and the rest of the UK music press
est. reading time: 1hr 50mins

Dear Reader

My name is Roshan Chauhan also known as R.O.S.H. I make music that is largely classified under the term techno with clearly indebted influences to many of the UK genres that have come before me. I had been making music seriously for 6/7 years when I got picked up by the Noviton Booking Agency in 2018, which coincided with meeting Laurent Garnier - who has been supporting my output relentlessly for the last year and a half. In that same period, I have had my music released on REKIDS, Monkeytown Records, COD3 QR and Twin Turbo amongst others.

It is of course an immense privilege to be in my current situation and I am aware that I have benefitted from some of the structures I will outline in the following letter. If you care to know more, I have described my journey in detail, here [1], here [2] and here [3].

Through both my immense respect for UK, Black & working class dance music scenes that have influenced my own work and my proximity to whiteness, that makes up the structural fabric of the industry; I’ve observed the following.

On one side I can see an active and diverse scene filled with a loyal and passionate grass roots audience; filled with talented, hardworking DJs, promoters, and label heads who grind away while their progress is sadly limited by external forces largely invisible to them.

On the other side I see a machine of journalists, industry heads and artists, where international touring schedules, organised press coverage and regular visits to British Airways lounges are the norm.

Despite their often quite close physical proximity in London, they are worlds apart, and due to the nature of privilege, often blind to each other’s existence and experiences.

By pairing the two viewpoints through a historical lens, this piece hopes to outline how actual racism in the press can clearly be identified. How an abundance of inaction, tonally inappropriate coverage and claims of ignorance have led us to the current state our music media - and the scenes it hopes to serve, lay. Beyond the examples I have highlighted below, I firmly believe that there are ways to fix this, which have not yet been explored. Ideas that go beyond basic quotas and diversity hires and into dealing with the heart of structural racism itself.

Historical Ignorance

Who Writes History?

In March of this year Matt Anniss for DJ Mag posited the question “How much of UK dance music history is real?” [4] A longform read that explored how the prevailing narratives around dance music history are too often shaped by a small subset of individuals.

Bill Brewster, co-author of the seminal book, ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ mused on the dissonance of coverage during the house explosion in the late 80s.

“If you look at the people who were into house music early on in the North of England, well over half of those were Black, and overwhelmingly Black in places like Manchester and Sheffield,” Brewster says. “The nuanced version of house music history in the UK, where there’s loads of Black kids into it before Ecstasy arrived, is not as compelling to documentary makers and some writers, even though it’s more accurate.”Bill Brewster

Ed Gillet, researcher for the 2019 music documentary “Everybody In The Place”, outlined how the film deliberately tried to avoid reinforcing the already well-trodden mythologised events of the past and instead explore less well covered stories.

“There are very few accepted narratives about mainstream British music that are located in working class or Black communities. Generally the myths that get headlines tend to be white and middle class, and are more palatable to white, middle class opinion.”Ed Gillet

This historical observation of mainstream media trends has parallels with the current state of UK music media. In more recent history, underground media outlets continue to make the same mistakes that their mainstream counterparts did in late eighties to mid-nineties.

Grime is highlighted as the current exception.

“The narratives around grime are really interesting,” he says. “Dizzee Rascal, Wiley, the Three Flats, and pirate radio are all ideas that have become a huge part of popular culture in the UK over the last 10 or 20 years, but are genuinely rooted in Black working class experience.”Ed Gillet

Grime was still required to capture the imagination of the white middle class to get its time under the spotlight. Mercury awards [5], BBC radio invitations [6] and strong grass roots support accelerated it into the mainstream relatively early on. But it doesn’t fall under the umbrella of house & techno.

The press has an image of what a Black music creator should be. There’s an agreed lane of creative output that falls under the now contested “urban” label. Yet, under the label of dance music, coverage of Black scenes has been persistently poor.

This nostalgia largely ignores the genuinely revolutionary events happening within British dance music: the birth of genres with Black and working class roots, like bleep techno, happy hardcore, and jungle; or those popularised in LGBT clubs, like hard house. Bassline, a sound forged by Black working class DJs and producers in the North and Midlands, received virtually no press coverage.Matt Anniss

Jungle chronographer, Martin James attests to the link between press coverage and the kind of people that make up the press itself.

"It wasn’t explicitly racist, but it was institutionally racist: we saw a media populated by educated white middle class kids promoting music being made by people like them, and played out in clubs where they felt safe."Martin James

The article does a brilliant job of highlighting these kind of injustices and I found myself nodding along, excited at the prospect of what sort of impactful, self-reflecting conclusion DJ Mag might issue. Given they started in 1991, they are without doubt in the firing line of the quotes within their own pages here.

Sadly, the conclusion takes a swerve in its final passages. It sprung up the work Brian Belle-Fortune, a Black intensive care nurse with an unrivalled drive to get the story of jungle told.

Belle-Fortune devoted years of his spare time to interviewing junglists not because he was a journalist looking to add a book to his CV, but because he was a passionate raver who believed it was important to do so. “I did get the impression as I was interviewing people that there was a sense of relief that they could finally tell their stories,” he says. “There was a feeling that there were too many misconceptions about our culture that needed putting right.” Matt Anniss / Brian Belle-Fortune

It then paired this outrageous feat of determination with the work of professional journalist Emma Warren, whose recent book covering the re-emerging London Jazz scene [7], also came with a coda about how you too can ’write a book about a thing’.

If the story’s wrong or has yet to be documented, do it yourself. For the benefit of future generations and those that came before us, we need more dance music documentarians. After all, history doesn’t write itself.Matt Anniss

There it is. Writing for DJ Mag, Matt Anniss concludes that if your beloved Black and working class scene isn’t receiving the sort of coverage you feel it deserves, because say… DJ Mag themselves, RA or Mixmag is full of white middle class people that somehow missed it, then simply open a blank Word doc and write a tome on it.

The conclusion fundamentally misses the value that middle class white DJs receive when the stories of their exploits are being told in real time, not historically. Longer careers, higher fees, greater exposure to a wider audience. None of these missed opportunities can be gained by being mentioned in a fan-made corrective history book. Those opportunities are lost forever.

Instead of being the mea culpa it should have been, it’s a tone deaf conclusion that gets today’s music press off the hook for all manner of journalistic malpractices and perpetual blindness to their own privilege biases.

London & The Press 2009 - 2016

At the end of 2009 the UK underground witnessed a shift in tastes as pivotal as previous moves from UK garage to grime & dubstep; or hardcore to jungle. New sounds and nights started to emerge off the back of the decade’s most influential and dynamic genres. Some dubstep DJs, inspired by the work of their UK Funky peers in years previous, started to slow down the tempo of their sets and the music they were making. Til Two, a Thursday evening club night with a predominately Black audience, mixed soulful, deep house with occasional flourishes of UK Funky [8]. House Music Entertainment started nights [9] at a club in Farringdon called Raduno focusing on Deep & Tech House with regular DJs Lee ‘B3’ Edwards, Lance Morgan, Antics & Theo ‘Stretch’ Lewis laying down the blueprint of what would be christened deep-tech. Can’t Stop Won’t Stop [10], Frequency [11], Circle [12], Avaword™ [13], House of Silk [14] and more all started to pop up around then, too. While Mark Radford’s label Audio Rehab [15] set the stage for the new house sound of London to start reaching out beyond the capital [16].

The music press was going through an equally large shift in its readership. Previously limited to those buying magazines or dedicated subscribers, electronic music media became available to all as magazines invested in creating a stronger online presence and the number of online readers far outstripped their print circulation. In 2011 mixmag was circulating just 20,000 copies [17] while UK household internet access had gone up [18] from 25% to 77% in the 10 years since mixmag and DJmag established their sites in 2000/2001 [19]. In 2009 Ryan Keeling joined Resident Advisor [20] as staff writer after working at Beatportal as deputy editor. Before that he worked at a communication agency dealing with artists like Paul Woolford and Danny Howells (relevant later). By 2010 he was associate editor and in 2013 he was editor in chief at RA, replacing Todd Burns [21].

At the same time a split was emerging - a fissure enabled by the growth of online music journalism and the perspectives they represented. This split, foreshadowed by the differences in dubstep and grime audiences, grew wider still with subsequent evolutions in sound. Soon a distinct divide could be traced where, if you subscribe to Simon Reynolds theory of the UK Hardcore continuum [22] or not, it parted ways and became more clearly divided by ethnicity and privilege than ever before.

