Yesterday we exposed in the first part of this feature “external” factors that are decimating the electronic music sector during this pandemic…
Is it all the government’s fault, or perhaps the sector should make a healthy exercise of self-criticism?
The answers I think are obvious. The government has a good part of the blame, a lot of it in these times of economic hardship, but the whole sector should make a resounding exercise of self-criticism. Resounding and profound. Because surely the consideration given by governmental bodies to club culture has been misguided for decades, and many actors in the sector are largely to blame for this.
In our country, almost nobody (in general terms, there have always been and there are very honorable exceptions) has been concerned with promoting their business as culture. A large part of the sector has mainly been concerned with being hoteliers, which means selling drinks and making money (a praiseworthy exercise as a business, as is evident…). We all know stories of promoters who have started out in the underground electronic scene and as soon as they started to make money, they moved on to the most naff and commercial scene without the slightest embarrassment. This can be added to the revival of misguided scenes from bygone eras such as the “ruta del bacalao”, which only identifies “thump thump”, the endless binge drinking and speed snorting in the car parks of nightclubs with electronic music. People from those times are claimed as “techno legends” (?) when they didn’t even produce the records they released, and people confuse the “makina” music of those days with the culture of electronic music. With all due respect to those who liked all that, because every human being is free to enjoy whatever he wants, in those days there were musicians and dj’s who bequeathed us great works that should be considered as culture. Dj´s and producers like Madelman, Pez, HD Substance, Vanguard, The Frogmen or Undo among others laid the foundations of what we know now as electronic music, which joined the work already done in the previous decade by pioneers like Suso Saiz or Esplendor Geométrico.
However, for the general public, the names related to the “electronic music” of those days are others. Take the test… ask…
Now it is cool to name and talk about the “ruta del bacalao”, something that is often done with a TOTAL lack of knowledge, mixing the sheep with the goats and based on more than dubious testimonies. In the UK, for example, the beginnings of clubber culture and the evolution of electronic music as we know it today have always been treated from completely different points of view. An excellent recent example is the film Beats, released in 2019, which perfectly reflects the golden age of raves in the first half of the 1990s, this time set in Scotland. The film deals with the partying and playful aspect of those gatherings, but also proclaims music as the real driving force behind the whole movement, with its protagonists following those pirate radio stations where the tracks that made them move and seek out those illegal raves were broadcast. This film is just one example (there are many more). Documentaries about the electronic scene, made with testimonies of those who were and are protagonists, are numerous both in the UK and in Germany, to cite the two countries we have talked about, with high quality content. There is a real concern to promote and make it known that electronic music is culture… apart from being a source of income, as all culture is. There could be no theatre plays without producers to advance the money and audiences to make it up through ticket sales. But there are also often subsidies from governmental administrations. Nobody here is saying that, in a club, an event or a festival, everything is done for the love of art. Money is important as well, obviously.
In this respect, Luis Bonias leaves us with an important reflection: “Many things must have been done wrong for sure. Before us (and I speak for my generation), there was nothing if we talk about club culture as we know it today, it all started in the late 80s and early 90s and we had to try all possible aspects. Then, once you were labelled into something, it was impossible to get out of it. Even if it’s cool now, our generation or those of us who had principles were not allowed to develop the knowledge we had acquired, and on the other hand, we didn’t know how to sell from the first minute that this was culture and not just drinks & drugs abuse.
The FIESTA effect, continually calling our movement “la fiesta” in advertising, may have been good for the marketing of those years of growth, but disastrous for the cultural development of the following years. Everything falls into the same bag, everything was fiesta as the years and fashions changed… that’s why I think the music of the 80´s has become the same as the “hardstyle” of the mid-2000s, in fact, there are some who believe that Chocolate (Valencia´s club) played that kind of music in the 80s. How many trick videos are there from the 80s with that kind of music? 200,000?”
Perhaps the sector has not bothered to highlight something obvious, and that most of us who work in the sector or around it with creative tasks knows. Electronic music is culture. Club culture, electronic music, understood as it is in other countries, is as much culture as a Rothko exhibition or a Mozart concert. That happens in other countries, not in Spain.
The correct image of clubbing and electronic music has not been sold properly, and we are all to blame for that. Not only the businessman who only works as a hotelier (which, evidently, is part of his business and is as valid an option as any other to earn money, as we have said before) without the slightest concern for the cultural aspect.
Ismael Rivas leaves a final reflection based on irrefutable data: “On the other hand, for a certain period of time there has been too much electronic entertainment on offer, often with little care and of poor quality, both musically speaking and in terms of production, which is why today we must continue to bet and invest in quality nightlife, with controlled seating, security measures, quality products that are well cared for and produced in a professional and responsible manner”.
Also the media (more the general media, but also, unfortunately, the so-called specialized press) which, without any shame at times, cease to concern themselves with making the cultural side of electronic music visible. They prefer to give visibility to many of the aforementioned things without having a real vision or concern for what happened in the past… or they simply have sought and seek more for tabloid journalism than for the cultural side. Or who pays and who does not pay.
The blame can never fall on just one part of the sector, it has to be spread across absolutely all departments, from the impresario to the dj, from the journalist to the producer.
Until someone recognizes that they have a problem, it is impossible to find a solution. Let’s hope that this unfortunate situation due to Covid will teach us a lesson in this matter, and, more importantly, that we will learn it so as not to repeat past mistakes.