Understanding Rave Culture During COVID-19

August 26, 2020 in Streaming



Understanding Rave Culture During COVID-19

Raving has been a part of my life for almost 15 years, and in its most common form, it’s easy to recognize. It’s a bunch of kandikids waving around glowsticks, sprinkled with some DJ drama, and maybe a new psytrance track or two. Simple, right? 

It used to be. 

Our scene is one that is unique in today’s atmosphere, simply because it’s one of the only ones based on non-sporty, in-person interactions. I mean, what’s a rave without a party? Now that COVID-19 has been causing a major crackdown on parties, things have gotten more complex. Here’s what I’ve personally witnessed in the scene…

PLUR means that you *don’t* attend raves.

A quick look on the news reveals that two major outlaw raves happened in New York City in the past month. Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio are pissed—and rightfully so. NYC was the biggest hot zone for COVID-19 in America. It still has a hard time dealing with curbing exposure, too. 

Multiple DJs and promoters are now facing arrests, fines, and lawsuits. This alone isn’t that big a difference because raves weren’t always legal. What is new, though, is the massive blowback from fellow ravers who caught wind of it. Ravers are now calling people out on risking others’ lives by attending these parties. 

Though not all ravers will call people out, the majority of the scene does. In other words, promoting a show in a cramped, mask-free area is a great way to commit career suicide right now. Don’t do it. 

The scene has become even closer-knit than before. 

As a DJ’s wife, I can’t name how many people I’ve seen reach out to my husband and I during COVID-19. We’ve always had people drop by, but the pandemic quickly magnified how much love and support we’ve gotten from our closest friends. 

This is one of those moments where you regularly see people reaching out to one another, just to make sure that they are okay. While this was always part of my experience as an EDM fan, the sheer amount of outreach has been phenomenal. 

Somehow, drama seems to have taken a bigger turn.

Between all the backlash artists have gotten from playing raves during COVID and all the revelations of predatory behavior from known artists, life has been kind of a shitshow on many EDM forums. Many people who were once pillars of the community are getting ejected after their pasts have come to light. 

This seems to be a byproduct of being cooped up inside and waiting for things to get better. Now is the time that people are trying to make sure that the rave scene they have is going to be safer and more honest. That, and spending time on the net seems to attract drama. I’m not sure which reason it is in its entirety. 

Networking took on bigger meanings.

If there’s one thing DJs always have to do, it’s networking. They have to network to get gigs, to promote music, and to find rave crews they click with. Usually, the networking you see is done on a local level. COVID-19’s shutdown of the rave scenes changed this, and now it’s almost entirely virtual. 

The cool aspect of the increased focus on online outreach is that it’s leveled the playing field. There are not as many gatekeepers that you need to bypass when it’s all online. It’s also an international level. So, we’re starting to see a lot more collaborations between coasts and even across different nations. 

This is a great thing, since it’s opening the door for relatively new people to gain the clout they need to rise through the ranks. 

Streaming concerts are now the thing to do.

I can’t name how many Twitch streams I’ve watched featuring DJ lineups I’d kill to see in person. It’s been amazing, and for DJs, having a regular Twitch stream is the only safe way to have concerts. It’s also become a source of income and a way to connect with fans. 

You can get subscribers to pay you for your content, and while subs are pretty cheap, it can add up over time. The hardest part, for most DJs, is actually committing to a set schedule so that fans can enjoy you…and occasionally playing to empty crowds. 

New skills are required, just to stay relevant.

Though it wasn’t easy, it was possible to be a DJ in the rave scene and not have knowledge of tech. Some even were able to do so without aggressive social media just based on past clout. The thing is, without concerts being thrown, you can’t do that anymore. 

Learning how to work through social media, how to work with Twitch, and how to handle your own online promotions now is a must. If you don’t know how to use OBS to create a nifty frame, how to upload tracks to Beatport, or how to use Ditto, you’ve got some learning to do. Otherwise, you’ll either have to pay lots of money or lose your relevance.

Smart DJs are using this time to produce new tracks.

DJs are going to be doing one of three things at all times: producing, promoting, or playing. If you’re not playing or promoting, you should be on Ableton and downloading beat drops. Since the pandemic started, producers have been going on music-making benders. 

If you take a quick look at Beatport, you’ll notice that the number of songs exploded. This is not a coincidence. It’s what happens when artists realize they now have extra time on their hands and can do something productive. 

Some things never change.

Even with the world currently falling apart at the seams, there are some things that will never change about EDM’s culture and music. There will always be online debates about whether hardstyle or DNB is better. There will always be people making new artwork out of Perler beads. 

And of course, we’re all planning out the next time that we’re all going to be able to see one another. And we’re already saving up for the moment where we get to see our favorite artists take the stage. Why? Because we’re ravers, and that’s just what we do. 

Oh, and we’ll always love pretty-looking visuals.

Speaking of things that don’t change, let’s be honest. Ravers are known for being extremely fond of funky visuals. That’s why Twitch streaming is so popular. But, most people do not have an audio-visual tech on hand nor do they have a graphic designer who can do videos. So, what can you do?

As of right now, I’ve noticed quite a few Twitch streamers and casual music lovers using SYQEL to get the visuals they need. It’s a trip, and might just be one of the newer pillars of online raving.

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