Author: Carin Abdulá
Photo Credit: Filipa Aurélio
Community happens on the dance floor. The deep sense of belonging crawls up your spine, bodies electric with joy and catharsis in pure ecstasy. For some, it’s just a night out; for many, it’s a lifeline. The idea of returning after this traumatic period with no real roadmap of what we must do to not only keep these spaces open, but also functional for the communities who seek it, would be to further endanger it.
So, as ideas of normality approach us, I wonder: Where to now?
Almost two years after the world turned upside-down the long-lasting effects of isolation, fear, and grief are only starting to fully set in for me. On the last days of March 2020, right inside the eye of the storm, I wrote an article for Resident Advisor where I tried to imagine possible futures (full disclosure: this is a hobby of mine at this point). I remember feeling this intense need to remain optimistic above all else; we didn’t quite grasp what version of the world we were about to enter, let alone what it would look like after that, so I felt drawn to its potential. It wasn’t a completely rose-tinted outlook – I felt aware of the ways in which we could fail to reform what needed reforming, but I chose to believe in the magic of chaos as a constructive force.
So now, as my inbox quickly returns to its former unhealthy form, I find it increasingly difficult to remain optimistic. I am burnt-out from putting in work for events that are still not happening; from trying to keep artists motivated from still having to ask promoters to rethink all-white lineups; from being thrown contract terms that are a slow death sentence to independent agencies; from being expected to know every quarantine rule of every territory across the globe. If the job was hard before, now it is near maddening.
There are, of course, positives to look forward to. Despite this industry’s insistence on being simultaneously a place of progress and gatekeeping, its ability to reinvent and adapt are second to none. Promoters have had to nurture their local scenes during this period and they must make sure that this remains a priority: reimagining programming as a way to build community is crucial for the times ahead. Pushing for governments to acknowledge nightclubs as an essential part of Culture (as recently achieved in Germany) will be key to their survival; not only for practical and immediate reasons such as allowing them to access certain funds, but also for the long term shift in language when talking about these spaces.
The conversations about artist remuneration, unionising, and creating independent platforms that champion fair payment over endless content must also continue as we’ve not even scraped the surface yet. Industry standards for pushing for safer spaces and equitable workplaces must break into the mainstream and not be seen as tasks only for the independent few.
These topics have slowly but surely made their way into the forefront of the industry and that’s where they should remain. Being forced to pause has meant that we’ve been able to dig deeper into the true meaning of live, physical spaces: they are where our lives, beliefs and sense of freedom are reflected right back at us.
For more stories from We are Europe, sign up to our newsletter down below. This letter was first published in Portuguese by Revista MIL.
For other reflections on the state of our scene, we recommend Sarah Gamrani and Laure Togola‘s letter, focused on the gender equality issues within festive events. Head here to read it.
Carin Abdulá is the Head Agent at OUTER, a creative agency for cutting edge electronic music, working with artists such as Caterina Barbieri, rRoxymore, dBridge and Moritz von Oswald. She also works with Tresor Records as a Curator and Strategist and has collaborated with Black Artist Database to create more equitable spaces for Black professionals in the music industry.
More recently she has co-founded the Independent Agency Collective.