This week Pioneer DJ released Distant Dancefloors: Covid-19 And The Electronic Music Industry, a 32-minute documentary featuring reflections about the pandemic from a handful of DJs based globally — Blond:ish, Eats Everything, Honey Dijon, Luciano and Rebūke — interspersed will nicely edited file footage of nightclubs and travel.
In the report, DJs recall events leading up to the beginning of the pandemic. They offer thoughts on live streams and what clubs and festivals might look like once the pandemic is contained.
Luciano, who went public in 2018 about entering rehab to kick his 22-year battle with substance abuse, shared interesting insights about being off the road since March.
“Lockdown is almost like going through a rehab of planes and hotels. I was almost in a burnout,” he says. “I was really traveling a lot. I didn’t know how to stop. [The lockdown] forced me to know how to stop. It forced me to land and crash and land on my knees.”
Distant Dancefloors is compelling viewing, but it dances around three key issues:
1. Money: With touring on hold indefinitely and DJs suffering mounting losses due to canceled gigs, how are they managing financially? The financial hit could not have been predicted. Did they have a rainy day fund? How are they finding creative ways to generate income in a world where streaming isn’t making underground dance music artists rich?
2. Mental health: While psychotherapist Adam Ficek, who is a member of Babyshambles, offers interesting perspectives about the need many artists have for validation and Eats Everything reckons getting a proper night’s sleep since March has added five years to his life, what are these DJs doing to cope with being unable to work? How are they maintaining their mental health amid so much uncertainty? This brings us to the next question….
3. The future: As the documentary points out, much is uncertain right now. If the situation persists, can — and how — will they pivot professionally? Blond:ish’s Vive-ann Bakos talks vaguely about being excited about new professional possibilities, but what if nightlife takes years to return to where it left off in 2019? And what if it never bounces back?
These topics have been weighing on my mind since I watched a recent interview with a globally known DJ/producer. In the discussion, he talked frankly about receiving unemployment benefits and how he’s adamant about not returning to a day job.
In his view, he’s worked too hard to go “backward” professionally. To return to a 9-to-5 would equate with admitting professional defeat. He went on to talk about other services he’s going to offer to generate income and how he’s navigating the rollercoaster of anxiety brought on by the pandemic.
Honey Dijon, who has opted not to present any live streams so far (“You don’t feel the kick drum coursing through your body”), is using time off the road as a period of self-reflection to inspire creativity.
At the end of Distant Dancefloors, she offers a pragmatic take on the current situation: “I think what’s happening with COVID[-19] has really made motherfuckers realize what’s important in life. And all of this shit that we run around trying to get — fame, money — at the end of the day nothing matters but your fucking health and the health of those people you love. And everything else is a fucking cherry on the cake.”