Largely Irrelevant: Andrew Ryce

A prime example of Resident Advisor’s role in this deepening division is in its analysis and coverage of UK music during that rapidly changing period. In 2012 Resident Advisor published a feature called “Bass / House” [23]. In it, writer Andrew Ryce notes the trend of UK dubstep DJs starting to include slower tempo tracks in their sets, usually focused on a more house orientated sound. By 2012 it appeared to reach the point where it was expected that previously heralded dubstep producers and DJs such as Pinch and the Hessle Audio crew would be playing mostly bass/house. Ryce attempts to dig deeper into what prompted this change by interviewing Pinch, Ben UFO, George FitzGerald and Midland.

It is a correctly identified phenomenon that becomes poorly diagnosed through a series of leaps in logic. Firstly, Ryce asserts that the continuum is defined by its ‘restless’ and ‘feisty spirit… …inherent to UK Underground music’. This belief that a certain energy or vibe in the sound is inherent within the continuum is contested by Ben UFO who states that:

"That kind of attitude doesn't allow for the enormous variety found within all of that music."Ben UFO

Trying to tie separate genres together, which span decades, through the link of ‘restless spirit’ is always going to be a contentious proposition with a number of 'outliers' to disprove the theory. Ben addresses this directly by making the first of many references in this piece to Chicago where he states.

"On the flipside, there's plenty of jungle releases that display all the melodic delicacy and nuance of the most beautiful Chicago records."Ben UFO

In the same paragraph that Ben UFO dismisses the assertion, Ryce then reasserts it. Using a comparison with deep house to justify his point.

"Coming at house from an angle completely removed from the closed orthodoxy of deep house heads, these "bass music" producers look for (and find) a viscerality and primitivity in house music compatible with their own 'nuum heritage."Andrew Ryce

In the full transcript of the original interview with Ben UFO [24] we get a better picture of what was going on. It appears that Ryce had a narrative already laid out in his head. The narrative being that house is very different and almost incompatible with the 'ruder' UK music that DJs were playing. Yet here they were moving between genres and geographical history. How were they reconciling these two worlds in their sets and what was the audience response?

He makes a few assumptions that Ben UFO is quick to dismiss, really doing his best to explain that within the two pools of music lies not just a shared palette, energy, rhythm and tempo with UK music but also a shared history. It's clear from Ryce’s questions that he is intent on inferring some kind of incompatibility, but Ben tries in vain to explain to him that this just isn't the case.

RYCE: When did you start incorporating outright house into your own DJ sets? Was it difficult?

Ben UFO: There was a noticeable shift in the music a couple of years later. A lot of DJs, producers and listeners became disenchanted with dubstep… …and were starting to look for something new. House music was being played on the pirates again… …DJs were incorporating tunes made by kids in UK inner cities which had all the traditional characteristics of UK pirate radio music.

Despite mentioning on three occasions the modern UK strain of house being played by pirate radio DJs across the capital, himself, and his Hessle Audio peers, Ryce brushes over these statements in the final piece and instead pulls the quote about being influenced by a Chicago house DJ out of context to support his original narrative that older US house is now only just seeping into the influence of the modern UK bass producer and DJ.

"When did you start to notice a shift towards -- I'm only using this problematic word to differentiate it from that dark UK house you mentioned -- "actual"/'traditional" house in dubstep/dubstep-related sets? Do you feel that you were one of the first to do this?"Andrew Ryce

Ryce doesn’t seem to understand that US house had been played alongside UK house for years before Ben UFO and his peers started doing it. Something that Ben is eager to point out as he delves into the early days of UK funky and gives an answer that recounts its history in a manner similar to a user in the comments of the article.

"To my mind this question misrepresents what was actually going on. I find the critical fixation with “UK Funky” as exclusively HCC-related music rather patronising… there is obviously a direct and vital connection, but if you scrutinise the selection of UK DJs when this music was emerging it becomes immediately apparent that a debt was owed to US-based producers as well."Ben UFO

At the end of the RA article Ryce almost gets it.

"So maybe the differences between the two genres aren't as concrete as they appear at first."Andrew Ryce

But then sadly goes on to completely ignore Ben's statement in the original transcript with this:

"Maybe the sea change in bass music towards house isn't so much a regression as a new realm of exploration in the hardcore continuum, and a new chapter for house music, an orthodoxy injected with fresh new blood from an unfamiliar outside source".Andrew Ryce

None of that penultimate paragraph rings true unless you decide to totally omit UK funky or even UK garage from the history of UK music.

Andrew Ryce, the author of the original article, is called out on his omission of the role of UK funky on modern UK bass music in comments and responds with this:

"Bringing UK funky into the equation seems kind of pointless here because it's largely irrelevant and certainly not present in what I'm trying to document here. Sure, it was an example of the UK 'nuum going "house" long before Ben UFO happened BUT it still wasn't really compatible with yr Kerri Chandler records or yr Trax discography, it was WAY too swung and fast to be anything but a separate genre"Andrew Ryce

User franklySick responds:

"UK Funky is completely indebted to stuff like Kerri Chandler. In fact, Bar A Thym was REPRESSED to White Label along with 3 other classics and released on really obviously non-House, Grime-centric shops such as Uptown Records specifically for the Funky lot to play…

The older LDN DJs were playing these house tracks on the radio and in the clubs, the younger generation who had been making Grime etc. heard these took them as influences and then made their own stuff. Obviously the stuff they ended up making was a cross between the two.

But like, seriously, where do you think the beat to Migraine Skank comes from?

It's only because Funky existed and it made it 'ok' for people to do house again that any of this house stuff exists. UK Funky got jacked as a term by Boomkat etc, everyone started making all that shiny future-garage sounding stuff. Kode9 started producing shit at 130. It's only after all this that people start making housey stuff… …But suddenly everyone starts playing classic house tunes that they've 'always loved'? 3+ years later? You can't ignore the influence of real UK Funky just because Lil Silva doesn't sit with Kerri Chandler..."franklySick

Andrew Ryce's argument is contested by two factors. Firstly, the original Blackdown interview [25] with Supa D and Geeneus in 2007 shows clearly that there had been a US house influence on UK funky producers.

Supa D: I would say some of it, but not all of it. Because you've got certain UK producers you couldnt tell if they're UK or US.

Geeneus: This is why I say it has got to be two musics: two musics are getting played at once now. Fever and that wont call what Apple and that make, "house."

Blackdown: Is that because they like all the US stuff?

Soulja: Yeah. They say that but they all play it because it gets such a big reaction in dances like Circle.

Here we see UK House DJs playing early UK funky tracks alongside US house tracks at club nights and getting a great reaction. UK funky producers must have been aware of US house as these were the nights their tracks were initially getting played at. Further evidence can be found just by listening to any of DJ Petchy’s sets on Live.fm from around that time [26]. US House [27] played alongside lingering UK funky and hints of deep tech from UK producers like DJ Seany B and Ossie. In fact, there were plenty of DJs like Petchy playing US house on pirate radio.

The second argument is that these Dubstep DJs and burgeoning UK bass DJs including Ben UFO had spent some of their time playing in mixed genre nights such as FWD>>+Rinse [28]. Where the most prevalent style of 4x4 being played was UK funky.

What we have here is a prominent writer not just omitting the potential influence of UK funky on emerging UK music but actively denying it, claiming that one of the most prominent genres on Rinse.fm during this time [29] [30], which had slots shoulder to shoulder with the DJs he mentioned in this article, were…

"largely irrelevant"Andrew Ryce

Later Ryce states:

"I don't think UK funky was as massively influential as everyone thinks it was; its very absence from the "dialogue" bar a few outsiders and the continued popularity of DJs like Marcus Nasty notwithstanding."Andrew Ryce

Andrew Ryce has reviewed four of UK producer Beneath's [31] records for Resident Advisor [32] [33] [34] [35] dating back to a December 2012 Keysound release. Even with a ‘UK funky’ Discogs tag [36] on every release to help him he doesn't mention the genre in any of these reviews until October 2016 with the release of NOSYMBOLS006, Beneath’s sixth self-released record.

In an early interview with Beneath by Martin Clark [37] it's very quickly established that UK Funky is one of the producer’s most prominent sources of inspiration mentioning the genre no less than ten times. Given that first review was made in the same year the Bass / House article was written, it's clear that Andrew Ryce had no intention of even entertaining the notion that UK funky had anything to do with the progression of UK dance music.

Later, in 2014, Ryce covers emerging French dance music label and crew from Paris, ClekClekBoom with a profile piece [38]. In it we see that he has no problem in attributing UK funky's influence on a French-based collective but apparently struggles to find the link to the new UK 'bass' producers of 2012.

