We look back at the year in dance music through the twisted prism of social media.
2020: what a decade this year has been. It was the best of times, it was the 2020 of times. A year so awful that it would have been no suprise at all if Paul Gascoigne turned up with a rotisserie chicken to help out.
With the constant spectre of a possible second wave of Tropical House hanging over us, 2020 has been so truly woeful that January’s low-level Twitter squabbling about phones in clubs or destigmatising the mix-clang was actually probably the highlight of the entire year.
Things swiftly went downhill after that: the tragically early passing of our hero Andrew Weatherall in February was a harbinger of what was to come, a year defined by heartbreak and sorrow.
Early on, in the before times – January and February – as we patiently waited for the incoming pathogen onslaught, muso people idly argued on social media about ‘beatmatching is gatekeeping’, ‘DJing is just air guitar’, ‘club music makes no sense outside the club’ but none of it whipped itself up into a Twitter storm, barely a twitter light breeze. Still, our polarisation continued as we fed ideas into the social media wood chipper – just drop that concept in there and watch it go, ideas turn to intellectual sawdust in moments, discussed, argued over, defined and redefined, taken apart into ever further levels of detail and analysis until they’re polarised into countless tiny micro-opinions, a waft of ill-thought out, angry thought-dust blowing in the virtual wind.
However, if nothing else, it primed us for the first couple of weeks of covid lockdown season one, where we argued about the rights and wrongs of fundraising for DJs, studiously ignoring the huge cultural differences in the way the US and the UK think, speak about and ask for money, and choosing instead one of two binary positions from which to sling mud from. Then there was Tour-Manager-Gate, remember that? Bunch of top-level wealthy DJs hawking a load of other people’s music for free to raise funds for their tour managers? Brilliant. Simpler times.
Meanwhile Resident Advisor did a deal with Spotify, apparently to “help fans discover more local parties with their favourite artists” which all seemed fine and completely normal and not in any way problematic for the huge ticketing company who apparently support the underground to get in bed with virtual-monopoly streaming behemoth Spotify, this is all fine, everything is fine.
Later in the year, Spotify would further reinvigorate the industry with their official payola plan, where artists actually pay for exposure, yes you read that right – artists could opt for a lower royalty rate in return for Spotify promoting their music. If nothing else, you have to admire their consistency. Ending the year on a high note Spotify continued to be the friend to the industry by adding a handy Food-Banks-Near-You button for artists, available at a lower rate if you sign over all your publishing and your firstborn child.
Resident Advisor were to come under the spotlight later in the year as DJ and three times winner of the ‘Best Goth Fisherman Look’ award Dave Clarke took them to task about their £750,000 government covid payout, questioning how fair it was for an online ticketing company to receive a sum like that when, for example, an actual venue like London’s Printworks received nothing.
This plot then thickened nicely when it turned out that Sundissential – who are a brand, not a venue, and who look as though they’ve only done like one event in a decade and none since 2017, and who have actually been dormant for three years but then filed accounts three days, yes three days before funding, that Sundissential – were awarded £223,822, a grant that has since been frozen pending investigation.
The clear problems with the way this funding was allocated and indeed the studious ignoring of the freelancers who make up so much of the music industry was all symptomatic of a UK government who truly matched this year in terms of shitness. Less like a government, more like a malfunctioning PR firm peopled by venture capitalists and posh boy fuckos on nose-bag, running the country like a dilapidated Butlins with Britain First as the Red Coats, Ian Brown shouting the bingo numbers in your face as you arrive and where every holiday maker hates everyone else.
The briefest mention there to monkey-faced idiocy-receptacle, Ian Brown, who clearly, like most of us, was struggling to make sense of the unfolding carnage all around, but in a perfect little microcosm of what was happening in front of computer screens all over the country, went through full-on reality-denial straight to conspiracy central, population: rapidly and tragically growing. Fools Gold indeed.
Covid denial went hand in hand with plague raves this year and often seemed to act as a conduit to far-right conspiracy theories. There is no doubt an entirely justified critique of the appalling response of the UK government to covid, but Brown and his ilk seem set on throwing the proverbial baby – the BBC, the press, medical expertise, critical thought, those kinds of things – out with the Tory party bathwater, embracing a Q-anon-lite version of reality that owes more to skunk, isolation and far-right YouTube hate-spunkers than anything actually happening on the ground.
Then in May, George Floyd was murdered on an American street, in broad daylight, by the Police, triggering a world-wide re-engagement with the Black Lives Matter and racial equality movement – although obviously for black people this wasn’t so much a re-engagement as yet another chapter in an on-going horror story. Thank fuck David Guetta had the time to leave the haunted mirror he now lives in to rock up looking like a waxwork model of himself, remix racism away and deliver history’s most inappropriate shout out.
And that’s not the end, 2020 just kept on giving; there’s more incoming this Friday in ‘2020 Part 2: Plague Raves – Watch Like Nobody’s Dancing‘.