On a local scale, the closure of the much beloved long running dance music blog inthemix has played its part to signal the anxious flux of dance music media. Integrating with Junkee Music under the wider umbrella of Junkee Media, it was odd to see what was once a dance music media bible, undeniably influential on the Australian media landscape, be submerged into the overarching digital media void. Paired with the majority of big media being either heavily questioned (‘fake news’ style) or altogether discarded in favour of citizen journalism and tweets, achieving longevity in the media, let alone dance music media, seems to be becoming an increasingly difficult task. With a globally increasing penchant for streaming, the increasingly dominant integrations of social media and an industry-wide rush to innovate, one wouldn’t be misplaced to ask, what’s the future of dance music media?
It seems pretty safe to say that if you want to be a major outlet and you’re not interested in moving beyond your general review and opinion piece model, you may run into issues. Look at any major music media brand and the need to expand has been absolutely imperative. Charlotte Cijffers can speak to this from two ends of the spectrum. Brisbane born and now living in London, Charlotte is the founder of the online music magazine Chase the Compass and is also the Digital Editor of DJ Mag, one of the few music media outlets that, amazingly, still has a print edition. “DJ Mag UK and North America print monthly editions in each of their territories, while DJ Mag Ibiza and Croatia both print two seasonal issues per year.”, she explains, as well as pointing to the cornerstone monthly UK mag and beyond. “…digital licensee worldwide include operations in Japan, Korea, China, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain and many more.”
Her other brand has had quite a different evolution. “Chase The Compass started as a blog seven years ago but has evolved into an events company running parties in London, New York, Barcelona, Sydney, Dublin and more.” This evolution has undoubtedly become key to their longevity, and more importantly, their expansion. “Doing parties has been an extremely important in the evolution of the brand as its given us a chance to meet our readers and community — and get real time feedback on line-ups, venues and content. We’re also about to open a for-hire music studio in North London.”
Mixmag’s Lab series is another example of brand evolution, this time penetrating the social media streaming sphere. A quick scroll through Mixmag’s Youtube channel will see some of the world’s finest acts curating their ultimate mixes, with talent ranging from The Black Madonna to Carl Craig and Peggy Gou, each easily hitting over 50k views a pop. Although this project seems to have solidified the brand into the invaluable social media sphere, it emerged from a simple office tradition. “The Lab was never about elevating our own brand but was set up to showcase the artists, music and events that we feature,” explains Mixmag’s Managing Editor Nick Stevenson. “The Lab was actually born from DJs playing in our office each Friday, which has been happening regularly since 2002. When YouTube asked us to become their Original Content Provider for dance music in 2012 we were able to bring in the technology to start streaming it worldwide. Now we do this weekly from London, LA and New York.”
As live streaming as a communicative format takes more of a centre stage in our culture consumption, it’s also important to consider as a media maker how you might navigate this social sphere and how willing you may be to adapt. “From Mixmag’s perspective we have always had a presence on every social touch point and that adapts as socials do,” Nick explains. “So we’ve effectively ditched Snapchat in favour of Instagram Stories, dialled back from platforms that haven’t picked up like Google+ and then doubled-down on a video first strategy on Facebook and YouTube.”
If you never expected to have your media career funnel into parties, streaming and heavy social media integration you might be asking if there’s is there still a place for the written word in this space? There’s no doubt that the internet empowered us to blog, but now that seems a little early Myspace-era to many consumers and creators. Is there still space for small and independent platforms, and are they still valued? Nick responds an unequivocal yes, even though they may only occupy niche space. “The more diversity of opinion and perspective in music journalism the better. Without the passion of some of the most (apparently) niche blogs whole genres might have withered away,” he says. “Like the multitude of radio stations, podcasts, magazines or streaming channels, blogs, however their format evolves, are a resource for cutting through the mainstream noise and connecting with different audiences.”
So whatever kind of content you’re creating and however you’re distributing it to get it seen, how can outlets maintain a relationship with their readers and followers in such a heavily saturated environment? “Carefully evaluate what your audience are asking you for,” says Charlotte, “and try to deliver that in an authentic and meaningful way. Don’t be scared to experiment, take risks and challenge your readership.”
Nick agrees, “Adapting to how people want to receive content is a given – but how you frame that, your tone and your authority along with your relationships and drive to bring new talent through are all key. Mixmag has been through numerous incarnations over the years but at the heart of it has always been that drive to find and point out the next exciting thing; whether it’s a DJ, genre, a club, a scene or an event, and share it with people who care as much about dance music and club culture as we do.”
Charlotte Cijffers and Nick Stevenson will be appearing at EMC. To learn more about the dance music media and industry, check out their 2018 program here.