Worst of all, Ryce couldn’t even be bothered to read a previous RA feature from 2010 [39]. An all-white-male roundtable with various UK producers pushing a slower 4x4 sound. The host Richard Carnes, posits the notion that UK funky paved the way for that move to 4x4. All participants were in agreement, with Untold saying:

It's only in the last three or four years that it's [house music] actually clicked for me, and I think that with funky, just hearing it in a new context has really helped.Untold

And Graham Best, Fabric London’s A&R Sync Manager at the time, chiming in with:

I think the great thing about UK funky is that it's de-stigmatised house for a lot of people… …UK funky's put it into a context that more people recognise as coming up off grime — a lot of the London-centric pirate stuff. House has been put into that context and all of a sudden you've got people who'd never go to a house night raving about The Martinez Brothers.Graham Best

Bristol based, Richard Carnes was mainly a news writer for RA. The roundtable was one of the few features he did for them and he was mostly active between the years 2008-2010. Ryce remains North American Editor for Resident Advisor.

The consequences of having one of RA’s most prominent writers conclude that UK Funky was largely irrelevant is that, a part of UK dance music history and specifically a part of Black UK dance music history becomes erased by one of the largest underground music publications in the world.

Even in the Carnes article the way UK Funky is introduced to the piece is endemic of a trend I noticed constantly during my research and it is something I’ll explore more extensively later.

"And that's not even touching on the resurgence of house and garage via the rise of UK funky, with DJs such as Ben UFO, Martyn and Jackmaster mixing a multitude of styles within a huge tempo range."Richard Carnes

The value of UK funky lays in how it’s been successfully co-opted by white DJs. None of the scene’s active players or originators are mentioned.

Tone, Snobbery & Classism


Racist YouTube Comment

I know - a YouTube comment. Surely, I’ve reached the lowest bar of what anyone could reasonably define as ‘evidence’. This is a long since deleted comment on a promo video [40] for Ava Word™ - a “Deep, Tech & Minimal House” Sunday day rave that was most active between 2012 to 2013 [13] operating in various venues across London, including Shoreditch club XOYO and the world-famous, Ministry of Sound in Elephant & Castle, south London. You don’t need to watch the extended video documenting the night [41] to understand what the ethnic makeup of the audience was. If the UKfunky.net videos of DJ Pioneer, Marcus Nasty and DJ Naughty’s adventures in Ayia Napa were still available – you’d witness the thread that ran between them. The onstage hosts, the crowd’s energy and response, the weight of the sub lines. After UK Funky’s rise, fall and subsequent press coverage via the stories of white producers that would go on to mythologise its history [39], Black dancers had moved on to what much of the music press would misunderstand as bland European tech-house [42]. Dominic Morris breaks down this idea in a retroactive look at the scene for The Guardian in 2014 [43].

What nobody in mainstream or music media seems to have picked up on, though, is the music that people are shuffling to. For this is not good-times UK deep house (though this sound was hugely influential on the new scene), nor has it anything to do with the daytime-radio, chart-topping house of Disclosure and Duke Dumont. Rather, the shufflers’ music is an urban, decidedly UK take on house music, a house easily more influenced by garage, grime and jungle than disco and soul. Dominic Morris

I’ll get on to Shuffling in a bit – but I want to make the point that if this YouTube commentator wanted to avoid black people, few could argue that techno dance floors would have been exactly the place to retreat to. As OK Williams put it in an interview with gal-dem [44].

the London club scene is a reflection of white supremacy, with clubs playing genres created by queer Black and Latinx communities, yet remaining gatekeeped by white DJs and crowd goers. “This was an industry created by us, but ruled ENTIRELY by white people,”… …“When I play my music, Black people say it’s white ‘oonz oonz’ music…” …Yet at the same time, when going on nights out, she notices that “there’s no Black people in the club, there isn’t a single Black DJ. So, of course, you can’t see a place for yourself there.”Timi Sotire & OK Williams

So how did we get here? - where techno is now a majority white affair, where dancefloor representation in the capital falls incredibly short of achieving even the 2011 London ethnicity breakdown census data [45]?

In Resident Advisor’s statement regarding their response to the most recent Black Lives Matter protests [46] they outlined just a single recent incident [47] as an example of where they’ve failed, but I’d like to broaden the net to look at how the larger UK music press has “fallen short.”

Co-opting The Value Of Black Music To Whiteness

Earlier I listed an accidental failure by writer Richard Carnes in his 2010 round table on the ‘State of Bass’ [39] where he introduces UK funky’s worth by listing the popular white DJs that rep it across the festivals world over. Its worth isn’t tied to any descriptive value that makes it unique, nor does it mention the names of the Black artists that contributed to its sound.

The most glaring example of white co-opting usually happens in the form of glowing reviews of specialised mixes by more in-trend DJs of genres still actively participated in by the Black and working class communities that started them. A case study that epitomises this common theme is Ben UFO’s Blowing Up The Workshop mix [48] - a live recording from his set at Bloc Weekender, a festival held at the UK holiday resort Butlins. The mix is touted as a jungle set featuring veteran scene MCs SP:MC & GQ. The news of it dropping was posted on most media outlets [49] [50] [51]. This is all mostly fine, a big DJ posts a big mix, come see. The problem arises when, in their best online mixes of 2016, RA lists Ben UFO’s Jungle mix in first place [52].

this hour-long mix is a testament to one of the most fertile periods in UK music history. The energy levels are through the roof, as Ben UFO thrashes his way through golden-age jungle by the likes of Photek and Doc Scott. With SP:MC and GQ on the mic, and the roar of the crowd in the background, it's not hard to imagine the darkness and the sweat and the thundering vibrations coursing through your feet.Resident Advisor

First let’s start at the source. Blowing Up The Workshop, up till then it had never hosted a jungle mix by an originator or active participant of the scene [53]. If BUTW were really interested in getting a jungle mix for their mix series, why did they not reach out beforehand to any number of DJs still active in jungle [54] [55] [56]? What does it say that RA thought Ben UFO’s jungle special live mix was the best mix of 2016? As far as jungle mixes go it might not have been the best mix of that month let alone year but RA’s staff are unlikely to have been listening to the artists and DJs of a scene they think has long past. The victor is a nostalgic homage of a scene with Black and working class origins, by a celebrated white DJ at a festival with a not so diverse line up [57]. Rewarding these nostalgic throwbacks to UK Black music by favoured white DJs, erases the work of those artists that were there when it happened and are still there now. It suggests that the value of the music is intrinsically tied to what successful white DJs think of it.

DJs should be able to represent and pay respectful homage to whoever they want, that is Djing at its core, a practice of sharing. As Mathys put in their recent piece in Dweller [58].

There are ethical ways to engage with the music, and it is up to DJs to go through the process of finding their own work ethics. It’s about being self-conscious about what you’re playing.Mathys Rennela

But media outlets rewarding obvious novelty reveals the limit of their exposure, their unanimously narrow shared experience on show for all to see. Black music will always be history, an incredible event that occurred as told by the white people that survived to tell it.

Shuffling: Shunned From All Sides

In 2012 the term Shuffling, swept through the music media. I’ll allow Dominic Morris from 2014 to fill us in once again [43].

Then a dance craze that had been bubbling on the underground for a hot minute swept over London, and has since spread all across the UK. Shuffling is a type of dancing involving fancy footwork on the balls of your feet with your arms “cutting shapes” in the air, locking into the percussive ticks of a house beat. Its roots certainly go as far back as the UK’s very first house wave, but arguably all the way back to jazz dancing and, ultimately, the Charleston.Dominic Morris

Within the house music landscape, it became a contentious issue. Especially as the UK’s homegrown take on deep and tech house started to explode, attracting an audience that other house nights never could. Mark Radford, who ran the night and label Audio Rehab and started a number of nights that became important to the scene spoke about this time with Martin Clark in 2014 [59].

the house purists where it was all the trendy Italians, mainly white, so we started coming up, they are looking at us, must be thinking ‘we’re running at full steam’, they are just doing their little thing. You go to one of their parties it’s alright, you come to one of ours, people are losing their minds. So they were like, must have looked at it and thought ‘what are we going to do to stop this? Because once they get level with us…’ I always knew, I thought 'once more people know about us, it is over for you lot, you can’t create the vibe that we create in our parties, end of, because you are too pretentious, you are too poncy'.Mark Radford

In London, there were at least three distinct house sounds operating at the same time that all advertised under a similar descriptive umbrella of deep, tech or minimal. Euro-centric tech-house, attended by the “trendy Italians”, the exploding popularity of deeper house sounds of Hot Creations attended by a more affluent west London/Essex type - and then the afterparty / Sunday day rave events that would become more distinct attracting a Black and working class audience.

