I find myself asking sometimes just why I’ve started writing about Derrick May. This is not a question I ask out of some pitiful “why me” position. I ask it because I’m not exactly the most qualified person to write on this delicate and complicated subject.
Isn’t this the job of the professionals who work full time in the industry to chronicle and catalogue these things? And this is where I quickly run into problems. Because the simple truth is the dance music press has few, if any, people in it who are suitably qualified
Let’s be fair here. This is not a problem unique to the music press, but I find it’s more pronounced in specialist media. The Internet age has meant a lot of journalists leaving the profession – a lot of expertise has been lost in the process and lines blurred.
Time was that the dance music press was quite independent from the people who made the music. Producers made the music, DJs played the music, promoters promoted the music, shops sold the music, journalists wrote about the music and the above groups. Everyone knew where everyone stood.
Nowadays, the lines are totally blurred. Everyone is doing everything because it’s the only way to make enough money to live on. Ever realised that many DJs are also producers? The same mutations have taken place in dance music journalism too.
The fact everything is linked means if you upset the apple cart too much, it affects you in other areas too. And unfortunately, principles don’t pay bills, even when it’s the right thing to do. Everyone requires everyone else to avoid rocking the boat. It’s an unhealthy situation and detrimental to everyone involved.
Hence scandals get sat on. Hence why the numerous antics of Sterling Void were detailed only by myself and a small number of other individuals online. Despite numerous attempts to get journalists to start writing about him, they were all rebuffed. Only when it comes to something as serious as sex abuse allegations against the likes of Erick Morillo and Derrick May do they say something. Even then, coverage has been pretty muted.
Now, I know what some of you are now saying. You make music as well as write too, so you’re part of the problem too, right?
I would say this, of course, but I disagree. The difference is I make the overwhelming majority of my money elsewhere – what I earn from music is tiny. I have no interest in joining this increasingly incestuous circle, so I’m happy to continue saying what others simply won’t.
Those journalists who remain after numerous rounds of cuts and redudancies are overworked and often have to write on topics that they aren’t skilled enough to write about, or they quite simply don’t know enough about it.
Investigative journalism isn’t cheap, either. It can involve travel, international phone calls – a lot of this stuff can be done online, but you sometimes have to have feet on the ground in order to fully grasp the situation.
For example, I would absolutely LOVE to doorstep Derrick May at his house and such in order to get a comment from him, but it simply isn’t practical for me to do it. It’s easier to walk away from tough questions online than when a person is pressing you for answers when physically present. At the end of the day, most people don’t like to appear rude.
Pretending your Internet connection has gone down is easy. Walking away from a conversation, for many people, is hard. Investigative journalism also brings specific responsibilities towards sources that, without the correct training, many people would simply not be aware of.
Years ago, I wrote about a sexual abuse scandal in British politics, which gave me some insight into this subject. A journalist who was trained in dealing with this subject gave me a lot of advice at the time, and I’m utilising it to the max.
I’d prefer for a journalist who specialises in these kinds of matters to be writing wrote up about May, in an ideal world. But that isn’t likely to happen at present, so I suppose it falls to the likes of myself and a few others to do it.
Goodness knows the dance music ecosystem needs to change…