Jemayel Khawaja and Ross Gardiner more or less conquered the world of dance music journalism -- now, they're setting out to reinvent the clickbait-driven wheel with their own dance-centric creative content agency, Black Circle Media.
"Everybody wants content, but nobody knows how to do it," Khawaja, who was up until recently the managing editor at Vice's dance vertical Thump (he's still a part of the site, just now as an editor-at-large), tells Billboard. Together with Ross Gardiner, who was the U.S. editor of Mixmag, Khawaja envisions an agency that can create quality content for artists, festivals, and more. Rather than get news or updates from a media outlet, "people want to get their content from the source of what they're interested in," says Gardiner -- and through Black Circle, he's aiming to help make that content thoughtful and engaging.
"Dance music is more active on social than many other musical subcultures," he continues. "There is a lot of direct communication between artists and organizations and the fans, so I think it is actually a really great space in which to try this experiment." Given dance's exponential growth, advertisers are increasingly trying to find a way in -- another gap in the market that, as insiders well-versed in the scene, Khawaja and Gardiner are aiming to fill. "They don't have a stomach for bullshit," Gardiner says of the brand-coveted dance music fans. "When there's any kind of outside influence trying to infiltrate the dance music space, it doesn't really work."
Rather than bemoan the clickbait-driven, content-mill era, the pair aim to use the demand for quality content to their advantage (and so that they have time to write the stories they're passionate about during their off-hours). "What's happening is artist-based content doesn't get read unless the artists themselves promote it," Khawaja says of the challenge of blogging for blogging's sake. "Unless the article speaks in glowing terms about them, they're not going to share it. You're stuck in a situation where you're chasing your tail in circles -- so we thought let's just step out of it, and write the story you want to be told to the people who want to hear it."
With Black Circle Media, they already have a staff and a number of promising projects. They're working with Steve Aoki on a site that they hope will turn him into a "cultural spokesperson" for his massive following of dance fans, and creating a global editorial strategy for Pulse, a dance hub with a strong following in a number of emerging markets. The 2016 festival season, the pair hopes, will bring a whole new range of opportunities for the agency -- after all, the impetus for the project came from a Coachella-made magazine.
The wide range of projects they have now is just the beginning, says Gardiner, concluding, "We are the only people in the market providing a solution to a very, very real problem in dance music."