…what they tried to do is say look, 'these people are now bringing all these bad people to the rave with them. All these ghetto kids, all these young Black kids, look what they are doing, look at how they are dancing.'… …a lot of it stemmed from racial hatred… …some of the things they used to say, there would be like a girl shuffling like that, the comment 'hope she gets r*ped by 10 Black geezers in the corner and catches AIDs and dies' I’m like 'what are you talking about?!' She is a young bird in a rave dancing, so what she dances differently to you?Mark Radford

It got to the point where promoters were trying to stop Radford from getting booked on lineups. Making out that Radford’s music brought in a ‘bad crowd’. This even went as far as him being required to fill out a 696 form, a form that has been notoriously used by the Metropolitan Police to discriminate, using it as grounds for preventing Black music nights [60].

The more videos profiling London shufflers you watch, such as the iGOTSHAPES series [61], the more you realise that the demonisation of shuffling is a lazy dog whistle. The running thread being participants are sometimes Black but always working class. These are not the posh deep house ravers from west London, or the Italian tech-house deep V entourage. This was literally a working class movement at the heart of the capital.

Anyone outside the movement was generally in confusion about what was going on. Most journalists didn’t really have a clue with Seb Wheeler in mixmag writing a jumbled article with some pretty mixed metaphors deriding the whole thing, even if he couldn’t really define what that thing was [42]. In a 2013 piece titled “Stop The Tech-House Take Over.” He opens with.

Much like Japanese Knotweed, the invasive garden plant that spreads quickly and is an absolute bastard to get rid of, tech-house has taken over underground dance music with a death-like grip and is refusing to let go.Seb Wheeler

Grime producers making tech-house; deep V party goers; “sappy” basslines; its tempo; its apparently suburban audience; its polished percussion; its chart worthiness; its shuffling dancefloor; it was all under fire because, to Seb Wheeler, it was all the same thing. There was a follow up rebuttal by Joeseph JP Patterson, now head of Complex UK and Trench Magazine, and Marcus Barnes, mixmag’s Techno editor. Marcus lists several tech-house producers that clearly sit in the “trendy Italian” camp as examples of ‘brilliant, dynamic releases’ and ends with…

The bottom line is, yes there is a lot of very bad so-called 'tech house' out there, but don't get it twisted; just because there's a scene built around a runt version of a sub-genre, it doesn't mean you can tar the whole thing with the same brush. And for the record, I don't own a deep V-neck T-shirt and have never shuffled in my life.Marcus Barnes

Joseph JP Patterson takes aim in response, calling Seb snobby before listing names that are far more relevant to the deep tech side of the movement even giving House Entertainment’s Lee ‘B3’ Edwards props for bringing “a grimey edge of tech-house you never knew existed” before signing the piece off with his take on shuffling.

Oh, and as for shuffling becoming a "recognised sport" – rightly so! The sonic energy that the sound gives off was made for the dance move. You just wait until the rest of the 'urban house' crew make that transition from deep to tech-house and straight-up techno. All hell will probably break loose, but I’m looking forward to being up in the heat.Joseph Patterson

It’s difficult to respond to such a scattershot aimless piece of critique, surely journalists, of all people, should be able to investigate and define what it is they have a problem with. Coverage is clout, it’s opportunity and for the sort of nights that DJs like Lee ‘B3’ Edwards were playing at. Having the deputy digital editor and techno editor of mixmag at the time deride it with two other unrelated movements meant that door was closed.

Perhaps if Seb Wheeler could have been bothered to read a previous feature in mixmag by JP from earlier in the year before titled ‘Shuffle Trouble’ [62] he might have come closer to figuring it out.

There are those that claim that the hatred for foot shuffling is actually camouflage for race or class issues. Certainly in London, aside from the Euro contingent, it’s ex-UK funky, grime and bashment ravers who are most associated with the dance.Joseph Patterson

FACT mag’s ambivalence to the lives of the working class youth could barely be contained when they interviewed Kez Glozier [63] about his moving documentary on London Shufflers called ‘RELEASE’ [64]. The whole piece reads like someone forced to run something by an editor that owed a publicist a favour.

Shuffling, and its associated music description at the time ‘tech house’ or ‘deep tech’ was facing snobbery and classist attitudes from all sectors of the industry with no one seemingly able to understand what it was they were really complaining about. Probably because no one bothered to look, other than Martin Clark and Joeseph JP Patterson.

Fabric vs Black Club Closures

On the 12th of August 2016, fabric London closed its doors following the deaths of two people from suspected drug overdoses over a three-month period [65]. Its license was temporarily suspended by Islington council. On the 24th of August a petition was launched [66], quickly amassing support and ending with over 140,000 signatures. It didn’t work though [67], and fabric was forced to permanently close after a council meeting on the 6th of September. There was an outpouring of frustration and disappointment by people across the industry [68]. The next day Resident Advisor published an opinion piece by Joe Muggs titled “Closing fabric solves nothing” [69]. On the 16th of September, Fabric launched the #saveourculture fundraising campaign [70] to help with legal funds in the appeal of Islington councils decision. Finally on the 21st of November [71], after 2 months of negotiation with the council and Met Police – fabric was allowed to open its doors. Two days later Resident Advisor dropped another opinion piece, titled “fabric is saved-but the future is uncertain” [72].

Directly following the first announcement that fabric’s license was up for review a host of outlets polled & collated producers and DJs on what they thought it might mean for the capital [73] [68] [74]. NME conducted a vox pop [73] at the red carpet of the GRM Daily’s annual Rated Awards. where Westwood contextualised the closure further.

"I think what is significant is that Fabric is now representing what is happening in London. And that is the police and councils, their licensing officers, shutting down all the clubs, and they are shutting down the clubs. They are shutting down Black nights, the Black owned clubs, now their shutting down the mainstream clubs as well."Wesetwood

DJ & TV Producer Dominic Benjamin also highlighted the issue of Black club closures in a documentary taking stock of London’s club culture in the midst of fabrics tumultuous period [75].

Anything that seems to have a black tint of the people, [they] are gonna come check it out... they close it down or don't even give you permission. So what's been happening with fabric has been happening within the Black community for years.Dominic Benjamin
Name Place Close Date Reason Nights RA News
Departure Lounge Algate 2008 License Big Breakfast Day Rave, Mark Radford Residency No
Fridge Bar Brixton 2015 License Yellow, Broadcite, Bassdeep, Persona No
Area Nightclub Vauxhall 2014 Redevelopment I AM, Audiowhore, Siesta No
Herbal Shoreditch 2009 License Can't Stop Won't Stop, Church Yes[76]/No[77]
Club 65 Vauxhall 2016 License Home LDN, Factory, Se7en, Rhythm & Funk, On The House, Emotion, Philosophy, Tektronik, Therapy, Demente, Cerebro No
Euphoriom Nightclub Acton 2014 Unknown Footwerk, Elusive, Tainted Soul, Digital Bitch, House Ent UK, House Movers No
Warehouse LDN Edmonton 2015 Unknown Frequency, Dusk, Audio Circuit, House Passion, Stereotype, Deep Sound Experience Yes
The Qube Project Victoria 2017 Redevelopment Pioneer Plays, House & Garage UK No
If Club Illford 2013 Crossrail Frequency, Housewave project, Our House, Sunday Roast Day Party, Swe3t Kandi No
Ruby Lo Marylebone 2011 Buy out Til Two No
Cc2 Vauxhall 2014 Redevelopment Shameless, Se7en, Groove Elements, Funkaholic, Tidy House No
Hidden Vauxhall 2014 Redevelopment Full Tilt, House Passion, House of Silk, Breeze, 100% House, House Takeover, Land of The Legends, Whore 4 House, Summer Slam, Rhythm n Funk, Sunday Service, Education House, Music Obsession, Spectrum, Philosophy, IQ: Inspirational Quality No
Thomas A Becket Southwark 2015? 2018? Unknown Rok, House Fest, House Motivation, Mature, Yellow, Code Red, Canvas LDN, Move to the Beat, Cerebro, Blueprint, Indulgence, G.A.S., House & Garage UK, Lovehouse, Pure Velvet, Therapy, Fresh Fruit, Deeper-Harder, House of Silk No

The table shows a list of venues in London that hosted dance music nights related to UK funky, deep tech and afro house, nights that had a predominately Black & working class audience. The stories of these closures range significantly. From shootings inside the club [78]; shootings outside the club [79]; undercover drug operation that echoes the police sting involved in fabric’s closure [77]; council and police blaming all crime in 500m area on one venue [80]; being outbid on a 15-year lease [81]; buyouts by a larger chain to cater to a more exclusive, upmarket audience [82] or massive redevelopment projects [83].

