Rave Culture and the Contemporary Electronic Dance Music Scene.
Sponsored by the University of Delaware.
The purpose of the proposed research was to explore the significance of electronica in youth culture today and its connections to collective identity and positive and negative human agency. The search for collective identity through electronica (or electronic lifestyle) is the result of latter 20th and early 21st century's social, economic, historical and cultural forces. The subculture took shape in the late 1980s and early 1990s at underground rave parties (Reynolds 1996). Numerous social changes have, however, occurred since then to transform this subculture into a mainstream movement, youth-oriented lifestyle and global activity (see Bennett 2000, Bidder 2002; Reynolds 1998; Shuker, 2001)
As electronica has expanded, it has attracted new groups of people and created new genres of music, identities and behaviors. Key questions included: Who and what are the people involved? What explains the subculture’s wide appeal? What are the new subcultural divisions and around what principals are they organized? How does electronica benefit the lives of those involved? When do consequences arise? How are they managed? What can the electronica lifestyle teach us about social change, young adulthood and collective/group identity? These questions comprise the focus of the proposed research project.
The purpose of the proposed research is to explore the significance of electronic dance music (EDM) in youth culture and its connections to individual and collective identity and positive and negative behaviors in London, England.
The search for collective identity through electronic dance music (EDM) is the result of latter 20th and early 21st century’s social, economic, historical and cultural forces. The subculture took shape in the late 1980s and early 1990s at underground rave parties in the U.S. and London (Reynolds 1998).
Numerous social changes have, however, occurred since then to transform this subculture into a mainstream movement, youth-oriented lifestyle and global activity (see Bennett 2001, Reynolds 1998; Hill 2002). For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, a “rave subculture” emerged in the U.S. and in other countries such as England. Raves are all-night dance events attended by many people between 13-25 years of age. Most were held in abandoned warehouses or open fields and were organized illegally, i.e., with improper registration and licensing documents.
A subculture emerged around raves, featuring an ethos of peace, love, unity, and respect (the PLUR doctrine), rooted in community and empathy for others (Hill 2002; Hutson 2000; Reynolds 1998). Rave fans and participants value self-expression via dancing, equality in social and political life, and freedom from rigid social norms (e.g., gender and sexual identification). Activities include all-night dance parties, where individuals dance both independently and in sync with others to a Dj’s “vision” (Hutson 2000; Hill 2002; Bennett 2001; Reynolds 1998). Since its early rave days, use of mood-altering substances (like ecstasy, GHB, and Ketamine) have been part of the subculture (Measham et al. 2001; Hammersley et al. 1999; Moul 1999; Reynolds 1998), helping to facilitate the all-night dance event and the PLUR ethos experienced.
Today, however, the rave scene has given way to a more nightclub-based electronic dance music scene (EDM) featuring an older (18-35 years of age) crowd. The U.S. and England were, perhaps, the first to experience the transition. It followed largely from law enforcement initiatives in both nations that first eliminated illegal events via local noise and zoning ordinances. Second, nightclubs and bars in both the U.S. and England wanted to a piece of the rave scene’s profits and to capitalize on young people’s increasing desire for more music and events. Third, government concern about illegal drug use and alcohol abuse by young people at raves prompted new legislative initiatives. The response has differed dramatically between the U.S. and England, which helps to justify the proposed study. The U.S. has clamped down on the rave scene in a fashion consistent with the War on Drugs (ONDCP 2003). On the other hand, England, has responded with a more harm-reduction-educational campaign focusing on preventing drug and alcohol abuse among young people and helping them reduce the negative health consequences associated with the substances.
As the EDM scene has expanded, it has attracted new groups of people and created new genres of music, identities and behaviors. How does the EDM scene benefit the lives of those involved? When do consequences arise? How are they managed? How are diverse participants (e.g., especially race/ethnicity and gender) involved with and committed to the subcultural scene and how does this diversity impact their experiences? These questions comprise the focus of the proposed research project.
Philadelphia Project Description (Word Document)
London Project Description (Word Document)
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Drugs and Crime at Electronic Dance Music versus Hip Hop Events
Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice.
The project’s objectives are to explore how the cultural ethos, behavioral norms, activities, and individual and group identities (i.e., subcultural phenomena), inherent to the electronic dance music (EDM - trance, house, and techno music) and the hip hop/rap (HH) nightclub scenes in Philadelphia, impact the relationship between alcohol, drugs, and crime, with additional attention to victimization (i.e., the ADC + V link) and to elaborate on how the ADC+V relationship varies by two dimensions: the demographic make-up of participants (e.g., race/ethnicity and gender) and their involvement with and commitment to the subcultures surrounding the respective nightclub scenes.
The study utilizes a multi-faceted ethnographic approach, featuring in-depth interviews and ongoing e-mail communications (for six months) with 50 diverse participants (the unit of analysis) in the electronic dance music (EDM) and hip hop/rap (HH) nightclub scenes in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. It will be triangulated with direct observation of 24 club events, nominated by respondents to provide important organizational structure information of the EDM and HH events. Resultant products include peer-review and conference papers, methodological tools (interview guides and surveys) for future investigation, electronic resources (e.g., web pages and power point presentations) for widespread dissemination of the research findings, and recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners.
Complete Project Description (Word Document)
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Based on our analysis, we foresee three major areas for policy implications for several types of agencies and the administrators and practitioners who work at them.
The first area is for law enforcementwith a focus on mostly public forces rather than private security firms. A second area of recommendations are for private nightclub and bar owners to provide their clientele with a safe clubbing experience while reducing their liability- civil and criminal. Finally, we offer educational and prevention-oriented suggestions for clubbers themselves. The following bullet points below are organized by these three areas.
Recommendations for Local Law Enforcement:
1. We recommend that local law enforcement add routine police patrols outside of bars and nightclubs in the four neighborhoods both during hours of operation and for a few hours after closing. We encourage them to give special attention to secluded areas around the club.
2. We recommend that local law enforcement establish collaborative relationships with club owners, staff, and private security, to establish common security goals and to ensure their success.
3. We also recommend setting up a nightclub crime and victimization task force to accrue expertise with city problems and to provide outreach to clubbers and drinking establishments.
Recommendations for Nightclub and Bar Owners:
1. Club Owners should improve their screening of employees’ – especially bartenders and security-- backgrounds and more closely supervise their work activities to prevent collusion in deviant and criminal activity.
2. Club staff should operate with an authoritative style rather than a more punitive one based in power and machismo. Staff deployment patterns should center on the specific problems happening at the club and on hot spots within it.
3. We recommend additional security and more thorough searchers at the commercial venues for weapons and illegal drugs.
4. We also recommend against drink specials or promotional gimmicks that encourage quick and excessive alcohol consumption
5. We encourage the hiring of bathroom attendants to help cut down on bathroom drug deals and use.
Recommendations for Clubbers:
1. We recommend a city-wide public health campaign to teach about the dangers and risks of clubbing.
2. A city-sponsored website should be constructed to inform clubbers of the dangers and penalties they face from club-based deviance and crime. This page should be linked to all city-wide night-time leisure and tourism pages We also recommend adding content about clubbing risks and dangers to several federal web pages including those at NIJ, ONDCP, SAMSHA, etc.
3. A hotline should be setup-equipped with a toll-free numberto provide clubbers with important information to troubleshoot problems before, during and after clubbing.
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