Aaron Coultate and Will Lynch detail how RA's editorial team will promote racial equity, now and in the future.
Dance music—an imperfect umbrella term we use to refer to anything played by DJs in clubs, including disco, house, techno, jungle, drum & bass, dubstep and so on—is originally Black music. At some point, though, this stopped being self-evident. Today, many people are surprised when they learn about the Black origins of these sounds, a gap in perspective for which RA and other publications bear responsibility.
Our goal here is not to pay lip service to a cause, but to fundamentally shift our focus and rethink our mission as a publication. We're committed to using our reach and resources to empower Black artists and writers, and more generally do everything we can to promote social equity in our scene. The result, we hope, will help to correct, rather than participate in, the whitewashing of this culture.
Most of these changes relate to two questions: which stories do we tell, and who gets to tell them? We know we need to spend more time covering Black artists, and for Black writers and editors to guide our coverage. To achieve the first goal, we will push our writers to stay on top of predominantly Black genres, from club to footwork to grime to whatever new sounds arise in the future, in addition to sounds already central to our coverage, like house and techno.
We will also look harder to discover those sounds. Dance music, like any industry, has structures in place that too often favor privileged and well-connected artists, from the promo services that send us music to the network of booking agencies, clubs and festivals that shape lineups around the world. We will require our writers to always look beyond those structures to find records, artists and (when the pandemic allows us to safely do so) events that are underrepresented and truly independent.
We will dive deeper into the histories of Black dance music that we'd either overlooked or previously covered from a white perspective. An ongoing series of features by Tajh Morris, AKA Turtle Bugg, is aimed at doing just that, the first of which came out in May. We will also launch a series archiving new and existing features telling the histories of these genres from the perspective of the communities where they happened. Our weekly Rewind reviews, which shine light on records from dance music's archives, will have an increased focus on important electronic music from Black communities.
Meanwhile, we will continue using every vacancy in our staff as an opportunity to diversify our team, including senior editing and management positions, staff writer roles and our cast of freelancers. If you're interested in writing for RA, you can read our guide on how to pitch to us.
Granted, this is a challenging time for us to expand our team in any way. Coronavirus has, for the time being, significantly impacted our main sources of revenue. Many RA employees are furloughed or on reduced hours, including editors and other senior staff. In March, we temporarily stopped hiring freelancers. In the last few weeks, though, we've established a budget that will be dedicated to Black writers. We hope that before too long we'll be able to scale this up.
In addition to working with new writers, our staff will provide instruction and mentorship to beginners, both through public writing workshops and on a private basis to anyone interested in writing for RA.
We'd also like to remind everyone of our policy towards racial discrimination on our social media platforms. Discrimination based on race, gender, religion, class, sexuality, nationality, physical appearance or any other kind will not be tolerated. Anyone posting messages that run counter to those values will have their comments deleted and face being banned.
We realize we have a lot of catching up to do. RA has, throughout its history, been a predominantly white organization that viewed this music through a white lens. That's a disservice to our audience and our community, and has clearly hurt our output, limiting the range of perspectives on the site and allowing for awful mistakes like the racist line in our 2019 review of Gottwood festival. We know very well the pain and frustration our shortcomings have caused, both in our community and in our staff. We are deeply sorry for these failures, and are doing our best to learn from them and change course as a publication. We are truly thankful to everyone who has taken the time and energy to hold us accountable over the years, from our colleagues to our critics.
As two white men ourselves, we're aware of how our own privilege has led us to the top of this website's masthead and shaped our perspective and decision-making along the way. In our personal lives and as editors, our intention is to step back and support others who have less power and privilege than us. That's the guiding principle for everything we've outlined here.
To summarise, here are the editorial changes we're committing to:
• We will publish work by at least six new Black writers on RA across July and August, across reviews and featuresWe are also making these more general commitments, with a view to formalising our plans in the coming months:
• At least 30% of individual bylines in RA features in 2020 will come from BIPOC writers
• At least 50% of RA Podcasts in 2020 will come from BIPOC artists
• At least 70% of Rewind reviews for the rest of 2020 to focus on Black electronic music records
• Deeper and more frequent coverage of predominantly Black genres
• A feature series dedicated to telling the underrepresented histories of electronic music
• A major, ongoing historical series dedicated to exploring the origins of key electronic music genres
• Changes to our Style Guide—for instance, capitalising Black when used in a racial, ethnic or cultural context, and ensuring writers do not give undue emphasis to an artist's nationality or ethnicity
• We will publish RA's editorial integrity guidelines by end of August
• More coverage of Black artists, labels and promoters on RAThis is not the sum total of our efforts. We will do more. RA, like so many dance music institutions, will never be able to repay the debt it owes to Black culture and artists, but in all the moves we make going forward, that debt will always be in the front of our minds. These actions are only the beginning of what will be a permanent, ongoing process. If you have any feedback on any of this, please email us at [email protected].
• More Black writers on RA, as freelancers and staff
• More Black representation in senior editorial positions