Many of these clubs also hosted nights with less ‘on trend’ genres, UK garage, drum & bass, jungle & dubstep nights. Few of these club closures received a news listing. That’s reasonable. RA is a platform meant to cover a worldwide movement, the constant ebb and flow of a city’s venues can’t all be tracked. But when they are disproportionally ignored compared to venues that hosted nights for a whiter more middle class audience [84] [85] [86], it sends a message to Black dance music scenes and its audience that, to Resident Advisor, they may as well not exist outside of its event page listings.

A connection can be made between many of these venue closures: Austerity. It causes an increase in crime [87]. It puts pressure on local councils to cut budgets leading to a greater chance of redevelopment plans landing in the hands of private capital investment [88] [89]. Council budget cuts also lead to pressure to reduce the overall cost of policing (in the UK) [90], manifesting in urgency by councils to shut down venues it deems to be ‘hotspots’. Most of all austerity affects poor, working class and minority communities the most. Promise of redevelopment most often means gentrification [91]. This is observed in the experiences of the owner of Fridge Bar in Brixton when it had its license permanently revoked. When he took to social media to announce the closure he pulled no punches.

I have also seen the influx of new venues catering to that new demographic whom I am certain will get all the help they need ... unlike other venues who catered for the original demographic in this area who received only condemnation. Being a Black business owner in the night time economy you realise very quickly that you are on your own. You also realise that your business can be destroyed at anytime by circumstances completely outside of your control. You realise also that this system is antithetical to black advancement. You will never be called a 'n*****' or a 'Black bas***d' by those in authority. It is far more subtle than that.Fridge Bar Owner

I’m not trying to pit fabric vs Black club venues here. Fabric is a recognised worldwide institution. As such, when it was forced to close, it rightly deserved the level of coverage it did. Even after the initial petition and a rally from heads within all sectors of dance music, it still failed at the first council hearing. They were only allowed to have their license back after agreeing to 32 alterations to the license agreement that all made the experience of getting into fabric more invasive than ever before. It is difficult to identify whether the social capital it had garnered gave it significant leverage in the decision the council eventually made, but no doubt the funds and legal expertise that most venues don’t have access to helped.

In October 2016, while fabric was in the midst of closed door negotiations with Islington council and the Met police - Angus Finlayson, then an RA staff writer [92], wrote a piece contextualising the potential loss of fabric titled; Death by a thousand cuts: Austerity and London nightlife [93].

It’s a richly detailed piece that looks at the hate-hate relationship between a stretched police force and London’s clubs. Outlining how budgetary pressure led to a switch to stats-driven policing, how a new Met Police commissioner had previously tackled crime through the shutting down of social venues in Merseyside and how clubs were forced to partake in a form of outsourced policing for a perimeter area around the venue. It also delved into what the role of the central licensing authority might have played in the potentially orchestrated closure of fabric.

Maybe the title is a misnomer however as the opening paragraph states:

We're discussing an idea that upends the popular theories behind the recent closure of Dance Tunnel, fabric and other London venues. Rather than a scene decimated by greedy property developers or the inexorable march of gentrification, key nightlife figures in the city are just as likely to blame the current crisis on a less obvious, but no less malignant force [Austerity].Angus Finlayson

Austerity, gentrification and policing go hand in hand. Farringdon, the area of London the club resides, moved well beyond the initial stages of gentrification decades ago. By speaking only to;

“Dan Beaumont, owner of Dalston Superstore and formerly of Dance Tunnel.” “Andy Peyton, director of The Columbo Group, which counts XOYO and Phonox among its venues.” “Alan Miller, Vibe Bar's former owner and head of the Night Time Industries Association.” “fabric director Cameron Leslie”Angus Finlayson

It becomes more obvious why statements like this can exist:

In fact, the public perception that London's clubland woes are mostly down to gentrification seems to be out of date… …Gentrification is, of course, a profound threat to the arts… …But if you talk to London's club owners, they're also likely to bring up a different problem. One which, in the 2010s, has arguably become a more urgent threat to the city's club culture… …Andy Peyton, describes it as "death by a thousand cuts," a reference to the effects of the UK government's austerity measures, its response in 2010 to the global financial crisis.Angus Finlayson

The decoupling of gentrification from austerity; the notion of gentrification as an out of date take on clublands woes, well… It’s an idea that flies in the faces of those trying to run venues across the capital in places outside the ultra-rich, late-stage gentrification process. It seems in 2016 that these experiences were out of the purview of Resident Advisor. Despite the mention of austerity, the article fails to mention the recent plight of clubs across the capital that service Black and working class dance music audiences, communities that bore the brunt of council cuts the hardest. Not one of the clubs or nights listed in the table are mentioned in Finlayson’s article.

During the fabric debacle, Resident Advisor had multiple opportunities [72] [69] to take stock at the larger picture surrounding the challenges facing clubbing in the capital. But it failed to identify the people hit the hardest. As the owner of Fridge Bar put it.

Being a Black business owner in the night time economy you realise very quickly that you are on your own.Fridge Bar Owner

Techno: Press, Audiences & Black Music

At the start of this section I opened with a screenshot of a YouTube comment showing a white supremacist who had decided to find a home amongst the now majority white techno nights.

So far I’ve been focused on how the press has ignored the Black communities innovations and movements within house music, so on the surface it might not seem like I’ve answered the question about Techno’s whitewashed audience issue.

As OK Williams pointed out in the earlier quote [44], the finger can be pointed at representation both front of house and behind the curtain. Something I’ll go more into later.

To an outsider, peering through the looking glass of "techno Twitter" it appears to be a scene with a never-ending litany of examples of racism, gaslighting and covertly white supremacist values. The music press plays its role in uplifting artists without ever asking the hard questions and then writing news articles about an artist’s downfall when something becomes known that they failed to question. Even as I write this piece, other examples [94] involving members of RA staff reveal themselves.

Speaking more holistically it’s important to note that Black music doesn’t settle. In both its mainstream and underground strains, it evolves and innovates. The US and UK’s rap industries move rapidly with the times, and technology. From the popularity of Autotune T-Pain [95] via Teddy Riley [96], to the move away from hardware and studio consoles to laptops, revolutionising how records sound [97]. I’ve already outlined the rapid movement of underground dance music via the conduit of Black innovations. Hardcore, jungle, drum & bass, UK garage, road rap, grime, dubstep, footwork, UK funky, dubbage, bassline, deep tech, jacking, gqom, drill, afro house, afro beats, ama piano. All these genres and more have flown through the ear drums of UK dancers in under three decades.

Black music is a moving target. To anchor it so heavily in a particular sound and a particular time could become another incidence of ignorance. Resident Advisor is scrambling to commit more resources in telling the tales of house & techno gone by, an important story for sure. But it must not continue its trend of ignoring the innovative movements happening in Black communities now, regardless of however indirectly they believe it might fit into that lineage. Innovations that aren’t happening in the big clubs and festivals, but in communities they clearly don’t have access to. Because the message that they have sent by ignoring it for so long is that anything they cover is not for Black people. Their coverage is a brush that is tainted with ignorance. Years of writing for a white audience, about white artists with white voices will not be undone quickly and techno, as Resident Advisor and most of its readers define it, might never have a Black or at least a more geographically representative mixed audience again.

Coverage or Lack Thereof

The most difficult thing to quantify is the lack of coverage. Citing and critiquing articles requires those articles to exist in the first place. I can’t say much other than the biggest piece of evidence I found on the discrimination of UK Black music scenes was the absence of any writing at all. Searches for ‘deep tech’, ‘dubbage’, ‘tech-house’ or even ‘urban-house’, reveal next to nothing and believe me, I’ve done a lot of digging.

There is a vast gap in the memory of UK music that cannot be filled by any retroactive work. What a tragedy this is. Think about it for a second, all of that history and no one took the time to investigate and document it. One of the most exciting, transformative events in the UKs underground sound that saw immense popularity on a national level went by without notice from the press. Its existence sits hidden in the archive of Resident Advisors event listings, the 100,000s of Soundcloud plays and millions of YouTube views. It exists in the memories of those that built and participated in it, in time-restricted Snapchats, uploaded mixes and promo videos for nights. It existed everywhere other than the places whose job it was to report on the goings on of dance music.

