Let us dance, says UK electronic music sector
Some of the most prominent artists from the UK’s dance music sector have joined forces with festivals, nightclubs and industry figures to issue an urgent plea for support from the government.
The #LetUsDance campaign urges the government to recognise dance music clubs and events as an important part of the nation’s art and culture in parity with the wider live music sector, to ensure equal access to support.
The campaign also encourages fans, artists and industry professionals to post a photo from a recent club night or dance festival, along with the #LetUsDance hashtag, with a note supporting its place within arts and culture. Supporters can also send a letter to their local MP to emphasise the importance of the sector.
The call for support comes following the live music industry’s #LetTheMusicPlay campaign, which preceded the announcement of a £1.57 billion support package for Britain’s arts and culture sector.
However, the government narrative to-date on the allocation of this support has been unclear, and appears not to include nightclubs, dance music events and festivals.
The Night Time Industries Association states it is “keen to gain assurances from government that dance music venues and nightclubs will be eligible to apply for the funding”, fearing it may “be reserved purely for venues like the Royal Albert Hall and the West End”.
“We call on the government to recognise this sector as a significant part of the nation’s art and culture, and ensure fair and equal access to the support offered to the wider live music sector”
The campaign is supported by artists including Fatboy Slim, Massive Attack, Thom Yorke, Simone Butler of Primal Scream, Caribou, Four Tet, Norman Jay OBE, Daniel Avery, Charlotte de Witte, Pete Tong and Andy C.
“Nightclubs and festivals are the beating heart of the UK dance scene; providing collective joy to millions of fans each year, providing employment and incomes for an interdependent network of hundreds of thousands of people, while contributing hundreds of millions to the economy,” says Greg Marshall, general manager of the Association for Electronic Music (Afem).
“We call on the government to recognise this sector as a significant part of the nation’s art and culture, and ensure fair and equal access to the support offered to the wider live music sector.”
Sacha Lord, founder of the Warehouse Project club nights and nightlife advisor for Greater Manchester says he is “astounded and confused” that the government’s arts rescue package does not include the UK dance music industry.
“There has always been an elitist snobbery towards electronic and dance music, however, I would argue that this sector reaches more people in terms of culture, as some of our theatres do,” says Lord.
“I call out the government, not only to recognise this part of the industry, but also put in place guidance and support to protect our venues, festivals, artists, freelancers, and supply chain. That is why today, I’m fully backing the #LetUsDance Campaign.”
There are over 1,600 nightclubs across the UK, which play a significant role in supporting the wider night-time economy that generates £66bn in revenue per year (6% of the UK’s total).
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Avicii’s family launches mental health foundation
The family of Swedish DJ and producer Avicii, real name Tim Bergling, has set up the Tim Bergling Foundation in his honour, raising money and awareness for mental health-related issues and suicide prevention.
The new foundation will focus predominantly on mental health and suicide prevention. It also hopes to address issues such as climate change, development assistance and conservation.
“Tim wanted to make a difference,” states Bergling’s family. “Starting a foundation in his name is our way to honour his memory and continue to act in his spirit.”
Avicii died of an apparent suicide in 2018, at the age of 28. The DJ had retired from touring two years previously, stating he had “too little time left for the life of the real person behind the artist” to continue.
Following his death, Avicii’s family described the dance music superstar as “an over-achieving perfectionist who travelled and worked hard at a pace that led to extreme stress.”
“Tim wanted to make a difference. Starting a foundation in his name is our way to honour his memory and continue to act in his spirit”
Family members referenced the DJ’s ongoing “struggles with thoughts about meaning, life, happiness”, saying “he could go on no longer.”
Discussing mental health at Futures Forum in March, Tristan Hunt from the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM), referenced the deaths of Bergling and of Prodigy frontman Keith Flint, who took his own life on 4 March. Hunt said the deaths were an indication of an industry- and society-wide problem.
“Across the industry, the majority of the deaths have been male – they have been high profile but also very representative,” said Hunt. “This is a serious and complex issue that we need to figure out going forward.”
Bergling was a dominant figure in the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, bringing dance music to arenas, breaking attendance records around the world and becoming the sixth-highest paid DJ in the world in 2015.
In 2012, Avicii donated the proceeds of a 27-date tour to the charity Feeding America. He also supported the Swedish aid organisation Radiojälpen and campaigns against human trafficking and gang violence.
Futures Forum: Health and wellbeing in live
Jana Watkins, head of human resources at Live Nation, spoke of her passion for promoting wellbeing within the business, admitting that “the environment in our industry isn’t particularly conducive to leading a healthy lifestyle.”
Director of Killing Moon, Achal Dhillon, echoed this sentiment saying that the industry encourages “certain types of behaviour” that are detrimental to mental and physical wellbeing. The fact that this behaviour is aspired to, or deemed necessary for success, “exacerbates conditions if people have a predisposition to mental illness, or even creates them,” said Dhillon.
Fiona McGugan of Music Managers Forum spoke of the importance of disclosure, and engaging with men directly on this specifically.
Tristan Hunt from the Association for Electronic Music referenced the recent passing of Prodigy’s Keith Flint and Tim Bergling (Avicii), highlighting the continuing prevalence of mental health problems in live music, despite growing awareness of issues.
Jenni Cochrane, director of culture and partnerships at AEI Group spoke of the “excess and problems” which success entails for young artists.
Watkins then asked panellists for their top tips for maintaining health and wellbeing. “Switching off – literally,” said Dhillon, speaking of the ever-present working environment within music.
“The environment in our industry isn’t particularly conducive to leading a healthy lifestyle”
McGugan referenced the isolating nature of mental health issues and spoke of the importance of being able to admit issues openly and talk about them with others. Hunt agreed with this, “the more we have this conversation, the more it destigmatises the issue,” he said.
Hunt and Cochrane then discussed the danger of phones, email and social media, stressing the need to take time out to cleanse the mind. Both recommended using night mode to limit exposure to blue light and of vastly reducing screen time, especially before bed and in the morning.
“Sleep is the foundation of everything to do with your mental and physical health,” said Cochrane. “Give yourself some quiet headspace, you deserve it.”
Substance abuse, and the industry’s enablement of it, was the next topic of discussion. Dhillon spoke of the tendency towards glamourising artists’ addictions and the ease of access to narcotics.
McGugan agreed that the industry needed to focus on its duty of care towards artists, whereas Hunt said the prevalence of drug use and abuse was symptomatic of a wider set of problems. “We do have an exploitative industry,” admitted Hunt, speaking of the focus on financial gain over wellbeing.
“We need to call people out and it has to be a collaborative effort,” he said.