“I’m going to be quite brutal with it,” says Sherelle of her own clause. Her requirements are simple: “I ask for one other woman on the line-up, cis or trans, but leaning towards trans. And then one person of colour, male or female, cis or trans.” Recognising that she has trans fans at her shows, Sherelle knows she would be doing them a disservice if she didn’t do her bit to get brilliant trans DJs booked with her.
What’s most important to Jordan is that it’s not enough just to book a diverse line-up. “If the venue’s not safe, or the artist isn’t being paid properly, then diversity is meaningless,” they say.
So how do you create a safe space when, as Abdulá says, “someone feeling unsafe at a venue has many different shapes and forms?” All too often, says Jordan, venues might advertise a safe space policy, yet the responsibility will fall on the victim to report an incident, rather than the venue putting the structures in place to help prevent incidents in the first place. For Moorosi, the very concept of a safe space is rooted in white privilege. “I’d go so far as to say that the electronic music industry is not a safe space for Black artists,” he explains. “Is it a safe space to be Black person with a record label, but the media only cares about the white artists on your roster?” But with diligent implementation, diversity clauses could be a step towards artists like Moorosi (who makes music as Big Space and runs Wet Dreams Recordings), feeling safer, less exploited and less violated in spaces they should be able to call their own.
The answer for Sherelle and Troxler is representation; safe spaces will exist organically when punters see themselves represented in the booth. “I see a lot more girls and members of the LGBTQI community up at the front at my shows, and it’s because they feel a lot safer because of the person that’s playing,” says Sherelle. She notes that some artists don’t realise that punters aren’t just in it for the music, they have to feel comfortable too. “I take it very personally,” she says, “I can’t think of anything worse than someone coming along to one of my shows and not feeling comfortable.” Sherelle references Eris Drew, Octo Octa and south-east London collective BBZ as examples of artists who curate inclusive spaces for people to come and party.
Troxler says it’s not just about seeing yourself in the booth either it’s about hearing the music that represents you and your culture. “Dixon is a really good friend of mine,” he says, “but I don’t know how many kids from the hood think that melodic house music is the thing. For people of colour, there is often a more polyrhythmic aspect to the music.” Troxler has seen this in practice with his label Tuskegee Music, which he runs with The Martinez Brothers. The more music they put out and the more they celebrated Black artists, the more the Black community would come down to their shows.
In order for a diversity clause to have real positive impact, the responsibility also lies with the promoter; it has to be a collective effort. Mixmag reached out to two venues and two festivals for this piece, and while all four responded to initial contact, disappointingly they have all failed to offer comment or answer any questions.
In practice, Sherelle and Abdulá have already come up against resistance from promoters; some seem to think that it’s enough to book a woman or a POC artist “sometimes”, as if one box ticked once in a while is a job done. “I hate to think that people think they get two-in-one when they’re booking me,” Sherelle says, “some people use excuses like ‘we’re just trying to book the best of the best’ and it’s like, you’re not, because we’re constantly seeing the same names.”
It’s having those uncomfortable conversations with promoters that can create change, says Abdulá, as well as sacrificing shows when it goes against the wider impact you are working towards. Safo agrees, “forcing promoters to look further afield for talent in dance music can be educational for all parties involved.” Abdulá has also had positive experiences with bookers, where they’ve reflected on the conversation and committed to addressing their programming moving forward. Sherelle highlights the booker at Sheffield venue Hope Works, saying “Hope Works are a perfect example of a venue actively wanting to make a change. When they were booking my line-up, they made sure it was very diverse.”
This content was originally published here.