Dominic Morris wasn’t the only journalist to understand that there was a historical dearth in coverage of Black UK dance music scenes. I unearthed a piece by Robin Howells for the quietus in 2011 [98] called ‘Militant Euphoria 001’ interviewing UK house legend Petchy. It’s one of the few examples of an individual interview with a Black person in the scene on a larger outlet. I’ll let the opening of the article speak for itself.

This column is intended to be the first in a series. It has a simple motivation, probably the same as a lot of others: to discuss music that isn't much written about otherwise. This comes from a feeling that certain kinds of music, particularly dance music, are getting a bad deal. Critical attention to UK funky for instance (as well as related ways people are adapting house) is limited to less than a handful of regular sources.

Looking at some recent journalism, one peculiarity of this might be that idiosyncratic and atomised individuals are favoured. You could conclude it helps if they can be held up as exceptional in some of the following terms: they're free from "genre restrictions"; they avoid "formula"; they defy "geographical boundaries", either because they "join dots" between improbable genres, or because they work in a genre from an improbable location. This is fine, although the above qualities are starting to look fairly commonplace. Anyway, there's no reason why music that isn't like that can't be interesting too. That's the idea here.Robin Howells

Here was an attempt by Robin Howells to address the lack of coverage of certain (mainly Black) scenes. He points to a specific reason why movements like these are missed out on. The press is all too often focused on individuals that they deem special enough to deserve coverage and - as highlighted by Howells, this factor is overplayed ad nauseum.

The subjective x factor of being different and ‘unique’ can be applied to any artist if the scope of the sample is adjusted. Within specific subsets of techno, artists can be said to be “carving their own niche”. But in the wider scope it could always be dismissed as just more techno. It becomes a meaningless distinction; a mark of pretension that, when viewed in the context of this DJ Petchy interview, has been used to justify the omission of coverage for entire scenes and movements.

I ended up tracking down Robin Howells at the start of 2017 and asked more about the reasoning behind the opening of that column.

"I must have been thinking - this thing is absolutely wicked, but when narrated according to the terms of the dominant discourse it will be reduced to next to nothing. How can I generate a narrative that contains what's special about this, that I can insert into the discourse without it being rejected? sort of like a hack? Lol

I often thought, how can I write about x in a way that will be accepted by editors, because I'm not seeing a way to write about x anywhere in the published discourse. It often felt like the established terms didn't work for my subject matter… …I think it's reflective. It's not just, who will publish on this subject? It's, what is my strategy for battling against a dominant way of talking about music that excludes this subject? Or not battling, but sneaking in new codes and information Maybe."Robin Howells

They never commissioned another. This was the last 'Militant Euphoria' and the last piece Robin Howells would write for The Quietus.

There will be writers, editors and freelancers reading this eager to point out that I’ve missed out on this or that piece that shows, “See, we did cover it”. And despite the sheer number of references, they are right. But, there are few stones I did not lift for this piece and for every Pitchfork, Quietus or private blogpost article on UK Black music that feels like a win, it should be contextualised next to the sheer length, depth and ubiquity their white counterparts received in the same time period. When UK Black movements were covered it was often as a medley of names, places and nights. Few got the prim and proper reception of artist deep dives, interviews for every notable event or a slew of their releases catalogued in the review sections of their websites [99].

For every Ben UFO there is a legion of affiliated acts and friends benefiting from the share of social capital. For every Roska, there is a story of survival. A single entity who somehow rose from the pack [100]. We see these same patterns play out more recently with the selectivity of success for artists representing the South African gqom scene, where an invisible quota is seemingly applied by those with the power to grant opportunities.

This boxing out of Black and working class people for so long only contributes to the growing inequalities in our society at large. Our scene is one that prides itself on its progressive nature, it fights against injustice and social exclusion on the surface but by operating the way it has for so long it has only mirrored the most broken aspects of British society.

In April this year the UK race equality think tank Runneymead Trust released a report titled, “The Colour of Money: How racial inequalities obstruct a fair and resilient economy” [101]. It’s a thorough and saddening report on the amount of work still to do.

Relative Wealth by Ethnic Group







Black Caribben


Black African




By constantly remaining ignorant of the activity on the doorsteps of their offices by the Black dance music communities in London and the rest of the UK; media outlets deny them of the same coverage their white peers receive and all the opportunities that come with it. Features such as the RA Mix, Breaking Through, Label of the Month and The Art Of DJing all provide unprecedented exposure to those they highlight. Exposure to connect with a wider international audience; booking opportunities in far off places; social mobility, more press opps, managerial representation, releases with prominent labels and career longevity, not to mention the economic benefits, higher fees etc.

Here is one final figure I’ll leave you with. A comparison between the number of times Hessle Audio and its three members are in the ‘featured’ or ‘news’ sections equivalents in Resident Advisor, mixmag, DJ Mag and FACT Mag and 100+ names of predominantly Black artists and DJs that were active participants in UK funky, deep tech or dubbage between the years 2007 to 2016. The key number here is the 'Scale of Ignorance'. It shows how many more times press outlets continued to cover the same 3 white artists over an entire active Black UK scene. (Below results are preliminary)

Comparison of Total Coverage

RA, mixmag, DJMag & FACT

Scale of Ignorance
Hessle Audio
100+ Names
New numbers, new method, new results.
MEASURED: The Scale of Ignorance

Resident Advisor don’t owe anyone any coverage. They have a right to curate their platform however they see fit. If they want to spend years neglecting to tell the stories of women in dance music, they can. If their very narrow definitions of what house and techno is happens to disproportionally effect Black people still very much active and participating in dance music, they can. But RA have a fundamental duty to properly represent the scenes that they spend so much time observing the roots of over and over again. 1,000 retrospective explorations on Jeff Mills or Kerri Chandler would not make up for the damage done here. Constantly reminding your audience of house & techno’s roots is meaningless if you refuse to recognise the perpetual invention of new sounds and scenes that Black artists are contributing to, as they happen.

The UK music press need to use this time of ‘awakening’ and newfound awareness to ask themselves if they want to continue perpetuating the cycles of ethnic wealth inequality, because that’s exactly what they’ve been doing for years.


This piece is not intended to target any specific individual mentioned here - aside from maybe Andrew Ryce – it is to show how there has been a systematic indifference to the activity of Black and working class scenes in the UK music press. While taking stock of the mistakes that have been made and considering a big shift in how journalists and media outlets approach the way they report and what they consider to be ‘important’ or ‘press worthy’, I would like to also suggest possible ways to take things forward. They will seem radical I’m sure, but we can’t just stand by and let things continue as they are. A huge commitment is necessary to eradicate the very bad habits of the past and recalibrate the broken system that benefits those who hold economic and ethnic privilege.

The End of Communication Agencies

If you peruse the websites of the top communication agencies in techno you’ll find an artist roster full of familiar names. That’s no accident, that’s because PR works.

Melissa Taylor, managing director of Tailored Communications [102] whose clients have included Nina Kraviz, AFRODEUTSCHE, Dax J, Ellen Allien and many others – explains what it takes to become a publicist in a rundown for Attack Magazine [103].

Being a publicist is all about your contacts. It’s not enough to have a list of email addresses. You need to know who those contacts are, what their musical taste is and what they’re writing about on a daily basis. The better and more established your relationship is with journalists, the more success you’re likely to have. Being a good clear writer is also crucial to presenting your clients and your ideas.Melissa Taylor

Often there is a revolving door between publicists, journalists and even artists. Remember how Ryan Keeling had worked on Danny Howells and Paul Woolford at a PR firm before joining Beatportal and then Resident Advisor [20].

During an interview with Avalon Emerson and Elissa Stolman of Electronic Beats [104], the subject of how the agencies work affects other parts of an artist’s career comes up.

Elissa Stolman: Do you also think your work increases the volume of press that they get and therefore perhaps their bookings?

Melissa Taylor: I do think it increases their press, yes, and I do think good press has an effect on bookings. That’s why we work with a lot of bookers.

The communication agencies and the press are intrinsically intertwined. While editors may feel they have a final say on what gets covered, they are sometimes picking from a selection of pieces - or music - already cherrypicked and presented to them by various agencies who leverage their established relationships with journalists and editors to get their artists and brands the coverage that they’ve been paid to acquire.

The rest of the article is chock full of examples of the good work that a communications agency can do. Managing interviews, being a buffer during disputes between journalists and artists, proactively pitching pieces to editors and so on. But none of these services justify what their very existence upholds.

