Dear Diplo: The Music Isn’t Enough

The music is not enough.  

I have loved EDM more than any other music since I was eleven. Coming from a small town where the radio plays nothing but classic rock, I’ve constantly had to defend it against people who thought it was boring or ugly or otherwise shameful. I truly love EDM, but it’s not enough to get me to pay $100+ for a show.

I don’t subscribe to the “authenticity” of simply being in the presence of the DJ as a factor that justifies the ticket prices.  I don’t get to interact with them, and even if meet-and-greets are offered, the interaction is wearying for the DJ and one-dimensional for the fan.  Unless they’ve done something else, like advocate for a cause I believe in, there’s no point in me paying a ticket price just to tell them I like their music.

I can understand why people would want to do this, especially for a live setup where you can see the sweat on the artists’ foreheads; showing the fans they actually care to give their audience a solid performance. But for a scene as plagued by performer inauthenticity as EDM, I require more.

I know that musical artists these days make more money from their shows than anything else, and that buying a concert ticket is the new way to support the people you love. Small names deserve all the love they can get, and you’ll probably have a more genuine time at this kind of a show anyway. But forgive me if I’m a bit jaded from the news that Paris Hilton gets paid hundreds of thousands per show to hit play. It’s not just her, either. It’s so tempting to coast. Especially nowadays, when “DJs” are called out every other day for button-pressing or playing pre-recorded sets, shelling out just to have someone else control the setlist has no appeal to me. I can listen to the same tracks at home on my iPod for free, with better acoustics (when there aren’t thousands of bodies soaking up the sound) and a more personalized playlist. In most cases, the music alone simply isn’t worth the price.

reevaluating edm shows

Is the Ultra experience really worth $500?

I pay for the experience.  

For me, this includes being with friends, expressing creativity through outfits I create, and dancing hard for hours. Subtract any one of those three and the event is no longer worth the money. I won’t go to seated concerts because I frequently find myself disappointed — a lot of show venues employ sound guys that don’t care or just can’t adjust because they’re accustomed to rock shows, etc. When I was younger, I went to non-EDM shows and just couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have any fun. Recently, I was looking through festival trailers, and saw a non-EDM festival preview that finally made the connection for me. There was a crowd pan shot where everyone, from the front row to the back, was standing straight and facing forward, all in t-shirts and jeans, half were not smiling, few were really dancing. There was no experience there. I suspect that a lot of people feel unfulfilled at shows like this but believe that it was only them—that everyone else was somehow having more fun. It’s not a matter of luck, though, but instead whether or not one was engaged in the experience.

For me, kandi affects all three parts of the experience. Naturally, kandi is as integral a part of my outfits as the actual clothes, color coded or themed to my outfit, and I often bring more so that I’ll always have some with me, regardless of how many I give out. Socially, there’s nothing more wonderful than making something small and simple to give to your friends to commemorate a moment, or when you see someone on the floor fighting shyness and give them a piece to encourage them to overcome their inhibitions. And in that, kandi can encourage dance as the physical expression of joy and belonging. Like everything else, there are people who only go to trade and accumulate fancy kandi, of course.  There will always be people who take things out of context or attempt to make kandi into a currency.  But even a single-strand of black beads can have such deep meaning in the right context.

On Diplo Banning Kandi

Diplo, I love your music, and I think you’re a talented producer; but I don’t know that your talent can justify the prices you charge. People will always be willing to pay it, sure. You’ll probably do fine, even with the “thousands of ravers” you’re jilting with this decision, who supported you before you made it big. You can try to equate kandi with drug use, although I would point out that you are part of the show business industry, which inherently makes most of its money from hedonistic overconsumption and will therefore encourage fans to guzzle alcohol and drugs until the media drums up public fear.

reevaluating edm shows

Does Diplo have the wrong attitude? Yes, he definitely does.

It sucks that EDM has been targeted for the scapegoat publicity when drug use, sexual assault, and other horrible things are just as present in the audience at other shows. Unfortunately, a lot of the moves that promoters and artists have been making have been to strip the creative and positive aspects from the shows in an attempt to stamp out the negative aspects (or at least fend off the media infamy). Why is it that lightgloves are banned instead of apparel that champion awful attitudes and behaviors, like drug consumption, sexism, aggression, etc.? (“Molly is my homegirl,” “Party with sluts,” the list goes on and on). Why is it that these bans against gloves, glow sticks, etc. are enacted in the name of safety but the banned products are for sale inside the venue? Why are we considered untrustworthy with easily-searchable items if we still have to submit to security shoving their hands into bras and down pants pockets? Why do we continue to accept that the things we loved about the EDM scene are being slowly stripped away and replaced by a consumerist nightmare?

I’ve followed USC Events since Freaknight 10, but this Paradiso was the last of their events that I will attend, after the disaster that was Live Nation security (people fainting in line because they were forced to throw out their water bottles, costumes randomly thrown away because a staff member was unaware of the actual list of banned items).  I can’t bring myself to support events like these, when so much of what I love has been banned, and where I am not treated with respect but instead as an antagonist to the show’s existence.

I want to be more thoughtful and conscious about who I support.

This is a first world problem, I know.  However, EDM shows make me happy, or at least they used to.  Of course I care about them.  And by my actions, I aim not just for a fun time at shows but also to resist the larger culture of irresponsibility and ignorance in a setting that I know and love.

I recognize that many will still decide for themselves that shows like Mad Decent Block Party are worth the kandi cuts and other new mandates. But I would hope that whatever decision you arrive at, that you reflect on the pros and cons of supporting a promoter and their methods and weigh it against the price — retake consumer responsibility in a scene that tries to make money off of mindless craze. We’re a long ways away from the time when we couldn’t choose which events to attend because there were only a few promoter companies or a few shows.

Please rave responsibly.

Written by -Anonymous

Read a different opinion here: WHY “WASTE” MONEY ON FESTIVALS?

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