The untimely death last week of Detroit producer and DJ Kelli Hand at the age of 56 helped focus the mind. Hand did not come from a background of money. She had to work hard for everything she got. She used to work two jobs whilst at the same time managing her music career. Think about that – two jobs, a career to manage and run, records to make, gigs to play. That’s a lot to have on someone’s plate.
She was referred to as the “First Lady of Detroit” in many of the tributes that circulated last week – an adage I consider pretty accurate. But one of the things which really bothers me about dance music is how many of the originators – the people who were around when all this started – end up poor in old age or penniless in death.
Now, I don’t know how much money Hand in the bank when she passed away, but I suspect it wasn’t anywhere near some of the DJs who wouldn’t have anything if it wasn’t for pioneers like her.
Names such as Amelie Lens come to mind. Charlotte De Witte, Nicole Moudaber and Peggy Gou are others. How did they get into dance music? Did they work hard to come through the ranks, did they learn through the trials and tribulations that so many other DJs – male and female, I should note – have to go through?
Er, that would be a no. All four of these women had significant wealth behind them when it came to becoming DJs. They could afford to give up everything else and focus solely on their careers in music – an advantage the likes of Hand and many of the other pioneers simply did not have. For example, Gou made her money before becoming a DJ. And Lens made her money in the fashion world beforehand.
And the four of them really live this lifestyle too. Moudaber, for example, likes to race expensive cars in her spare time. Gou frequently travels the world and often, it’s not even work related – just done because she can.
Either way, the fact they earn considerably more than the originators ever did – without having put in the work they did, either – is really grating on me right now…