Has The Detroit Electronic Music Festival (Movement) Been Whitewashed?

Movement 2009, the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, kicks off this weekend, and promises to be a blast for fans of electronic music.

Last year’s attendance reached close to 80,000 over three days at Detroit’s Hart Plaza, and this year’s attendance could be even higher, with some big names like Carl Craig & The Prodigy on the lineup.

DJ Count Zero raises some interesting questions about the state of the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, though, in the hands of concert producers Paxahau:

The population of the city of Detroit, Michigan is 80% black, 12% white.  Now, granted, it would probably be unrealistic for the ratio of white to black artists at the festival to ever approach the population figures, but you’d think that the idea would be to represent the character of the city pretty closely, right?  Well, for the first few years that was the case:

Year    % Black
2000    58.73%
2001    48.68%
2002    66.18%
2003    45.57%
2004    37.70%
2005    52.69%
2006    21.43%
2007    27.71%
2008    24.47%
2009    32.88%

From 200-2005 the percentage of black performers at DEMF never dipped below 37%, and usually was above 50%.  In 2006, though, something happened.  Paxahau took over the event and the number of black performers dropped dramatically, to 21%!  Why?  That same year the percentage of Detroit area performers dropped too, from 62% in ‘05 to 33% in ‘06!

What possible excuse could Paxahau have to take what was a succesful event regardless of who was in charge and turn it into a homogenous rave party with so little Detroit flavor?

Paxahau’s “excuse” is pretty clear.

They took a event that was financially failing and turned it around by featuring more and more mainstream electronic music artists, who are less a reflection of Detroit’s make up or music than a reflection of the world of popular electronic music.

DJ Count Zero makes a valid point, though – that Movement’s success comes at the price of an event that’s less black, less a reflection of Detroit, and, arguably, less unique in the world of electronic music.

For its part, Paxahau has announced that Carl Craig will be the creative director of the Movement 2010 Festival.

What do you think? What’s more important to the Detroit Electronic Music Festival – the Detroit, or the Electronic Music?

20 thoughts on “Has The Detroit Electronic Music Festival (Movement) Been Whitewashed?

  1. I think bringing in black artist just for the sake of a ratio is silly, but dropping the number of local performers is a bad idea! Keep the detroit by keeping the local performers

  2. i attended the first 4 years and the last 2. i think breaking down the festivals history into percentage of black performers is simplifying the transformations this festival has undergone over the years. fords involvement, the carl craig scandal over creative control or even credit. the mainstream debacle that occurred after that point with acts like parliament fundaleics headlining, while black performers it packed hart plaza full of suburban kids who were not necessarily there to support detroit techno or detroit artists black or white. and in recent years going from a free event to not, albiet very inexpensive.

    personally the years i enjoyed the festibal most are years in which they kept detroit and detroit techno closest. that being said, im a huge fan of detroit techno and it gives me an excuse to go back to detroit, hang with friends and listen to the music that frames my memories of that city. however for the people that live in detroit perhaps they enjoy finally seeing and hearing some acts that they can't hear every day of the week in the city. it doesnt seem like detroit gets to see its fair share of global artists.

  3. That seems to be Paxahau's strategy – but they have multiple stages and get a lot of quirkier asks exposure, too.

  4. Eh, I think the people talking about quotas are not looking at this situation correctly. I think the question is about cultural appropriation as well as who the target audience is. No one is saying that there should be a racial quota on this event or anything like that, but instead, it should be taken into consideration when deciding who to let play at the event, the price, the vendors etc. The history of Detroit techno is lush with a racially diverse group of performers, and because of this it is refreshing to know that the stereotype of electronic music as being something only middle class white kids listen to when they can scrounge up enough cash to buy some pills to go to a show, is false. On the other hand, watching the above video clearly demonstrates that the lineup was not necessarily geared toward Detroit artists, so it doesn't surprise me that fewer black people came, because it is likely that fewer people in Detroit came, and more folks from the rest of the region filled in the gaps. I don't know…it would just seem to be a shame for the reason that everything else in Detroit has sold itself off to somewhere else, whether it be jobs, factories, or otherwise; to see an entire cultural identity vanish because some promoters wanted to keep an event popular rather than genuine would be (another) disgrace to the people of Detroit. I mean seriously this thing has been going on for eight years now, do they really think they need to let Benny Benassi play just to keep people coming? My two cents i guess.

