The Hannah Wants debacle showed an ugly side of dance music's online community.
The first had to do with Hannah Wants, a DJ from Birmingham who's had a meteoric rise over the past few years, going from a relative unknown to a regular at big festivals and Ibiza super clubs. On Sunday, the Ibiza Rocks resident Patrick Nazemi posted a video on Facebook that compared "Found The Ground," an upcoming track from Wants, with "Mercy (Boddika's VIP)," a re-rub of a 2012 track by Joy Orbison and Boddika. The two sound very similar played side by side—in the video, now taken down, Nazemi wailed, "It's the same track! It's the same track!" Wants responded by saying that "Found The Ground" was inspired by "Mercy," which she's been playing in clubs and on the radio since it was released.
The online reaction was swift and brutal. "The audacity of the woman!" someone wrote on Facebook. "She's horse shit. Pure and simple," said another. It got worse from there: "Hahahahah what a shalow [sic] cunt." "Ugly tart." "Fake rat." "Hannah wants a good smack in the head."
Most comments were less abusive but still heated. Our post in The Feed, eventually followed by news updates, has racked up nearly 300 comments at the time of writing, all but a few of them forcefully critical of Wants. Anyone presenting a softer stance—for instance, that Wants' open support of "Mercy" makes an intentional rip-off unlikely, or that, as a new producer, she'd unconsciously mimicked one of her favorite tracks—was ridiculed and aggressively down-voted. Someone took it upon themselves to update her Wikipedia page, describing her as a "plagiarist" whose instruments include the copy-and-paste function. At least one person specifically defended his right to "shame" Wants.
The second incident caused less of a brouhaha. On Wednesday, RA reported that the Italian producer Roberto Clementi accused David Wolstencroft, AKA Trus'me, of plagiarism. Clementi had sent Wolstencroft stems for a remix that never panned out. Some time later, the stems were used in "Red Sun," the closing track of Trus'me's album from last year, Planet 4. Wolstencraft admits he used Clementi's stems, but says it was an accident—an "oversight of not keeping track of certain elements that were used."
As I read this story, I thought to myself, "This will be interesting." I knew Wolstencroft would get less flak than Wants, him being an artist generally more admired in our community. But I was still surprised. On Facebook and on RA, the vast majority of readers let Wolstencroft off the hook. In his mealy-mouthed apology, Wolstencroft struck people as trustworthy—never mind that this was his second intellectual property dispute in recent memory, after he appropriated a photo of Emily Ratajkowski for the original cover of Treat Me Right. Wolstencroft, it seemed, had made an honest mistake—nothing to make a fuss over.
These incidents present an extraordinary A and B. Both artists released music whose originality was questioned. Both, in different ways, said they hadn't intended to do anything wrong. In response, Wants received a deluge of scorn across numerous sites and social media platforms. Wolstencroft, meanwhile, enjoyed the support of his community, who mostly directed their criticisms at his accuser, Clementi.
Naturally, there are differences between these two cases—most importantly, the gender of the accused. The only women I've seen wading into this mess have done so to support Wants, or at least to try and temper the mood of the discussion. As usual, they are in the distinct minority. In other words, what you've got here is hundreds of men heaping scorn on one woman, in some cases repeatedly coming back for more.
Some said it was Wants' response that set them off, but the sneering had begun before she'd made her statement. In fact, she was ridiculed before anyone even heard "Found The Ground": just look at our news story on her Fabriclive mix. Another common refrain has been that if a man had done this, he'd get the same treatment. But we've seen the general reaction when men are called out for plagiarism. It tends to be pretty chill. Some make an effort to see the situation from both sides, while others muse on the elusive nature of originality itself. Last October, when we reviewed Pearson Sound's "Thaw Cycle," no one felt compelled to comment on the B-side's unauthorized sample of Sleeparchive, which had caused a brief drama between the two artists.
More importantly, I find that retort—that we dish out our shame evenly—depressingly grim. There are people in the world who genuinely deserve shame, people who harm others for no good reason. Whatever you think of "Found The Ground," it hasn't hurt anyone, though its backlash has surely hurt Hannah Wants. One Facebook commenter smilingly suggested she commit suicide.
Ultimately, though, such ugly comments are only a small part of the problem. Many of Wants' critics were making what they believed to be logical, necessary arguments. But even the most level-headed detractors need to consider what they're doing. No matter the merit of the comment, they're contributing to an avalanche of disapproval against someone they don't know over an issue that doesn't personally affect them. Like it or not, they're joining the ranks of the abusers, helping to make women feel unwelcome in this community.
In the past few years, the internet has become an arena of brutal vitriol, much of it directed at people who don't deserve it, the worst of it reserved for women. This is always disturbing to watch, and for me it was particularly upsetting to see our community have at it so lustily, seemingly thrilled to have a morsel of red meat to tear into. Even if these people feel they have an important point to make and don't intend to do any harm, they should think about the broader context of what they're doing, and consider whether the opinion needs to be made publicly.
Dance music is still a boy's club. Women are very much in the minority. If a horde of men gleefully ostracize a female artist for any reason, they're the ones who deserve shame.