More than raving – the deep human meaning of dance music
"It was so crazy being back surrounded by people. It was incredible. To be in the middle of everyone, just moving around, you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself." Joby Mathew, 20. (BBC, 03/05)
Last weekend saw the return of the first festival and clubbing events in the UK since March 2020. It’s anecdotes like these that remind us how much we have lost in the last year.
Live music, nightlife and entertainment have had their worst year ever, with the music industry halving in size in 2020 with a £3bn loss from cancelled gigs, concerts and festivals. Thousands have been furloughed or lost their jobs and some independent venues may never open again.
However, there are green shoots among the ruin. After having to cancel a full calendar year’s line-up of events in March 2020, the record label Defected managed not just to survive, but prosper. The brand’s super power? Truly understanding the values at the heart of their community and using this to respond in authentic ways, emerging from lockdown with renewed vigour.
The label’s offshoot Glitterbox released a feature-length documentary ‘Where Love Lives’, in March 2021 which aimed to “Explore dance music’s enduring power to embrace and liberate.”
The film expertly tells the story of nightlife culture’s history and its evolution to the present day. We meet the fabulous performers who represent the community at the core of the brand and understand what drove them all to the dance floor. While numbers and figures paint a grim economic picture and give us the scale and magnitude of the impact of lockdowns around the world, it’s this deeply human exploration that helps us understand the essence of what we have lost in the last year.
Festivals, concerts and nightlife, often trivialised by those in positions of power, mean so much more than a night out – it’s a means of self-expression, escapism, inclusion, sharing, community, a tribal belonging to something bigger. With roots in the early social progress movements, dance music is a form of protest and a great equaliser, with the physicality of music breaking down barriers and bringing people together from all walks of life. It not only gives permission to those on the fringes of society to let go, express themselves and be whoever they want to be – it celebrates it. At its deepest level, the value at the core of dance music is Universalism – the understanding, appreciation, tolerance and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.
“Dancefloors can unify people in ways governments and religions can’t and I stand by that sh*t 100%”
- Honey Dijon
It’s the deep understanding of the values of not just hedonism and stimulation, but the power of protest and the equalising unity of dance music that has carried Defected through tough times more than once. Faced with pirating and the decline of record sales in the mid 2000s, the label pivoted to foster a community through online and live events to keep the beating heart of the label alive. Fast forward to lockdown in March 2020, the label noticed an immediate uptake in streaming of their records and once again pivoted to organise a series of virtual events and festivals, all promoted by the very same community the brand had once championed. As a result, the brand grew its social following by 2.6M and saw engagement of up to 50+ million over the last year.
The signs suggest we are now entering into a period of ultra-demand for live events, concerts and festivals, with a spokesperson for a ticketing platform telling Time Out that they’re ‘seeing unprecedented demand for London events, with some selling in hours what would often take months’. As we emerge bleary-eyed from a year without dance, it’s the stories of brands like Defected which prove the power of deeply understanding the humans at the core of your brand and the long-term fruits of nurturing a community which comes to champion your brand through tough times.