After the first wave of recent Black Lives Matter protests, Shawn Reynaldo, in his weekly newsletter First Floor [105] contemplated the structural racism that exists in the industry.

The music industry has all kinds of unofficial rules and norms: what a press release should look like, how long a publicity campaign should run, which PR agencies are best, how much time an artist should leave between releases, how frequently it’s acceptable to play a gig in a particular city… the list is endless, and almost all of these rules and norms have been crafted by white people. Even worse, they’re not actually written down anywhere. People are just expected to know them, and if they don’t, they often struggle to even get their foot in the door.

…it’s unrealistic to expect black artists to learn them all by osmosis… …how are black artists (or black people who want to get involved in any aspect of the industry) supposed to learn how it all works when so few people from their own communities have a seat at the table?Shawn Reynaldo

Sef Kombo is a DJ and Promoter responsible for several dance music nights in London. Motherland, Sessions and Til Two to name just a few. Til Two, a night that has evolved its music policy over the years in response to its predominantly Black audience, celebrated its 10th birthday last year. A few weeks after their 10th anniversary party Sef took to Twitter to air his grievances with music media after over 10 years of promoting [106].

I would like to know why Red Bull Music, DJ Mag, Mixmag and Resident Advisor have NEVER written anything about us. I think it's time to challenge these publications on the diversity and inclusion of their articles to include US, our culture, the movement, the dancing, the vibes are actually being overlooked and I don't like it. I'd like to think we would like to talk about what electronic music means to us in our community, our initial raw rise, the difficult times and the new wave uprising. There is a story there, I believe it needs to be told. There are fantastic DJs out there, great events getting put on, a great crowd mixing young and older ages congregating in the space in unison for this music, give us our dues.Sef Kombo

I reached out to Sef Kombo after that tweet and we started talking about his experiences in the scene. I polled him, to see if he’d ever heard of communication agencies for artists, nights and labels, similar to Tailored, WWFS Comms, Dispersion and so on. He had no idea that this structure existed and neither did anyone else involved with the nights he runs. I’m certain that if you polled deep tech DJs like Lee ‘B3’ Edwards, or UK funky originators like Apple, you’d get the same answer.

In the wake of recent protests and industry self-reflection, Scratcha DVA began hosting panels with industry professionals to discuss how to tackle systematic racism within the industry. In part 3 [107] Kode9, Hyperdub’s label owner, reflects on the potential pitfalls that “Black owned” operations might face.

I kind of agree with some of the points in the first discussion about the importance of black autonomy, black run record labels and there's plenty of black artists releasing their own music but if they’re somehow looked down upon by the music press because they haven't necessarily grown up with certain white middle-class niceties about how to present yourself, how to write a press release and so on, then it somehow gets overlooked… …being very aware that because we're a white run label and we have a lot of black artists on the label, that somehow that ticks a box for certain people and so it makes the black artists we work with more palatable than if they were representing themselves.Kode9

Unless you present yourself to the industry under the unwritten rules and established structures, you are likely to be ignored. Social capital is the currency that matters the most, and that currency or wealth is largely dictated by your privilege - by your access and understanding of “white middle-class niceties.”

Being from a particular background, be it Black working class, white working class or anything similar, can affect the way you present yourself – whether that’s your personal styling, your accent, the way you write, press shots, logos, even the DJ moniker you choose... The hegemony that exists within the music media and the way in which successful artists market and present themselves is often quite different to the grassroots DJs. Sadly, these differences can be limiting, affecting the way in which those from less affluent backgrounds are received by journalists and other industry gatekeepers.

This sentiment is echoed in an earlier episode by the artist Manga Saint Hilare in discussion with Oblig [108].

Oblig:I don’t know how to conduct myself in corporate scenario’s, but there’s somebody next to me who knows how to do it, who takes my knowledge, and then puts it in a certain way.

Manga:But there shouldn’t be a way to conduct in “corporate meetings”. That’s the thing that they slowed us down with for bare years, talking about, ‘nah, like you have to talk like… my manager has to speak to… Like if I come to you, like oblig. Like yo, I wanna go YouTube. I’ve got to send my manager cos he knows how to “speak”? What do you mean “knows how to speak” bruva? I know what I wanna do. Can this happen, can that happen? Yes or no? But they’ve always put that person or people in front of them like you said bro, (oblig) you know what to do so you should be the one talking to the people. That’s it.

When Shawn Reynaldo spoke about the unwritten rules that exist in the industry [105], he identified that the issue lay in Black people not being made aware of them. It’s a solution that shares the same logical DNA that leads to the commodification of diversity. It’s not a real solution, it just looks like one.

A far more fitting solution is to dismantle the unwritten rules entirely. Currently they perpetuate at best, a classist mentality. But it’s difficult not to look around and realise that they are probably responsible for the dearth in coverage of Black movements in UK dance music.

The first step to dismantling the rules, the rules that are secretly agreed upon through the shared experience of a middle-class upbringing alone, is to remove the systems that perpetuate them. Communication agencies are a form of professionalised nepotism, constructed over the heads of Black and working class people.

I ask why any Black person making dance music today should be asked to pay any of these agencies for access that should have never of been walled off from them in the first place? Don’t ‘invite’ Black people to the table. Get rid of the table. The only thing on offer after all, was the opportunity to participate in and be exploited by structural racism.

Communication agencies cannot be ended, but the top press outlets could deeply impact their influence and worth by promising to no longer take private submissions and pitched content from them. The argument will be made that there is an exchange lost. Access to lucrative and successful artists that drive traffic will be withheld. But I don’t see why any artist, if directly approached by a journalist that could give them coverage on a site with 30 million views per annum would ever say no [109]. I’m sure artists and labels enjoy paying communication agencies as much as anyone else does.

Resident Advisor vaguely pledged to “look beyond” these structures [110] but the only effective form of action is for music media to join together and take a stand. At every stage of your organisation, prevent the influence of professional services in your coverage. No more pitches from people who sell their privilege to uphold structural racism.

Privilege, proximity to whiteness and nepotism can no longer be allowed to be the dictators of success.

Restructuring of Editorial

Nepotism Reduction

Trust in Resident Advisor’s ability to fulfil their objective of

Shining (a) light on the passionate people and communities around the world that make electronic music tick.Resident Advisor

are undermined by obvious acts of nepotism. Reviews [111] [112] [113], advertised tour dates [114] and even bookings of current or former RA writers [115] [116] [117]. They do very little to show that it takes that self-appointed goal seriously. Contributing to or working at RA should not be rewarded with opportunities to showcase your creative ventures. It’s lazy, a clear conflict of interest and in the case of bookings, takes up space. It weakens the trust in the writers themselves who benefit from it and those who participate by reviewing or writing the news pieces that cover them. Are they there to serve “the passionate people and communities around the world.” or are they partially there hoping to benefit from their proximity to fellow journalists in the industry to further their own music careers - even benefiting from direct support of RA itself?

The easiest and simplest first step to regaining trust with your audience is to make a transparent policy that staff and listed contributors past and present can no longer receive coverage and opportunities of a promotional nature from RA.

Coverage of Individuals

Move away from covering already successful individual artists. Throughout the years there have been several articles across the dance music press bemoaning the unsustainable rise of DJ fees at the upper echelons. While Covid-19 and a looming economic depression seems to have put a temporary stop to that, now is the time to consider the role that press has played in that issue. By instead focusing more on community, radio, labels, curators, nights, venue owners you can tell a wider range of stories than ever before. There are also ways of covering the experience of an individual artist as service to a bigger picture rather than just PR puff for the artist themselves. RA’s now defunct Artist of the Year chart [118] was one of the primary sources for international promoters bookings, allowing those who were at the top end of the charts to increase their fees and get way more bookings. Similarly, a cover shoot for DJ Mag or Mixmag garners similar results. Even an RA podcast can boost a DJ’s credentials and of course, hardworking artists deserve to earn a good living. Acknowledging and addressing the role that press outlets play in these inflated DJ fees will go some way to dealing with the problem, especially when it’s at the expense of equally hardworking artists who have been totally ignored, sometimes for years (as was the case with Sef Kombo and his peers, who operated for a decade with no press at all [106]).

Go Black & Go Wide

Over the last few weeks, the Black community’s frustrations with the current system have led to a push into the requirement for ownership of new Black-owned platforms and spaces [119]. But this is nothing new, Black radio stations, Black nights have always existed for that purpose, only to be then dutifully ignored. In the fabric vs Black Club Closures section I listed a huge number of unacknowledged Black run events taking place. On the radio side, how many RA writers were tuning into Flex.fm, Live.fm, Déjà vu, Phatbeatz radio and so on to get a grasp of what was happening in those circles? Too often the creation of Black and even working class-owned platforms leads to white run institutions ignoring them entirely. It’s a point reiterated by Kode9 earlier.

