In the midst of a lawsuit over dozens of sexual misconduct allegations, Bassnectar (aka Lorin Gabriel Ashton) appears to be attempting a return to the spotlight.
He recently performed a sold-out show called “Wildstyle” at the Mandalay Bay Daylight Beach Club in Las Vegas, which roused criticism from sexual assault survivors, advocacy groups, and much of the dance music community.
At the same time, disgraced producer Datsik (aka Troy Beetles) is also edging back into the scene. This past June, he performed in Los Angeles, which was his first show following years of silence after sexual assault accusations surfaced against him on social media in 2017.
The electronic music community finds itself in an uproar of controversy. Bassnectar and Datsik’s fans spar with the wider public over legal arguments (as neither artist has been found guilty of any charges at this time) or they grapple over the ethics of separating the artists from their music.
While these debates raise valid questions, it’s important to look at the wider angle and consider what these developments say about the dance music industry and its culture…
…and it’s not a pretty picture.
No Peace, Love, or Unity In A Culture Of Disrespect
While the community loves to preach love, respect, and inclusivity, it’s no secret that the industry holds a problematic track record of reinforcing toxic systems of privilege and power.
The list of artists and influential industry figures involved in sexual abuse scandals runs long. Since 2020 alone, sexual abuse allegations surfaced against over a dozen electronic music artists, two of which resulted in arrests in the case of the late Eric Morillo and Aerochord.
The dance music industry and the wider community can and should do more to challenge this problem. Taking a look at what’s not working is a good place to start, but beyond that, there needs to be a real reckoning with the toxic dynamics that allow abuse to arise in the culture in the first place.
The Bassnectar and Datsik cases are just the latest chapters in a long series of sexual abuse stories plaguing the dance music industry.
As more survivors began speaking publicly about their experiences in recent years, it’s become clear that the number of perpetrators who face full legal consequences for their actions is incredibly small.
Meanwhile, victims often suffer in silence out of fear and shame, or they risk retaliation for speaking up. As the #Metoo movement has pointed out, these are symptoms of a much broader problem permeating not only the dance music community but the entertainment industry and society as a whole.
In an ideal world, we could rely on the legal system to properly address all these issues, and it’s a good goal to aim for. Nonetheless, many logistical and cultural obstacles stand in the way of this being a realistic expectation.
To put things into perspective, only 310 of every 1000 sexual assaults are reported to police in the United States, and 28 of those reports result in felony criminal convictions according to RAINN.
That means that only 2.8 % of sexual abusers face full legal consequences for their actions, and that’s just covering the general public.
Sexual assault and rape culture run rampant in nightlife, and so long as influential figures like artists can abuse their power to propagate these dynamics on an industry level, the dance music community cannot be a safe space.
Silence Is Not Accountability
These problems cannot be remedied until the individuals who’ve caused harm come to terms with their actions in full, and taking a temporary step down from the limelight hardly counts as remediation.
Both Bassnectar and Datsik’s decisions to step down and go silent when their victims spoke out looked like a good first step, but what else came after that?
Not much. Datsik shared a video apology on Facebook in which he references his own mental health issues and “poor behavior” but failed to specifically address the allegations or the women who spoke out against him.
Bassnectar’s initial response proved confusing at best. As reported on Billboard, he first issued a series of apologetic statements (which also never mentioned sexual assault) only to follow up with new statements denying all accusations before going silent.
In the end, it appears like both Bassnectar and Datsik cut their losses and dipped under the radar while waiting for the “right time” to attempt a comeback.
Both artists are releasing music and booking tours again, and using some pretty shady tactics to do it. Take for instance how Bassnectar started releasing tickets exclusively through his members-only website unlocktheotherside.com and cold-renting venues to perform in even as he faces multiple lawsuits.
It sure seems like Bassnectar is well aware of the deep mud he stands in, and yet, he attempts to push on with his agenda by skirting around promoters to put on shows and shielding himself from public scrutiny with delusionally insensitive claims that he is somehow the victim of unfair treatment on social media.
That’s not taking accountability. It’s public scandal survival 101.
I’ve found that if you read through enough response statements from artists facing sexual assault allegations in recent years, common patterns pop up.
You’ll see any of the following: complete denial; vague apologies for “poor behavior”, typically followed by accounts of the perpetrator’s own grievances without any mention of the allegations; retaliation against those who spoke up with allegations; and/or the perpetrator twists the story in a way that portrays themselves as the victim. Last but not least, there’s silence.
Let’s talk about the responses that attempt to rationalize, minimize, or discredit accusations for a minute. A lot of accused artists who employ “vague apology” statements (like Datsik’s initial response) reference mental health issues and struggles with addiction. While these are legitimate grievances, they are never an excuse for abusive behavior. Period.
Next, let’s look at retaliation against victims and self-victimization. At its core, both are defensive strategies that aim to deflect negative attention from the accused back on the individuals coming forward with accusations.
