This is a historical moment in American history, as protests across the country (and the world) have begun to spark legislative change. Discussing racism and inequality at home (in our state, or our workplace, or our writing) can be uncomfortable. Changing culture and norms, however, is just as important as changing unfair laws.
Blackout Tuesday showed that the music industry has a lot of work to do. Clearly, we need to do better, and to treat black artists, employees, and consumers better. But what about us writers in particular? Maybe we have been a part of the problem too.
As one DMNW staff writer puts it, “The most critical need of the music industry is to listen — we need to listen to the voices of marginalized communities and what they need from us.”
So, we did our best to listen. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
1. Black artists deserve fair representation.
Have we consistently represented black artists, or just the kids that look like Zedd? Sure, now we’re all writing about black producers and singers and rappers, but right now it’s convenient. How can we do better tomorrow and five years from now?
Every time we sit down to write, we need to consider the impact of our choices. Are we representing the diverse voices in our communities? More urgently, are we silencing certain groups?
In recognizing that black artists and voices are already marginalized in so many ways, we can’t just highlight the stories or voices we hear. We must go out of our way to discover the projects that haven’t yet been given as much representation as they deserve.
2. Black artists deserve fair recognition for the work they do.
Have we recognized the black singers or collaborators that have contributed to Grammy-winning projects, or simply clapped for the dude who got a trophy?
When we find an amazing song or album or music video, it’s easy to give one person all the credit. In fact, financially, professionally, and socially, usually one person does get all the credit. As writers, we have an opportunity to recognize the whole team of individuals who made it happen. We get to bring these imbalances to light.
When we’re researching a story, we can look more carefully into the collaborators and production process. When we’re interviewing an artist, we can give them a chance to give credit where credit is due by asking if any contributors have gone unrecognized. We can also interview less recognized contributors to get unique new perspectives on projects.
3. Black artists aren’t responsible for educating the masses.
Do we simply respond to new music, ending each story by asking “What’s next?” or do we take the time to look back at our history?
Dropping extensive knowledge about genres and beats can come off as pretentious, sure, but giving overwhelmingly young, white audiences mini history lessons can actually be super helpful. Electronic Dance Music owes much of its success to the black artists who invented house and techno music, genres that still dominate the scene today.
This in-depth post from 2017 discusses the history of EDM and its lasting impacts. These kinds of articles are evergreen and entertaining in their own right – definitely providing some bang for their buck. Additionally, though, we can work to educate ourselves and work this kind of in-depth knowledge into all of our writing.
Besides educating ourselves and our readers on the racial injustices and social issues facing our industry, we can also work to bridge the cultural gap between lifelong EDM fans and fresh new audiences.
Knowing is only half the battle
The biggest issue with racism is that it is built into our lives. Instead of getting discouraged or overwhelmed, we can work to build systems of anti-racism into our lives.
When search engines became a part of journalism, we imbedded SEO into the writing process. Every blog understands what SEO is and every writer deals with it on a daily basis. So too should we deal with social justice issues.
We know racial bias is impacting our industry at every level. So let’s get to work on the counter-attack. Imbedding these discussions into our daily writing process could be a great place to start.
Another Perspective: From DMNW Writer Maddie Welch
Instead of turning up the volume to drown out the surrounding sound of pain the music community needs to sit in solidarity with those wedged into the consequences of insidious racism since birth.
Black voices founded the beginnings of electronic music on principles of unity and respect. Rather than complacency, now is time to listen and amplify their voices in alliance. Trust each other to use our voices with action to further call out the injustices that seep into every corner of our institution. When fear and anger preclude impactful change silence is undoubtedly easier. Instead, I urge everyone in this community to listen to the hearts of people who are hurting. Advocate for difficult conversations, educate yourself and others, and remember that equitable and lasting change drives not only new music, but new ways of life.
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