  5. I read Frank's analysis when he first posted it. It raises valid questions, but that is all it does. The problem with DEMF is that there are a number of goals that need to be satisfied for a more perfect festival:

    Attendence is important for the continued existence of the festival. That means artists beyond the proponents of 'pure' Detroit Techno need to be invited. BUT if Paxahau goes too far in that direction, then DEMF will become just another generic event, and lose its unique Detroit character.

    The festival's lineup should reflect the cutting edge of dance music, meaning that it has a role in educating audiences by exposing them to things they might not know already, BUT if the lineup is too left field, it will cease to appeal to a broad enough audience. Readers of "Wire" magazine at the festival are probably outnumbered by raver kids about 500 to 1.

    Part of the essential character of Detroit dance music culture is that it has always been eclectic, and incorporated musical influences from all over the globe. Furthermore, very soon after the first artists began making the records that came to be known as techno, the music itself became a global phenomenon.

    Those of us who are regular attendees are quite excited about Carl Craig being music director for next year. The years he was in charge had superlative lineups that brought an eclectic variety of music into the Detroit Techno tent. I trust Carl to strike a perfect balance between the OG and the new, the experimental and the mainstream. No way he or anyone else will make everyone 100% happy, but given some of Paxahau's dodgier choices over the past few years, I think he may come close.

  6. Wow, alot of issues here. just skip to my last stanza at the bottom if ur as impatient as me haha.

    I grew up in a white-washed suburb of Detroit and have lived in Oregon for a while and now on the west coast of Michigan. I moved out to Oregon the year the DEMF started and just attended my first one so it is hard to imagine what those first few were like but all I can say is I had a GREAT time last weekend. I saw more black and white people hanging together in Detroit than I ever saw in the 90's. This is actually pitiful and encouraging at the same time but my vantage point tells me that things are changing. I saw Seth Troxler and hung w his parents during his festival set and I think he's originally from K-zoo or something. I met alot of Europeans just looking for a good time and to experience downtown Detroit and the place/environment that spawned Techno (I tried to tell them that to do that, they really had to go to the Bellville strawberry fest haha bad joke) There's a whole other thing that should be exploited during the fest. There should be some sort of educational exhibit for the masses who don't know the basics and for the party-people who don't know the details. Maybe a little set-up just inside the fest gates with a follow-up deal at the African American History Museum?

    Dude Bad Boy was shouting "Chi-town" and we are bringing it back "DETROIT" while I think Derek or Saunderson or something is spinning in the background. How cool is that? Alot of musical history between these two cities and fun to watch a commercially-successful scratch master from across the lake have a little fun with it live in the middle of the western conference semi-finals esp. since we were about to eliminate those little hawk b's.

    Man I love this topic but nut-shell time, DEMF/Movement is sweet, keep it going, let's see what Carl can bring next year. By all means bring out more Michigan/D-town talent and showcase our local sound to whoever shows up but not at the expense keeping it real because we all know what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.

  7. Wow, alot of issues here. just skip to my last stanza at the bottom if ur as impatient as me haha. or alternatively, what Chaircrusher said

    I grew up in a white-washed suburb of Detroit and have lived in Oregon for a while and now on the west coast of Michigan. I moved out to Oregon the year the DEMF started and just attended my first one so it is hard to imagine what those first few were like but all I can say is I had a GREAT time last weekend. I saw more black and white people hanging together in Detroit than I ever saw in the 90's. This is actually pitiful and encouraging at the same time but my vantage point tells me that things are changing. I saw Seth Troxler and hung w his parents during his festival set and I think he's originally from K-zoo or something. I met alot of Europeans just looking for a good time and to experience downtown Detroit and the place/environment that spawned Techno (I tried to tell them that to do that, they really had to go to the Bellville strawberry fest haha bad joke) There's a whole other thing that should be exploited during the fest. There should be some sort of educational exhibit for the masses who don't know the basics and for the party-people who don't know the details. Maybe a little set-up just inside the fest gates with a follow-up deal at the African American History Museum?

