If you’re a die-hard headbanger, living in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) today, you find yourself in a pretty great place. Your favorite artists are almost always guaranteed to appear on festival lineups, local venues play your favorite music, and you have access to a vast community that shares the same tastes as you.
If you’re a house-head, trance-lover, or techno fiend, things are a bit more difficult. Other genre trends have emerged in cosmopolitan cities like Seattle and Portland , but anyone craving new sounds outside of those main city centers are left gasping for air.
The lack of close-to-home opportunities to connect with your favorite music can feel downright frustrating. I’ve often felt alone in expressing that the PNW scene neglects variety. I’d had enough of hearing the same sounds over and over, and asking for change felt like an uphill battle.
That’s why when Spokane local promoter and producer Jared Holman, aka BNGRZ, managed to book the multi-genre UK producer Axel Boy for a show back in June, I knew I couldn’t miss out. Holman had to practically jump through hoops to make such a novel connection happen, which made receiving a guest-list invite all the more special to me.
Holman echoed my excitement as we greeted each other inside The Globe Bar and Kitchen–the latest venue to host his weekly Thursday EDM night events.
“I’m so glad you came! You’re gonna love it.” Holman shouted, offering a hug before hustling off to take care of business. Lasers, strobes, and swirling clouds from the fog machine filled the room as groups of young people sporting pashminas and fishnets trickled in.
That night at the Globe, I could finally see I wasn’t alone. Someone was in fact listening. What’s more, people actually showed up. In fact, a lot of people did. Every group that walked through the doors sparked a wave of relief and excitement within me. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the beginning of a much-needed change.
Bringing more genre diversity to the PNW would also put potential industry benefits on the horizon– although things admittedly get more complicated when money ties into the conversation.
Even so, the smiles and infectious energy that swept the crowd as house music and drum and bass boomed through the Globe dancefloor that night made an important statement: People want to embrace change, and that means there’s more to be gained than lost on all fronts.
Holman hypes the crowds as Axel Boy steps on stage and takes the microphone. Hearing a Bristol accent this far west feels almost unreal, and the novelty animates the crowd.
A smile spreads across Holman’s face as he observes the wall of dancing bodies grooving under the lasers. The night is a hit, and that means profit. This is a small milestone given that success is rarely a guarantee when promoters here book artists that don’t fit the typical mold.
“I book way differently than how I’m sure most promoters do: I book artists I want to see perform,” Holman explains. “But you always have to factor what’s gonna sell tickets and get people hyped to be there. Timing is also key, and because of our small demographic, it’s hard to have many things going on together. ”
The network that Holman and other industry personalities are building is helping the local industry expand it’s reach, and Holman seems optimistic:
“We are blessed that most of our promoters that throw shows in the region work together and communicate to help build each other and our scene as a whole. I think the overall response is good. I have booked many different genres at our old venue, Red Room Lounge as well as The Globe and I am always trying to keep it fresh and different and I feel the turn-outs are great,” Holman says.
With a community willing to pursue change, PNW ravers craving genre diversity can grasp to hope, but getting there requires clearing some hurdles first. According to Holman, the biggest hurdle of all is the risk of short-term financial loss.
Across much of the PNW, dubstep just sells better, and following popular demand still keeps promoters’ hands tied when it comes to integrating genre diversity. What’s more, booking artists who perform genres that are trending elsewhere means competing with larger promoters. That means a higher price tag. These factors alone can keep even willing local promoters stuck in a loop.
“Financial risks are always the main reason for choosing artists. Venues are not cheap to operate or rent. Production costs to throw a show and have individual talented personnel to run lighting, audio, visuals, and lasers, each requires a separate person, professional photographers, professional audio. Artists fees with travel and lodging plus ground transportation and riders costs a lot of money,” says Holman. “I don’t think people really understand all the costs that come with these events. With the costs of travel rising it makes it even harder. You have to sell tickets to keep these shows going.”
Even with all that being said, bringing more genre diversity to PNW dancefloors could really benefit the industry. Connecting smaller fanbases with artists they want to see creates an opportunity for those artists to grow their following in that region.
his would give promoters a wider audience to work with, allowing them to broaden their reach. That means more opportunities to put on events, which means more fans connecting to music they love, more opportunities for artists to find bookings, and of course, there’s profit.
It’s a win-win-win for promoters, artists, and fans alike, and Holman recognizes that the local industry holds the key to making it happen: “I think if you have an established event or company, people will come out because they know it’s going to be a great time no matter what, and that’s what’s important.”
Of course, change always comes with risk, and when consequences involve potential financial losses, it’s understandable that promoters must act with some caution.
Will promoters choose to potentially sacrifice short-term gains for long-term growth? That’s impossible to predict. Even so, it’s all a risk worth taking, and the diverse crowd that came together to support Axel Boy in Spokane that night proved a way forward already exists.
What’s more, while this discussion focuses on genre diversity and the Pacific Northwest, it’s really a discussion about universal values. They may exist out of the limelight, but small communities like Spokane contribute a lot of support to the electronic music industry as a whole, and their voices matter.
When the industry responds to calls for change from within these communities, it makes an investment. Fanbases in the “outskirts” are passionate and loyal like family, and artists and promoters who can win their hearts gain a community that will support them for years to come.
Just as importantly, creating an environment where all members of the dance music community feel heard and welcome means creating a better community for all, and that’s what rave culture is all about.