While it has come to my attention that, in recent years, RA has made strides to hire new BIPOC talent in various roles, this kind of action must not be surface level. To represent the length of breath that electronic music takes in a variety of scenes and locations, a shared understanding between writers is a waste of labour resources. Hiring BIPOC staff that share the same viewpoints and touchstones on the scene as their white counterparts, or replacements, and calling it job done will bring little benefit. It's important that new hires come from communities with a vastly different perspective and outlook. If they can't name one track from Call Super’s catalogue that's a good thing. Spread should be the number one priority, ensuring that staff and ‘contributors’ share few knowledge overlaps, the benefit being a wider coverage of experiences in and around dance music. Staff members who challenge one another with opposing views, as opposed to reinforcing ideas of what’s “cool” and what’s not.

I’ve spoken to RA staff members in the past about the hiring issue. The story they give is that they’ve tried, “but…”

The truth is they have tried, harder than most in fact. Resident Advisor created an entire Job posting platform called Doors Open [120] dedicated to helping those in the industry that are often under represented.

Doors Open is brought to you by Resident Advisor. We recognise that not everyone has equal access to opportunity. Doors Open actively supports organisations that help people who may be at a disadvantage to find work.

It’s commendable that they went to this length to invest into attempting to address the issue. Using their platform to promote the need for diversity in hiring practices across the music industry. The “but…” comes from the results. Try as they might it’s not really reaching the audience it intended to help. There’s a lack of self-awareness that perhaps years of coverage ignoring, co-opting and whitewashing active Black music scenes might have culled your audience to a narrowly defined demographic. That means links to job roles from a site overwhelming visited by said demographic won’t be much use. This lack of self-awareness was fully on show during a decision to close the comments section in 2019 [121].

Too often a tone of disrespect prevails, occasionally boiling over into full-blown intolerance—sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, you name it. To highlight just one part of the issue: by now, any content involving women is likely to receive sexist comments.Resident Advisor

I don’t begrudge Resident Advisors choice in switching off the comments. They’re well within their right to do so. What was disappointing was the lack of reflection on what their role might have been in curating such a toxic audience in the first place.

In order to go wide, they will have to head hunt and advertise positions in places far outside its current purview to succeed. People who actively apply are most likely to have spent a significant amount of time being informed by Resident Advisor. Those are not the most valuable perspectives right now.

In the most recent statement by RA about how it was going to address and rebalance the conversation it committed to a series of quotas on both who gets covered and who covers it [110].

At least 30% of individual bylines in RA features in 2020 will come from BIPOC writers. At least 50% of RA Podcasts in 2020 will come from BIPOC artists. At least 70% of Rewind reviews for the rest of 2020 to focus on Black electronic music records.Aaron Coultate & Will Lynch

There has been some conversation about this but not much outside the usual ‘slippery slope’ nonsense which seems to ignore the fact that RA have been slipping down the slope of Black erasure for years.

Quotas say something profoundly awful about an organisation or system. It says that the people in charge have been so blind to the value and dignity of BIPOC voices for so long that they have to set measurable targets on a wall to prevent themselves from seeing their voices without worth again.

This is the strongest argument yet that personnel change needs to happen at the top. Maybe if there was representation further up the hierarchy to begin with the quotas would not be necessary now.

At the very least Resident Advisor are talking about change and talking openly. The silence from the rest of the UK music press is profound. One look at the DJ Mag staff list [122] tells you everything you need to know. At the time of writing, beyond their June 1st post [123] in solidarity and promise of reflection no actual changes have been proposed. While there are stirrings behind the scenes at mixmag, publicly the story is the same there too as it is with FACT.

Open Submission

A key component to undermining the existence of communication agencies is in creating a more obvious and open form of submission for reviews in which those agencies are forced to compete with people who cannot afford or do not want to pay them. By introducing a system that removes all identifying information about a release before a submission is listened to and review approved. This tackles the problem of nepotism too. If it means an influx of low quality content and just opens it up to communications agencies that aren’t your bag using it as well, then welcome to the world of being an international touring DJ. Where sifting through 100s of tracks is part of their job.

If it means you miss out on covering the latest [big name artist] release, then you know with confidence that decision was made on ears and content alone. Accusations of unfairness, of gatekeeping, or bowing to the almighty power of ‘business techno’ (whatever that is), hold less weight amongst the larger readership.

We’re seeing - through the push of Bandcamp days [124], buymusic.club lists [125] and the interactive site letting users check out Black Bandcamp artists [126] the archival nature of putting out music - the idea of having a limited opportunity around the time of release to push for your content to be seen is fading. The multitude of ways dance music is consumed and discovered, through mixes, radio shows, live streams and hopefully dancefloors allows new music to be unburdened from ‘release windows’.

A lot of those concepts are still in use because of how the industry of physical distributors, record stores and pressing plants work. Using more resources to satisfy the ego of having a “physical release” and to increase a tracks perception of worth amongst a usually wealthy demographic is an inherently discriminatory practice - consider the ethnic wealth inequality chart from earlier. It requires a large upfront investment and the services of a communication agency to convince distributors that it will sell on store shelves. It’s a system that a majority of UK Black dance music communities dumped as soon as they could. See how the 2008 UK funky era came with its own dedicated digital store [127] with exclusive tracks for example.

Independent Complaints Commission

This one is a bit more out there and experimental, so I’ll just briefly outline the idea and how it could help.

The creation of an independent complaints commission that exists outside of any media outlet that readers can report issues to. At the moment, there’s very little transparency when something does happen [128]. When Stephen Titmus the Head of Product at RA (bought over from Shazam in 2015 [129]) made a dog whistle remark in his review of Gottwood festival, there was an apology and a promise of a review.

But we never got the result of that. Who was the editor that checked the piece and let it through? What was Titmus’s excuse? What further action was taken? What measures have they put in place to prevent it from happening again?

These are questions all music media outlets should be answering whenever an incident occurs. While there’s always an argument that outlets are entitled to a sense of autonomy and internal conversations, secrecy breeds contempt. Transparency builds trust. It’s at the most challenging times when that trust is earnt or lost between the outlet and readership.

The full specification and definition of an ICC would probably take a document almost as long as this one to thoroughly define the full purpose, reach and operating procedures of. But that does not mean it is impossible or an avenue not worth considering. Those questions come later if there is an agreement on increasing accountability and transparency.

With Resident Advisor now offering a subscription plan, and all the questions that creates in terms of demographics and how it now values readership, surely it owes its readers trust and accountability more than ever before?


Using the historical and geographical lens of London’s evolving sound between 2009 and 2016 we’ve seen how only one side of the story ends up being told; How a prominent editor at Resident Advisor can erase the significance of UK Black music; How even before the popularity of online music journalism, outlets’ coverage, acknowledgement and the true narratives of Black and working class scenes has always been poor; How the industry fails to find the right answers to those problems even today; How the value of Black music is defined by how successfully it has been co-opted by white artists; How snobbery and elitism prevented the press from investigating Shuffling and its associated scene; How the constant attack by authorities on venues culturally important to Black and working class scenes went ignored, even as the industry took stock of the capital during its most dire hour; How consistent ignorance in the press sends a message to Black people about the coverage they do partake in; How industry ignorance contributes to societal inequalities while pretending to be progressive.

In the proposals sections we have seen that the structures of racism and economic inequality can be identified and that media outlets need to join together if they are serious about shutting down these structures; How a more open form of journalism with simple policy adjustments can create a more trustworthy outlet; How to move beyond commodified diversity and tokenism in new hires and contributors; How to level the playing field and remove influence from services that uphold structural racism and how to create a more accountable and transparent press.

Just before Covid hit the UK, press and music culture stood in a position it has found itself in many times before. There is a dominantly celebrated UK sound in the press, who’s producers are, for the most part, a mirror image of the journalists that laud them. The nights that celebrate this specific sound are small and barely represent the capitals truly diverse make up. Even Black and other POC artists that are celebrated are fitting into that same journalist-dictated criteria which leads to diverse line-ups still filled with the same homogenous audiences as before. In the meantime, outside of the purview of the press, something new and exciting with a genuine and growing audience sprouts within the Black underground and I wonder if the press, like it has time and time again, are going to miss this one too.

Continued in part 2.

MEASURED: The Scale of Ignorance