In the first two parts of my blog series titled ‘What Made the Early 2000’s so Great for Dance Music’ I discussed how the role of DJ’s and vinyl made that era so great for dance music as well as how the focus of crowds on the music – coupled with an ability to concentrate for longer periods of time – helped make the early 2000’s such a great time for club culture. The third part of the blog series was quite long so I have broke it up into two halves. The first part dealt with how DJing was still a respected art form and this, the second part, deals with how a lack of social media helped make the early 2000’s such a great time for dance music.
Yes indeed, one of great things about dance music in the early 2000’s was that social media didn’t exist. Even though social media sites like Myspace was founded in 2003 and Facebook in 2004 they were still few years off from catching on in most places around the world. I probably sound crazy for even suggesting that dance music was better without social media (and trust me it plays a vital role in both my professional and personal lives), but there are a lot of reasons why the experience of dance music was better off without the likes of (no pun intend) Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram.
The most obvious reason why a lack of social media was a good thing for dance music in the early 2000’s was that there was less immediate distraction. This is due of course to the fact that smart phones – which enable us to take social media with us everywhere we go – didn’t exist. Back in the early 2000’s mobile phones at best took crappy photos, while internet surfing was still a bit of a novelty. Thus there were no selfies to take, no ‘Insta stories’ to make, no ‘Facebook Live’ sessions to stream, and no Twitter updates to Tweet. In fact there was pretty much nothing to do on your phone in the early 2000’s other than make a call or send the occasional text, and nothing to do in a club other than, well, dance!
Unlike the early 2000’s it’s pretty common these days to look up and see people engaged in their phones while on the dancefloor. Call me old fashioned but seriously, why are you in this club right now? This addiction, coupled with the shrinking attention span of people in general, means its harder than ever these days to keep crowds focused on the music and that unified vibe which was once so integral to clubs and dance music.
Beyond simple distraction however social media has also changed the way we interact with our environments and people at large. These days it seems that if it didn’t happen on social media, it really didn’t happen at all. In many ways we’ve become a society as focused on ‘documenting’ our experiences as we are about actually having them, and as concerned with presenting our lives to others as we are in actually living them ourselves. The problem is that constantly worrying about how other people perceive us whilst going out and having ‘fun’ not only makes us more self conscious and image focused, it actually contradicts what dance music taught us to believe in the fist place: that clubbing was about letting go and ‘letting the music take control’. If you are constantly ‘documenting’ your experiences, how are you ever supposed to get lost in them? Isn’t that what dance music is all about? Getting lost in the music? Needless to say the celebrity focused nature of dance music in 2017 has only reinforced this idea, with many kids now spending as much time on filming the famous DJ on stage as they do on dancing themselves.
Perhaps crowds in the early 2000’s were lucky that they couldn’t ‘document’ their experiences the way people can these days. It certainly allowed them to be free and escape into the music far more easily, both via less distraction and via less concern about how others might see them. Sure there was the odd photographer here and there, but crowds in the early 2000’s didn’t always have to look their ‘best’ anyway. Yep gurning was still acceptable and sweating was the sign of a good night, not a bad image. I sometimes wonder if kids these days lost interest in taking ecstasy the moment they realised pulling faces didn’t make for good selfies.
Another reason why the lack of social media helped make dance music great in the early 2000’s was that it was a lot easier to tell what was ‘real’ and authentic when it came to talent and popularity. Oh yes I know the terms ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ are always debatable, but the fact is these days ‘popularity’ is open to manipulation. All, unfortunately, is not as it seems. Facebook likes can be acquired via ‘click farms’, Instagram followers can be boosted inauthentically via mobile apps, and Soundcloud plays and favourites can be bought for a few bucks in Russia.
The problem of using social media numbers as a way of creating value for artists is two fold. On the one hand, it can be a misleading representation of an artists true ability and popularity. On the other (and perhaps worse still) is that boosting social media numbers has actually become an accepted norm both in terms of what an artist ‘has to do’ these days in order to ‘get gigs’, as well as ‘what promoters look at in order to book artists’ in the first place.
I for one found it extremely hard to make the transition from a value system based primarily on talent to one that used social media ‘numbers’ as a way to determine an artists worth. I’ll never forget the time I was told by a former agent of mine that I had to get my Facebook likes ‘up’ to ensure I kept getting gigs. Really? Has it come to this I thought? Having spent my whole career trying to be ‘good’ at what I did the notion that I was now being judged by my social media tally – not my actual ability – was a little confronting to say the least.
One of the main problems with this though, as mentioned above, is that it works. Yep, people actually get gigs because they can create the right hype, not necessarily because they are good at what they do. Social media strategies can help break artists both talented and talentless.
Having said all this I’m not saying all popular artists are fakes, nor am I saying that true talent doesn’t shine through. What I will say is this: today’s system is open to a certain type of manipulation that simply didn’t exist in the early 2000’s. And for me this type of ‘faking it’ has taken some of the heart out of dance music, and in many ways lead to a general sense of disillusionment about what is ‘real’ anymore. And if so much of it is no longer real anymore, how are kids supposed to believe in dance music the way I did in the early 2000’s?
Yes, in the early 2000’s I ‘believed’ in dance music. To me it represented what was ‘real’. To me dance music was a retreat into what was authentic. It wasn’t about image, it wasn’t about statistics, it was about the music, true talent, and having a good time. People went to clubs because they wanted to be part of a vibe, and DJ’s were popular because they were actually good at what they did and not what they looked like (lucky because most of them needed to get out into the sun a little bit more). These simple facts were impossible to buy, and impossible to manufacture, and that’s why I chose dance music – and not pop music – as my art.