Moving the Needle: Rave 2.0

Paris Hilton is a DJ.

That line sink in yet? Paris Hilton is a DJ. I recently saw video of Paris Hilton playing a “set” in Brazil. She pretty much stood behind the decks, flailing her arms about like Grover on Sesame Street, occasionaly reaching over to twist some knobs. It kinda reminded me of times when I’ve played shows, and someone has shown interest in what I’m doing, so I’ll let them turn a bass EQ knob or something. They aren’t going to hurt anything, and they get to feel like they’ve really done something. The more interesting thing about Paris’ set is the dude wearing all black, reaching up to fix her levels and keep things together. It’s like being in Driver’s Ed in high school; you might be behind the steering wheel, but the instructor still has a brake pedal. Just as how many Driver’s Ed lessons end up in whiplash for the passengers, Paris’ DJ set ended with her cueing the wrong track. Sure, you may not be physically damaged, but the pain is still there.

It seems as if celebrities are feeling the crunch of the economy as well, sincethey’re branching out into brave new frontiers of moneygrubbing. For instance, with Dial-A-Star, you can talk to people like Michael Lohan, Nadia Suleman, or Amber Smith. These D-List celebs can be on your speed dial from as low as $6 per minute, or as high as $25 per minute. Lindsay Lohan tried to make the transition from actress to pop singer ala Hilary Duff to far less success than her former Disney counterpart. Other celebs like Tommy Lee, Solange Knowles and Erykah Badu have joined Paris in the Celebrity DJ industry, selling out mainstream clubs from coast to coast. Like Playboy models-turned-DJ, it’s all about the appearance, and none of the substance we demand from our not quite so mainstream staples.

It would be pretty easy for me to be mad at Paris for acting like a muppet and taking away a booking from an otherwise deserving act. We can make a big deal about her not being able to mix, or not knowing that red lights on a mixer are bad. It’s pretty easy to point our fingers when we’re not on the take and declare something as not being of the spirit of the underground. The true answer though comes in the form of a phenomina known in NASCAR as “Dale Earnhart Jr.”

Dale Earnhart Jr. is the second son of seven time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhart Sr. His meteoric rise to the top of the sport combined with the tragic death of his father in the 2001 Daytona 500 leaves Dale Jr as easily the most popular driver in NASCAR. In fact, the only NASCAR driver that sells more merchandise than Dale Jr. is his deceased father. Dale Jr, by himself, has the ability to move the needle for NASCAR when he performs well. He’s a household name that most Americans know. There’s a saying amongst NASCAR insders that always proves true; “When Dale Jr. wins, we all win.”

So what does this have to do with Paris Hilton’s DJing? Well, when Paris is seen DJing, it generates interest in our culture. I think we would all agree that Electronic Music and EDM in general isn’t just something we do, but rather a lifestyle we live. Everything has a gateway. My gateway into EDM was acts like C&C Music Factory, Technotronic and EMF back in the mid 1990’s. Remember “Jock Jams” CDs? Remember how all that went away with the late 1990’s rise of Rap, and how the BPMs all dropped down to around 90? Well, just as how Disco and New Wave gave way in the 80’s, Mid 90’s “Techno” did the same. But, just as how “Techno” became the 90’s buzz word like “Disco” was in the late 70’s, “Dubstep” has replaced it. The lexicon of our culture changes, but the patterns remain the same.

Back to the gateway. If someone goes to hear Paris because they know her name, there’s a good chance they’ll be more receptive to picking up a David Guetta CD or going to hear Deadmau5 next time he’s nearby.  They like it, and they discover more as their tastes evolve. You can’t expect someone’s attention span or tastes to be perfectly refined right out of the box.

Welcome the Paris gateway.

We, as the more underground portion of the scene, have to be ready to step in. We have to be prepared to help guide these new people to other places in our culture. That is why it is so important for us to be connected to our local scene. National and international touring acts will sell themselves. We have to be in place to support our locals, and guide the new folks into our family and show them how they can be a part of things, and not simply be a follower. Like the Punk Rock scene, EDM is very much a DIY collective. If we bring people in and make them feel as if they belong, then we keep our scene in perpetual growth, as they eventually do the same.

EDM has long needed a mainstream personality to move the needle, so to speak. People like Paris Hilton, while maybe not with our desired flair, help to get us the attention we need to thrive. games like DJ Hero make us seem much more accessable and not quite so sketchy. Before you pop off about how hideous it is that Paris is DJing, think about the potential long term ramifications the publicity has for us. We’re no longer the rejects of music and social scenes, but rather we’ve been embraced by mainstream culture and are at the forefront of music. Let’s use this free publicity to bring new people into our culture and introduce them to our local scenes. After all, if we can bring them in and show people the good stuff, then we’ve really made our own impact on keeping our scene sustainable.