Self-victimization might look like an artist claiming that their accusers are “out to get them, ” or that they are being unfairly attacked or discriminated against, often without tangible proof.
Then there’s retaliation. This can look like an accused artist attempting to discredit, shame, or intimidate victims to stop them from taking further action.
This is perhaps the most damaging and dangerous response of all as it produces even more trauma and humiliation for victims while also discouraging additional potential victims from speaking out.
Fame and idolization amplify this problem even more as high-profile artists come with fans who refuse to see them in a negative light for any reason.
These are just a few examples of how the odds are stacked against victims when famous people are allowed to reach an “untouchable” status.
Consider that most artists operating at a professional level also work with legal teams and crisis managers whose job is to protect the artist’s image.
In fact, defamation lawsuits—a legal strategy that famous people facing allegations love to employ to defend themselves—build on and reinforce the dynamics described above.
Additionally, there’s a good chance that any public apology shared by an accused abuser in the industry has been meticulously filtered by professionals to minimize damage.
Artists’ management teams also have a stake in denying accusations because their income is dependent on their clients. All in all, a culture that values profit and notoriety at all costs silences victims and plays a crucial role in allowing rape culture to run rampant in the industry.
As a woman who looks to the dance music community to provide a safe space, this is a slap in the face.
It’s bad enough that myself and every woman on the planet should have to endure living in a constant state of alert thanks to a culture that continues to treat women as commodities.
When men in positions of power are allowed to carry out abuse without consequence, this sends a message to men among the rest of society that they can do the same. This is not acceptable.
To see this happen in a community that I and many people of marginalized identities consider to be a sanctuary is too much.
Industry authorities have immense power to shape the community for better or worse, and allowing individuals facing such severe allegations of abuse to reclaim space in the industry without taking further accountability is unjust and downright dangerous.
So What Does Accountability Look Like?
I believe that humans are always capable of change and that with the right actions, even people who’ve harmed others can earn a second chance.
But that would require a willingness to take true accountability, and so far, most artists facing allegations of abuse have chosen actions—or a lack thereof—that communicate otherwise.
What would taking real accountability look like? In the case of Bassnectar, Datsik, and other perpetrators, an authentic apology would be a good start, and I’m not talking about a PR write-up.
When a person apologizes authentically, they can address the person whom they hurt by directly acknowledging how their actions impacted them without making excuses for themselves. Perpetrators need to acknowledge that their behaviors inflicted severe human suffering and trauma and sit with this reality.
That being said, apologies without further action are just empty words. Perpetrators must take the initiative to address the roots of their behavior, such as by seeking mental health support—and doing so without wearing these actions as a virtue-signaling badge of “honor”.
Furthermore, the industry as a whole needs to acknowledge the harmful dynamics it harbors within its own culture—a culture that continues to allow privilege, toxic masculinity, abuse of influence and power, and sacrificing integrity in the name of profit to carry on behind closed doors.
The individuals inside perpetrators’ social circles and their business partners could choose to take a stance against harmful behavior instead of shielding it in the name of self-protection.
Music journalist Annabel Ross puts this dynamic of toxic male solidarity on detailed display in her 2022 article in which she recounts how Detroit techno producer Carl Craig banned her from attending Movement Festival after she published two investigations on Resident Advisor detailing sexual assault and abuse allegations against Craig’s mentor Derrick May.
This applies to the public as well. No one likes seeing the image of their favorite artist tarnished. It’s easier to deny, make excuses, or minimize the gravity of a person’s actions when we idolize them.
However, that’s not an excuse when human beings suffer at the hands of said idols for no good reason.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that there are also artists, promoters, and industry personalities out there who are stepping up to the plate.
Take for example techno DJ Rebekah who launched the #ForThe Music campaign, which brought together a collective of people in the dance music industry to challenge sexual assault and sexism in the industry in 2020.
Grassroots harm reduction organizations like Dance Safe and Goodnight Out Vancouver are also raising awareness about sexual abuse in the industry and providing resources for the community to learn how to respond to these issues.
To the industry leaders who have spoken up against abuse in the community and are advocating for justice when you’re not dropping beats on stage, booking shows, or carrying out whatever official duties come with your title, I commend and thank you with all my soul.
We all have to be on board to make that vision a reality, and you’ve understood that.
I’m grateful for these examples of progress, but there’s still a very, very long way to go before we can truly call the community a safe space.
Fame and power should never excuse someone from treating their fellow human beings with respect, and this dangerous narrative has to go. Full Stop.
I share these charged words not out of hate but out of love…an immense love I have for this community and its vision that brought me and millions of others a sense of joy and hope unlike any other.
I will not step off the dancefloor. It’s still and forever my sacred space. No one can take that away, and I truly believe the dance music community can set a positive example for the rest of society, but we all have to be willing to do the work to get there.
Images Provided by Rukes Photography