Dance

Marshall Jefferson on Why He Quit DJing: 'House Music Is the Capital of Race Discrimination'

DJ Marshall Jefferson
Jim Dyson/Getty Images

Detroit techno DJ Marshall Jefferson performs at Tresor, during the club's tenth birthday celebrations, circa 2001 in Berlin, Germany.

Marshall Jefferson is one of the original architects of house music, but he will no longer play it at clubs.

In an essay for Mixmag, Jefferson writes of racial inequality in the dance scene, why he believes such inequality exists, and why he quit DJing after more than three decades.

"Last year I played at a packed club in Ibiza for 4000+; I got about $2000," Jefferson writes. "I found out the DJ that played at an empty club next door got 250,000 Euros and decided to quit DJing. I’d previously thought that if you filled a club, you deserve the money, simple. When guys get paid more than me for an empty club, I’m out."

"That wasn’t all the fault of racism, that was mostly on me and my dumb business practices," he continues regarding this situation, "but Black DJs will NEVER get 250k+ fees like white DJs get. THAT’s racism, but not in the KKK-I-hate-Black-people sense; it’s all in the numbers. Black people are a bad investment numbers wise because we’re getting a tenth of the audience."

Jefferson then goes on to explain that he believes the issue is a function of supply and demand, because "there are more white people than minorities. If you have ten times more white people than any one minority, you have ten times the audience. White people want white heroes; Black people want Black heroes; Indian people want Indian heroes; Chinese want Chinese heroes. If you put out music on a white artist, that’s ten times the audience of anyone else. So if a record label gives a white artist a million, then gives a more talented Black artist fifty thousand, that’s economics."

Given, Jefferson says, that mainstage EDM is made largely by white producers who attract white audiences, the rise of EDM in the past decade has put artists of color at a major disadvantage.

"House music is the CAPITOL of race discrimination in the music biz," he continues. "It wasn’t like that at first. In the beginning I thought it was a level playing field. But the rise of EDM saw the economic power transfer into the hands of white people, because only white DJs are making EDM. The same thing happened with rock ‘n’ roll: Black artists just don’t make it today, and Black artists don’t make EDM."