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10 Scandals and Shitshows that Rocked the Dance Music World in 2016

From Kanye beefing with Deadmau5 on Twitter, to Verboten’s fall from grace, THUMP runs down the biggest stories of the year.

by Anna Codrea-Rado
Dec 14 2016, 8:25pm

Screengrab of Deadmau5 and Kanye West from YouTube

It's a truth now universally acknowledged: 2016 was a catastrophe of a year. The UK voted to leave the European Union, Donald Trump won the US election, and a string of beloved stars passed away. The world of electronic music and club culture was no exception to the endless parade of disappointments. From clubs that fell from grace, to misjudged marketing campaigns, here are the 10 biggest scandals and shitshows that rocked the dancefloor this year.

1. Verboten closed, reopened, and closed again

At the beginning of the year, the Williamsburg club's staff and investors accused its owners, Jen Schiffer and John Perez, of fraud and financial mismanagement. The once-beloved venue then rollercoastered through a turbulent few months involving allegations of sexual harassment and unpaid taxes, and culminating in the owners filing for bankruptcy. By the summer, the club had closed for good. Eventually, it was auctioned off to former Pacha NY owner Eddie Dean, who renamed the club in homage to a German police series: Schimanski.

2. DJ Mag didn't include any women on its 25th anniversary cover

2015 was a big year in electronic music journalism—DJ Mag turned 25. To mark the veteran publication's silver jubilee, its editorial team ran a special issue in April celebrating the 25 DJs and producers they considered to be defining pioneers of dance music. The list featured big-hitters like Vanilla Ice, James May, and David Guetta—oh, and it also included zero women. Not one.

The next day, DJ Mag's editor Carl Loben responded to a tidal wave of backlash with a lengthy explanation of the criteria the editors used to determine its pioneers. Eight paragraphs in, he finally apologized: "For that reason, I now believe it was a mistake not to include any women on our 25th birthday cover. It's not a great look to have such a 'sausage-fest' (a load of forty- and fifty-something blokes), especially now that increasing numbers of women are DJing, producing, promoting, managing, running labels and so on more than ever." Too little, too late.

3. Marshmello trolled his fans at Electric Daisy Carnival

In the middle of his EDC Las Vegas set in June, masked producer and Joytime Collective-affiliate Marshmello took off his white plastic bucket to reveal that he was—much to everyone's surprise—Tiesto. However, after much confusion and digital hand wringing, it all turned out to be the one big troll, and his fans were not amused.

Photo of Marshmello courtesy of Circle Talent Agency

4. YACHT leaked their own "sex tape," and the internet was not impressed

In May, pop duo YACHT launched a misguided marketing campaign for a song called "I Wanna Fuck You Til I'm Dead." Members Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans claimed that a sex tape of the pair had been leaked by an unknown party; in response, they announced they had set up a website to sell it themselves, hoping to harness the violation of their privacy in their favor.

THUMP smelled the rat early on, but no one was prepared for the collective reeling the internet did when it all turned out to a big hoax. There was no sex tape; it was all just a scheme to promote the video for "I Wanna Fuck You Til I'm Dead," which YACHT subsequently released via Pornhub. Even Kim Kardashian was pissed.

Photo of YACHT courtesy of artist

5. Chicago county officials decided to tax nightclubs more because it deemed DJing not as culturally worthy as ballet and opera

During the summer, Illinois' Cook County, which includes the city of Chicago, faced a philosophical quandary when a judge questioned whether according to a local tax ordinance, genres like rap, hip-hop, and dance music could be classified as "fine art." In the county, live performance venues are subject to a 3% amusement tax on ticket sales, but are exempt from the ordinance if the nature of the performance falls under the law's vague definition of "fine arts" (the ballet and opera, for example, are exempt).

As a result, the county tried to go after two nightclubs, Evil Olive and Beauty Bar, for over $200,000 in unpaid amusement taxes. Backlash from the local music community ensued, and in October, the county reversed its position.

6. A festival in the Netherlands opened a fake Berghain

A music festival in the Netherlands made the ultimate mockery of clubbers' obsession with renowned Berlin techno superclub Berghain this summer. At Beyond in the Velsen Valley, organizers hosted the "Berghenk Experience," a tent with a facade built to look like Berghain. Revelers stood in line for hours, only to be rejected one by one at the door. But don't worry if you didn't get in—the DJ playing, the Self, posted a clip to Instagram of the inside the fake club, and it was nothing to write home about.

Photo of Berghenk from Reddit.

7. The Brooklyn Mirage got shut down

After a successful run of gigs at outdoor party oasis The Brooklyn Mirage last summer, Cityfox returned this year with even bigger plans. Opening in a new location just down the block in Bushwick, the new outdoor space had more bars, a bigger dancefloor—and more toilets. But the fabled venue didn't get off to a good start, with the team failing to secure a liquor permit for the opening night and getting busted for selling booze anyway. In the space of two weeks, the Mirage was shut down, reopened, then shut down again. It didn't reopen all summer.

8. Kanye and Deadmau5 beefed on Twitter

It was inevitable that one day this would happen—on March 2, Kanye West and Deadmau5 went at each on Twitter. The feud started after Yeezy posted on an image on Twitter of his web browser which had an open tab for the Pirate Bay, leading to rumors that West was allegedly pirating software. West's Tidal partner, Deadmau5, called him out for the alleged digital infraction, and a highly public game of cat and mouse ensued. Yeezy invited Deadmau5 to come and play at his daughter's birthday party, quipping, "My daughter loves Minnie Mouse." Deadmau5 clapped back, telling Yeezy to "perform at your own daughters parties. You're a bigger fuckin clown than anyone I know."

9. Jack Ü scooped up all the Grammys, then sorta tanked their performance of "Where Are Ü Now?"

The 58th Grammys held in February were another, predictable washout for electronic music. Jack Ü scooped up major wins in the electronic categories, which, while deserved, was to be expected. What wasn't expected, however, was the bizarre live performance of "Where Are Ü Now?". Diplo alternated between hammering at a keyboard and bashing the drums, while Skrillex ripped on an electric guitar; all the while backing a crooning Bieber. The absurdity the trio trying to render the song a rock performance washed over the Grammy's audience like a lukewarm coffee.

10. SFX finally went bankrupt

To say EDM giant SFX Entertainment had a rocky 2015 is to put it mildly. After a period of rapid expansion, buying up numerous electronic music ticketing and events companies, the bloated conglomerate formerly owned by Robert Sillerman faced a class-action suit, had failed attempts at debt restructuring, and suffered plummeting stock prices. In what felt like the perfect metaphor for the EDM bubble bursting, the company eventually filed for bankruptcy in early February.

Anna Codrea-Rado is THUMP's News Editor. She's on Twitter.

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