The electronic music industry has been hit hard by lockdown. With a whole infrastructure impacted, from venues to artists, we ask Ghamte Schmidt (he/him) from Bureau Punt and Sharri Morris (she/her) from Delia Bookings how the industry as a whole is adapting.
TQTB: WITH FESTIVAL SEASON OFF THE CARDS THIS PAST SUMMER, HOW’S THE AMSTERDAM ELECTRONIC MUSIC SCENE INNOVATING TO REACH AUDIENCES?
Ghamte Schmidt: The whole market is readjusting to find itself. The most frustrating and difficult part is the uncertainty of when and how to proceed – it’s a major shackle in terms of innovation, because with innovation comes investment. Everyone is searching on the outskirts of the law to see how they can make the best out of the situation. Some are turning into restaurants that include music and DJs, others are looking to reach online audiences or focus on the live aspect. It’s crazy to see how quickly the fragile market is shedding its skin and adjusting to the new reality to survive. That should prove how wonderful and powerful our industry can be, and why it needs to be upheld in that manner as well.
Sharri Morris: There’s a stronger nurturing side to the local scene right now. Venues like Het Hem’s Dynamic Range Bar are putting on programmes of fantastic local talent. Radion, Doka and Radio Radio’s club spaces have also been hosting live stream parties and social distanced sit-down events, promoting both established talent while fostering fresh new faces.
Amsterdam-based initiative, United We Stream has been inspiring to see, and a great example of how much stronger we are when we support and work together. Led by over twenty local venues, it raises money for everyone heavily hit in nightlife – clubs, festivals, DJs, artists, bar staff, sound engineers and other freelancers.
TQTB: WHAT’S THE FEELING IN THE WIDER INDUSTRY ABOUT USING DIGITAL PLATFORMS? ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS THAT HAVE COME FROM THIS?
GS: I don’t see them yet because the clarity on how, and what, the possibilities are with rights, broadcasting and such. Next to, in our local scene, a lot of DJs have started up their own streams or joined streams (for free) which devalued the market and made it quite hard to find a substantial financial model. Big up to the Queen Erykah Badu who finessed the system early and built her own platform. I think that’s where the future lies: a service that enables artists to live stream, and deals with all the rights and bullshit so artists can reach their audience directly and secure some money.
New talent will have a hard time to break through and reach a new audience though. So there is a responsibility for venues and locations to start to make a bigger effort to build up our local communities and talents, and create a platform as a venue with large outreach. This is an important part to keep the scene and culture alive which should be high on everyone’s agenda right now.
SM: An increased number of live streams opens up a plethora of opportunities for all levels of DJs to widen their reach. New, exciting talent now has even more of an opportunity to break through. The dramatic turn of not flying in a headline DJ in will force promoters to look deeper into their once overlooked local scenes. Clubs have the possibility now to develop and deepen their own sound and identity by nurturing such talent – this could be hugely attractive in the future.
We love Bandcamp! Encouragingly, the music platform continues to offer its share of sales to artists and labels for the remainder of 2020 – you can put money directly into the pockets of your favourite artists. Bandcamp is a leader in diversity and inclusion in the music industry. Kenyan-born artist KMRU, on our roster at Delia, is part of the Black Bandcamp collective which supports Black artists where he contributes to this ongoing project in reaction to the BLM movement and recent societal conversations.
TQTB: AS LOCKDOWN RESTRICTIONS LOOSENED FOR OTHER INDUSTRIES IN THE NETHERLANDS OVER THE SUMMER, WERE THERE ANY SIGNS THAT THE CLUB SCENE MIGHT FOLLOW SUIT?
GS: Well the Prime Minister (Mark Rutte, who doesn’t care about black people) has not delivered good news with vague and contradicting statements that don’t look good for the local club scene. 1.5m distancing is preached like the Bible, and that means that small and big venues will have a very hard time to find a balance between managing crowds and overheads to secure their existence.
It means that nightlife is hanging by a thread of survival if a middle ground isn’t met. For a city like Amsterdam – that thrives on nightlife and produces so many job opportunities, as well as life lessons, experiences and connections – this could mean a death sentence. My hope is that the government comes to their senses and off their high horse to come down and listen to some reasonable, logical solutions that will help us all move towards a brighter and sustainable future.
SM: There are some incredibly proactive approaches we’re seeing venues use to generate revenue and bring the community closer at this volatile time. Thuishaven has been super innovative during lockdown. At the end of May, for example, they created a fun experience that allowed club goers to a drive-thru car wash, have food and drinks, buy merch and speak live to Michel De Hey while he was DJing on Thuishaven radio.
A recent increase of COVID-19 cases in Korea was due to clubs opening again so we still have to be cautious and reimagine how clubbing is going to look logistically. Cool new spaces are popping up (think Freight in Manchester and the Brixton Courtyard in London), and reinventing music and social spaces. This kind of innovation means some sort of fun and normality can return again, and could have a meaningful benefit if they book local acts and offer a fair fee for both artists and agencies…
By working collectively as agencies, promoters and artists, we really do have an opportunity to create change. I hope we use this unexpected catalyst to create a fairer and more supportive future for the industry as a whole.
WE WANTED AN ARTIST’S PERSPECTIVE TOO. WE CAUGHT UP WITH JERRAUSAMA (HE/HIM) TO FIND OUT HOW LOCKDOWN HAS AFFECTED HIM AS A DJ.
TQTB: WHAT WAS THE LAST GIG YOU GOT TO PLAY BEFORE LOCKDOWN?
Jerrausama: The last gig I played before COVID was at Palet in the basement of Paradiso. It was a week before lockdown started. I had to play the end set and totally trashed it. I miss those good ol’ days… it feels like an eternity ago.
TQTB: HAVE YOU MANAGED TO PERFORM AT ALL DURING THIS TIME? WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO PLAY IN A SPACE SET UP FOR PHYSICAL DISTANCING?
J: I’ve made a few guest mixes, for instance for LYZZA’s Intearnet Radio show on NTS and Source Radio based in Paris. I did a livestream for Paradiso and for United We Stream in collaboration with 3voor12. I’ll never get used to playing for an exclusively online audience, the energy feels kinda off. Hopefully we can legally go back to playing sets like in the good ol’ days.
TQTB: WHAT INFLUENCE IS LOCKDOWN HAVING ON THE EVOLUTION OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC, EITHER IN TERMS OF PRODUCING NEW MUSIC OR ENGAGING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE?
J: Everybody, including me as a young Black individual in this world, is starting to wake up and see what’s wrong with a lot of things. I think the night scene is really gonna fall off tbh but that also means that there’ll be a rebirth. A more genuine place, truly for everybody and more interesting things will come up as a result of that. In a way, I’m really excited for what the future holds. Fuck COVID-19 still, but I believe because of COVID-19 there will be a revolution.