This story is over 5 years old.

Why Telling Musicians to "Stick to Music" is Dumb and Toxic

Stop telling musicians to be quiet and start telling them to get loud.
Image by DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Calculated posts and polished Instagrams are par for the course for DJs and musicians on social media. But when a DJ dares to stray from the usual fodder, as recent events would suggest, they're often inundated with negative responses telling them, in so many words, to stay out of politics. Recently, Dubfire, Seth Troxler, and Guti have become the latest to bear the brunt of naysayers and hecklers after publicizing their political views online.


But if you're the kind of person who's probably said aloud: "I don't believe in the Republican party or the Democratic party, only the techno party," take the headphones off and listen closely. In today's abnormal climate, to have a problem with DJs using their platform to fight for freedom and the betterment of others is nonsensical. Being angered by them leveraging their visibility by defending and upholding the civil liberties we all deserve is to be on the wrong side of history.

How dare an infinitesimal DJ brain process anything other than a Redbull vodka, some cocaine, or a kick-drum?

The President of the United States—a former reality television star with no previous governing experience—is a narcissistic authoritarian who has tied a noose around the neck of our democracy. While running for office, Trump mocked the disabled, called Mexicans rapists, and boasted about grabbing a woman "by the pussy," sans consent, due to his delusional celebrity status. Once Trump secured his all access credential to the White House on January 20, he picked white supremacist Stephen Bannon as the Chief Strategist; plucked Jeff Sessions—a man deemed too racist to hold a federal judgeship in the 1980s—as the Attorney General; and nabbed Betsy DeVos—a billionaire Republican donor with no experience in education—as the Education Secretary.

Despite President Trump's promises to unify us, America has never been so divided. Daily protests, job walkouts,and public outcries have become the norm. The Trump administration has raged a war on women, minorities, government officials, and the media, the latter of which the Trump administration refers to as the "opposition party." Millions of Americans, especially those who are historically marginalized and disenfranchised, are left trembling in fear over who he'll target next. (An unreliable source tells me it's DJs who still play trance.)


Dubfire at the Women's March

In January, Dubfire went to the Women's March on Washington, which drew a crowd three times the size of Trump's inauguration. The DJ posted photos of himself and others at the march to his Instagram, where he's amassed over two hundred thousand followers. As it goes, the comment section quickly turned into an alphabet soup of slurs. "Dude, seriously, stick to music. We love you for your music, not your politics," one detractor sneered at him. "Fuck you," another angrily commented on not one, but both of his Women's March photos.

Guti was chastised in mid-January after tweeting, "Where was Obama when his military tortured Chelsea Manning? Why Snowden is not pardoned? Show show show." Following the disapproval he received, Guti fired back with a follow-up tweet at his critics: "Some people attacking me for showing my political views??? saying i am an artist and i should stick with music and stop political posts." Guti's second tweet received praise. Carl Craig sent a motivating Twitter response, "Just do u," while a fan chimed in, "Artists have the platform to make their voices heard. Music should be political, it always has been."

Seth Troxler seldom shies away from using his platform to be candid and brash. His Twitter page even comes with a disclaimer: "I work with music but this is me my opinions, raw and truthful. We are living in extremely troubling times and I'll be using this space to discuss these issues." Two days after the election, while the world mourned the loss of Barack Obama, Seth tweeted: "It's a bit dark but I'm kind of excited to watch America burn, this whole Trump thing has calmed me in a way." Somebody gratingly replied, "Your candidate didn't win so watching the country burn is ok? Stick to making music."


All of the negative reactions against these DJs, no matter how they were worded, dripped with the same obstructive narrative: stick to making music. It's as if the naysayers were thinking, how dare an infinitesimal DJ brain process anything other than a Redbull vodka, some cocaine, or a kick-drum?

DJs and musicians are just like the rest of us: they're sometimes tone deaf while singing in the shower, unknowingly backwash when taking a swig of water, and have sharted in a fresh pair of white Calvin Klein's after being too hungover to make it to the bowl. We don't tell lawyers to stick to lawyering or doctors to stick to doctoring, so the stigma surrounding DJs—who have eyes and ears on them everlastingly, or at least until they go on a career-demolishing homophobic rant—participating in political discourse is perplexing. DJs and musicians are not puppets born solely to entertain on command. After a gig, they're in their hotel rooms, alone, scrolling through social media wondering, like the rest of us, why the United States is being overrun by politicians who collude with Vladimir Putin, think people can pray the gay away, and deny climate change.

When the world is thrown a curveball and the fuckery of looming fascism is now a reality, a DJ's voice is just as powerful as their record collections.

Of course, what separates DJs from doctors, lawyers, and other ordinary peasants is their platforms, and thus their capability to expound on their views to the masses. It's important to remember that the public pedestal of fame is powerful—Donald Trump's stint as reality television star partially helped him secure the highest office in the land. A DJ's role remains the same as it was during the Barack Obama era: play well, and offer escapism to many.


But we're in the midst of a constitutional crisis. A pussy-grabbing orange buffoon is dismantling our country as we know it. Do these atypical circumstances give entertainers the green light to stand atop their soapbox to inform and mobilize their following? Yeah, it fucking does. When the world is thrown a curveball and the fuckery of looming fascism is now a reality, a DJ's voice is just as powerful as their record collections.

Photo by Marc Nozell/Flickr

However, there are artists in the limelight who have remained silent and shy. While I understand the desire to not convey a negative message, alienate fans, or be controversial, taking a complacent, apolitical stance while shit hits the fan all around you is no longer acceptable. Being a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent is irrelevant when innocent lives are being exploited and discriminated against, as we've seen with the immigration ban.

We're in a dystopian time where it's come down to whether or not DJs with the ability to enact change stand up for the basic, fundamental rights of those around them—the very same ones that buy their music and tickets to their live shows. Silence may seem like a neutral approach to the issues at hand, but it's not—it's a handshake with the oppressor; a compliance with the tyrants. Ignorance is not always bliss.

If you're a musician with a platform, you must realize that is a privilege in itself. A vast sea of diverse individuals from all walks of life are looking to you, and you hold the authority needed to make a difference. Stand up, and be loud and courageous for those who are too oppressed, scared, or tormented to do so. Demand equality, encourage peace within all communities, and be tolerant of others in the grim face of fascism that's staring into our eyes. If nimrods on the internet tell you to stick to music, tell them to sit on it and rotate.

The mantra of dance music echoes what America is in dire need of right now: love and inclusivity for all. (Unless you don't wear deodorant or regularly spill drinks on the people around you at the club… then get the fuck out of here.)

Follow Austin Gebbia on Twitter