges. One month later, as we all become more acclimatised to this new normal and finding our own ways to help each other through it, we’re seeing this in action and it’s an inspiring thing to see. If you’ve so much as thrown a fist bump emoji in a chat room of someone’s stream or shared a link or bought a sample pack then you’ve played a role in this. Not everyone can afford to donate but everyone can get involved, get inspired and be part of the biggest DIY movement in dance music since it began.

Things will never be quite the same after this emergency, but some things may change for the better. And it’s all down to DIY actions that are happening right now. Whatever happens next, don’t forget these first few weeks and those who’ve led from the front. The artists, organisations, labels and individuals who’ve actively reacted to the situation during these early weeks and put something out in the world for everyone to enjoy during dark times are the people who care the most about this culture and they’re the ones who will keep it alive long after this emergency is over. COVID has forced our hands but it’s not telling us how to write the next chapter. That’s down to us.

 UKF Anti-Virus is a celebration of lockdown distractions, projects and events. It runs every Friday and will do so until this emergency is over. If you have anything you’d like to highlight in this weekly series drop editor@ukf.com a message. 

 

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