As a DJ, every time I play, I take the risk of getting covid and infecting others. Here I try to explain why simply not playing is not an option.
A question that has been bothering me for a while: Is it okay to play in front of people when it's obvious that we shouldn't party together, because of the number of covid cases? It is a question of who is responsible and for what.
I see two and a half groups that can take responsibility at public events (and one of them should) – and the DJ is not one of them. First and foremost, we have the government or the political decision-makers. Second, we have the guests.
And there are the venues with some slight responsibility.
But first we have to answer the question: Responsible for what?
As this pandemic has been going on for two years now, we have learnt that we are dealing with a global problem that affects almost all levels of society and severely impacts our social life. It is therefore not surprising that the best and often the only solution is the one that requires the participation of each and every one of us. A collective act. Therefore, each and every one of us must take some responsibility if we are to get this pandemic under control. But how far does this responsibility go? That is what I am trying to discuss in this article.
It is clear to me that the party that has to bear the most responsibility is the policy makers and the government. It is their job to set the rules of the game, especially when there is a situation like this. It is within their competence to say: it is not safe for people to be together in crowded spaces, so we won't allow it for the time being. Of course, this decision must come with support for the companies and workers affected.
Since politics in our latitudes is a people-driven construct, for me the people who attend events like club nights or concerts are the second party in charge. The information about the current situation is out there, even if many are out of the loop. So why risk making yourself and maybe your loved ones sick by going to a club? If we collectively do what we all know is the right thing – by not gathering in clubs – we would help stop the spread of the virus.
Take responsibility and may close for good
And the third group is the venues. The first clubs like Motel Campo in Geneva have closed their doors because it is not possible for them to run their business under the current circumstances. Whether it's because not enough people want to go out because they think it's irresponsible (which is an example of the power the people have) or because too many employees are infected with the virus and therefore the business can't be maintained, I don't know.
But what I have heard from other clubs is that they would prefer to just stay closed, but can't because they don't get support from the government. Even though they feel it is not safe for their guests, the venues are forced to open their doors and offer a programme because that is the only option. Otherwise they will soon have to close for good. Isn't there anything venues can do in this situation?
Yes, there is: Speak up. Use your communication channels, address your concerns and talk about the situation. As a company in our society, the opportunity to make your voice heard is much bigger. There are also interest groups like the Bar & Club Kommission in Zürich or the Clubcomission Berlin that could use their influence to bring the issue to the decision makers.
Why don't I see the DJ in the group that has to take responsibility?
It is clear to me that those who can take responsibility are in power, and when it comes to this pandemic, the power lies with politics and the government. The DJ is too far down that chain. Even if the DJ decided not to play because it is irresponsible to have a party when covid cases are very high, it would not make any difference. The venue would still open its doors, a DJ would play and the guests would dance. The DJ is like the person who works at the bar or the door. It's a job and therefore difficult to just not do it. At the end of the month we all have bills to pay.
Isn't there anything a DJ can do in this situation? Yes, there is: Speak up. Normally DJs are people with an audience. Usually they use that audience to promote their gigs and releases but they could also use that audience to talk about this issue. The problem that it is not safe to have events when so many people get sick every day. Not to mention the risk a DJ takes when performing in front of a heavy-breathing, sweaty crowd.
When we play in a club, we definitely have the option of wearing an FFP2 mask to increase our personal safety from the virus. Certainly a good thing when we play weekly. And those who perform internationally can decide whether to accept a request according to the local situation and, for example, not to perform in countries where Covid is ignored by the government– which should be a no-brainer (hello Zanzibar DJs). And if you’re not vaccinated by choice by now please evaluate your life.
Personally, I decided to take gigs like I used to, because being a DJ is my job. Still, I wish I didn't have to take the risk of getting sick and I wish some people in the position to take responsibility would do their job and do what they have to do.
Words by Dominik André. He writes about DJ culture, music nerd stuff and sometimes shares thoughts about the music business. He runs the record label Subject To Restrictions Discs.