One of the leading figures in EDM has implored authorities around the U.S. to not send the dance music community “back into the unregulated underground” as L.A. County supervisors consider whether to ban “raves” at county-run venues.
The county is considering hardline action after two young women died from suspected overdoses at the recent HARD Summer in Pomona, California.
A ban isn’t the answer, explains Insomniac founder and CEO Pasquale Rotella, who has produced hundreds of EDM concerts and festivals, including his company’s marquee event, the Electric Daisy Carnival.
In an emotive social media post, Rotella paid his respects to the women who died and insisted his firm doesn’t condone or tolerate drug use. But he noted “the problem here isn’t raves or dance music, or even festivals in general. The health impact of drug abuse in our country extends far beyond what happens at our events. I lost five friends to drug overdoses at a young age, none of which occurred at dance music festivals; most of them weren’t even fans of the genre. No one wrote about them.”
Rotella continued, “Dance culture has survived for decades and has never been more popular. Banning these events at facilities where we are able to provide first-rate medical care and emergency services is not the answer. I hope that policymakers and the media do not turn their backs on a cultural movement that is thriving and brings so much happiness to a generation that, quite frankly, needs an environment where they can feel loved and accepted. Most just want healthy interaction with their peers. I know that if I didn’t have access to this community growing up, my life would have taken a much different turn."
Dance music culture has always had a bad rap. And its rogue reputation is reinforced on each occasion there’s a death in clubland or at an electronic dance music-focused fest. It's an image problem which has rumbled on in Europe and elsewhere for decades before EDM blew up in the U.S.
If L.A. County does take a tough stance, it won't be the first time dance music fans have felt hard done by. Generations of British clubbers snigger at the country’s 1994 Criminal Justice Bill, which then-prime minister John Major used to try curb rave culture by outlawing gatherings of more than 20 people listening to music characterized by “repetitive beats". Thousands of "ravers" around the country protested the rule by the most appropriate action possible: dancing in large numbers.
As the genre grows, the electronic music business is also entering a new era of professionalism. One of the key developments in the space has been the launch of the advocacy and lobbying body the Association for Electronic Music (AFEM) back in January 2013.
“I see nothing but great opportunity within large gatherings -- the opportunity to promote health, happiness, individuality, and human connection,” added Rotella. “If we’re trying to create a safe and secure environment for these passionate fans, sending them back into the unregulated underground isn’t a step in the right direction. We all need to do our part in creating a national dialogue that educates our youth and encourages them to be accountable for their choices -- especially when it comes to drugs."
A Change.org petition has since launched urging L.A. County officials to reconsider any plans for a ban.