The DJ’s Responsibility In Drug Education
Last week, URB released a PSA with a group of famous DJs (including Kaskade, Z-Trip and more) speaking out about responsible drug education. The release comes after a number of deaths this summer including two people at Electric Zoo, which resulted in the third and final day being cancelled entirely. This brings up an important question for our audience – what are DJs’ responsibilities when it comes to drugs and setting a good example for our crowds?
ELEPHANTS IN THE ROOM
First, let’s not beat around the bush and avoid the purple elephant pill in the corner. Much of DJing and electronic music culture has been built on some form of drug use. It’s so dramatic that you often see waves of musical styles following the drug du jour for that generation. Trance music finds a common friend in the psychedelic persuasions while electro and other more aggressive forms of house seem to be well suited to fast-paced drug tendencies.
Before you say it in the comments, let’s call out the other elephant in the video. One of the featured performers is infamous for his spraying of champagne, SHOTS, SHOTS, SHOTS! attitude, and apparent promotion of alcohol abuse. There is no question that many more people die from alcohol-related causes every year than MDMA, and coming out about one drug while promoting another is somewhat contradictory.
The traditional message, “don’t use drugs that will harm you!” will largely fall on deaf ears. Instead the PSA above seems to be advocating (appropriately) smart drug education that empowers dancers to make intelligent decisions on their own.
The reason (selfish or not) is simple:
If kids keep dying at raves there will be another crackdown, and electronic music scene in general will suffer greatly. It’s already happening, a major festival was completely cancelled due to concerns following the Electric Zoo incident last week and investors are wondering how this will affect the growth of the SFX EDM empire. Setting aside business speculators that showed up late to the party, it’s in our best interests to keep the fans safe, educated, and coming back for many years in the future.
WHERE DOES THE BUCK STOP?
Should it be the responsibility of parents, friends, promoters, or organizations like DanceSafe to get the word out and keep our scene healthy for years to some? Everyone listed, but it might also be the responsibility of performers that stand on stage every night. It’s us, the DJs and producers, that many young people look up to most of all and when we set an example, (be it positive or not) they listen.
We have two options here, folks:
1) Plunder the highlands for as long as there is oil left and move onto something else when the gold runs out.
2) Practice restraint and invest in keeping the electronic music scene healthy for years to come.
As DJs, we have the greatest reach and the most direct exposure to the those that are at risk. The challenge of course is in helping without preaching.
AVOIDING THE PULPIT
Most DJs don’t want to come across as preachy, and appropriately so. Who are we to tell others how to conduct their business? Especially since many artists (including myself) have used drugs in the past. Here are some positive and constructive ways in which anyone can make a difference without getting holier-than-thou.
- Avoid taking an absolute stance (this is bad, that is bad, don’t do this, don’t do that)
- Always err on the side of educating people about the consequences of their actions
- Always be honest and forthright about your own experiences and personal decisions
- Support organizations like Dance Safe that provide smart education in a realistic format
- Require that promoters and festival organizers have safety measures in place to protect their attendees- adding security won’t stop drugs from coming in, but adding medics will stop kids from dying
- Make sure promoters have free and easy access to water, and are not gouging festival go-ers for the essentials.
- Support and give credit to other DJs that are providing a positive example
- Share content with your audience that provides them with real facts and knowledge with which to make a smart decision
As an ex-raver that went from the deep end to totally sober for the last 14 years, I have learned the hard way how to talk with others about substances in a realistic, non-aggressive way:
Drugs are no different from getting in an airplane, driving without your seat belt, or drinking booze. When you remove the stigma, it’s a relatively straight forward risk/reward calculation. There are upsides to getting high, and there are very clear (but wildly variant) downsides. By understanding how great the risks and rewards are – any person can (and should) make a smart decision on their own. I personally concluded there are very few drugs that pass the risk/reward litmus test, but many people do find safe ways to incorporate a variety of substances into their lives with minimal downside.
Sadly, this “nuanced” of a discussion doesn’t fit nicely in a short sound bite or on either end of the debate spectrum. So for the Twitter generation, here is a good place to start. We like the hash tag: #PartySmarter
Guys, Gals, Ravers, Dancers, Promoters: #PartySmarter! Make an informed decision about your nightlife experience (insert link from anyone of the following sources):
General Club Drug Info:
WE NEED YOUR HELP
I firmly believe our community is one of the most diverse, well-educated group of DJs out there. We rarely get articles perfect, but your help in the comments always makes for a better piece. Please help us round out this discussion with your own links to important articles including research and documentation that is bias free.