    Dude Bad Boy was shouting "Chi-town" and we are bringing it back "DETROIT" while I think Derek or Saunderson or something is spinning in the background. How cool is that? Alot of musical history between these two cities and fun to watch a commercially-successful scratch master from across the lake have a little fun with it live in the middle of the western conference semi-finals esp. since we were about to eliminate those little hawk b's. Real good mix of everything at this fest and the after parties. Maybe we need to have a better network of getting more of the international attendees to experience the great array of more cutting edge or local after party events as well. Choosing those can be overwhelming to anybody.

    Man I love this topic but nut-shell time, DEMF/Movement is sweet, keep it going, let's see what Carl can bring next year. By all means bring out more Michigan/D-town talent and showcase our local sound to whoever shows up but not at the expense keeping it real because we all know what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.

  8. Wow, alot of issues here. just skip to my 2nd to last stanza at the bottom if ur as impatient as me haha. or alternatively, what Chaircrusher said

    I grew up in a white-washed suburb of Detroit and have lived in Oregon for a while and now on the west coast of Michigan. I moved out to Oregon the year the DEMF started and just attended my first one so it is hard to imagine what those first few were like but all I can say is I had a GREAT time last weekend. I saw more black and white people hanging together in Detroit than I ever saw in the 90's. This is actually pitiful and encouraging at the same time but my vantage point tells me that things are changing. I saw Seth Troxler and hung w his parents during his festival set and I think he's originally from K-zoo or something. I met alot of Europeans just looking for a good time and to experience downtown Detroit and the place/environment that spawned Techno (I tried to tell them that to do that, they really had to go to the Bellville strawberry fest haha bad joke) There's a whole other thing that should be exploited during the fest. There should be some sort of educational exhibit for the masses who don't know the basics and for the party-people who don't know the details. Maybe a little set-up just inside the fest gates with a follow-up deal at the African American History Museum?

    Dude Bad Boy was shouting "Chi-town" and we are bringing it back "DETROIT" while I think Derek or Saunderson or something is spinning in the background. How cool is that? Alot of musical history between these two cities and fun to watch a commercially-successful scratch master from across the lake have a little fun with it live in the middle of the western conference semi-finals esp. since we were about to eliminate those little hawk b's. Real good mix of everything at this fest and the after parties. Maybe we need to have a better network of getting more of the international attendees to experience the great array of more cutting edge or local after party events as well. Choosing those can be overwhelming to anybody.

    Man I love this topic but nut-shell time, DEMF/Movement is sweet, keep it going, let's see what Carl can bring next year. By all means bring out more Michigan/D-town talent and showcase our local sound to whoever shows up but not at the expense keeping it real because we all know what happens when keeping it real goes wrong.

    Hey Carl, if you are reading, bring back the Glitch Mob and Mr. Z-trip (this is bigger than hip-hop hip-hop hip-hop) who just came right on out and said F that building to the fortress of Ren-Cen. Those guys had it going on. While you're at it bring in a freestyle rap contest or something and mix up everything it is called "MOVEMENT" right?

  9. was Benassi like the line-crosser or was that just a random 'main-stream' dude you chose to reference? no disrespect, I'm just wondering. my friend said after his set: "good taste in music but he's got no skills" At least he didn't show any there. Anyway, he was fun, I wouldn't rush back out to see him but the DEMF gave me the opportunity to figure that out for myself. I saw alot of music and alot of local talent at all kinds of afterparties. I actually considered not going to the actual event in lieu of all the other options but I'm glad I went because I got even more diversity that way.

  10. That's complete bull. I know I'm late on this having just signed up and saw this, but if no one wants race to be an issue about anything, then why are people making it an issue? It should be about the MUSIC! It should also be about people of all races, both sexes, totally different cultures and ways of life to come together and enjoy something that they all have in common. Enough of this race crap! I'm for one sick of it. It don't care if you're purple even! It shouldn't even matter. It's about the music and people coming together to escape reality and have fun listening to good music!

    Also, DONT FORGET ABOUT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS! THEY'RE JUST AS IMPORTANT!

  11. That's complete bull. I know I'm late on this having just signed up and saw this, but if no one wants race to be an issue about anything, then why are people making it an issue? It should be about the MUSIC! It should also be about people of all races, both sexes, totally different cultures and ways of life to come together and enjoy something that they all have in common. Enough of this race crap! I'm for one sick of it. It don't care if you're purple even! It shouldn't even matter. It's about the music and people coming together to escape reality and have fun listening to good music!

    Also, DONT FORGET ABOUT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS! THEY'RE JUST AS IMPORTANT!

  12. yes race shouldnt be an issue but they made it an issue. Plus the festival has been going in a very cheesy place lately. next year `they may have deadmouse or paul oakenfold playing. there are a lot of quality underground detroit acts who need to be playing this festival. I always have fun at the festival but last year was definately not one of my favorites and while the whole festival shouldnt be all about detroit techno, A good majority of it should. Any other city would be proud of whaqt they accomplished instead of getting a bunch of mainstream bullshit

  13. Very very true. I don't see anything wrong with having Deadmau5 playing or Oakenfold since I like them both, but your local music and culture is definatly your heart and soul and they shouldn't forget that either.

  14. Very very true. I don't see anything wrong with having Deadmau5 playing or Oakenfold since I like them both, but your local music and culture is definatly your heart and soul and they shouldn't forget that either.

  15. Affirmative action DJ’s what’s. Next… So in essence blacks are saying they can win if a white is in the running… How sad…always pulling the race card…

  16. I think it has been white washed, as a matter of fact the entire culture of electronic music has been, its seems to me that black people have had a lot of involvement in the creation of a lot of electronic genres, then white people get involved and all the black people leave the scene? Something needs to be done to pull black kids back into this culture.

  17. https://www.facebook.com/events/370327063073605/

    New Agenda & Dax present OK, COOL. An Official Movement After Party celebrating the music that we think is cool. Ok? Cool. 

    Allow us to bring you aural pleasure with a lineup that has been hand crafted from the finest magic dust the universe has to offer…

    For your eyes, ears and dancing shoes we feature the 20 Years of Kompakt Tour with Michael Mayer, his first performance in Detroit since destroying the Red Bull Stage at Movement in 2010. He was unable to make previous appearances here due to visa issues, but rest assured, he has all of the documentation needed to deliver a headlining set for us in 2013. Ok? Cool.

    In addition, we are happy to host exclusive performances from Jozif, Eddie C, Mike Huckaby, Rick Wade and Burnski. The supporting cast includes New Agenda founders: Ataxia, Dan Wagner & Mr. Joshooa, as well as their latest roster addition, Soren,  San Francisco legend Dax Lee, Detroit up and comer Alex Maniaci, Opencloud, Bon, Naveen G, and special guests.

    $10 before midnight // $20 after

    Detroit local? Show your ID at the door for a free drink on us!

    Sunday, May 26th

    New Agenda & Dax Presents 

    OK, COOL.

    Detroit Exclusives
    ———————

    Michael Mayer (Kompakt) 
    http://www.kompakt.fm/artists/michael_mayer

    Mike Huckaby (Deep Tranportation | S Y N T H)
    http://deeptransportation.com/

    Rick Wade (Harmonie Park)
    http://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/rickwade

    Jozif (Culprit | Leftroom | Crosstown Rebels)
    https://soundcloud.com/jozif

    Eddie C (Endless Flight)
    http://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/eddiec

    Burnski (2020 Vision | Culprit)
    http://www.airlondonmusic.com/artist/16/burnski

    Michael Tello (Pillow Talk | Signal Flow | Touch Of Class)
    https://soundcloud.com/signal-flow-sf

    Along with
    ————————

    Ataxia (New Agenda | Culprit | Paxahau)
    http://airlondmusic.com/ataxia-

    Dan Wagner (New Agenda | Culprit | Dead Tiger)
    http://soundcloud.com/danwagner

    Mr. Joshooa (New Agenda | TV Lounge)
    https://soundcloud.com/misterjoshooa

    Open Cloud & Bon (Proton Radio | Waveform Rec)
    http://www.protonradio.com/show.php?showid=166

    Dax Lee (Nexxus)
    https://soundcloud.com/daxlee

    Naveen G (listed prod.)

    Soren (New Agenda | Dead Tiger)

    Alex Maniaci (Dirty313ctronic)

    ———————–

    + more TBA, surprises, shenanigans and tom foolery!

    Inside / Outside
    Totally remodeled patio with new seating and dance floor!

    Live Video Mixing by VJ Vger!

    Detroit local? Show your ID at the door to get a drink on us!

    ———————–

    9pm Sunday – 1pm Monday

    TV Bar
    2548 Grand River Ave
    Detroit, Michigan 48201-2520

    21+

    get tickets: 

    http://pulseradio.net/events/view/2599

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