Meet the Artists that are Changing the Direction of DJ Riders

We chat with BLOND:ISH, Hannah Wants, Plastician, Krakota, and salute to learn more about how they are switching up the ways clubs and promoters look at DJ riders.

14 min
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Oct 6, 2022
·
By
Jake Hirst

The DJ rider has changed a lot over the years. Whereas it was once a case of the higher your rank, the more lavish your DJ rider could be (we’re talking expensive bottles and outlandish requests), things are moving in a more positive direction. In recent times, we’ve seen a growing contingent of DJs going against the grain with an added sense of responsibility in their riders. No more Grey Goose. No more Moet. We’re talking humble music artists including clauses in their riders with the intention to actively improve the scene through their actions. From motivations to create a more inclusive and sustainable scene to DJs connecting with promoters in interesting ways that go further than a typical business relationship, there are music artists changing the direction of DJ riders with creative ideas. Beatportal has picked out five artists doing exactly this through different approaches.

BLONDISH DJ Rider

BLOND:ISH – saying Bye Bye to single-use plastics

When it comes to club shows, environmental impact often gets overlooked (despite music festivals having more focus on this area). But there are music artists using their DJ riders as a means to increase the noise surrounding the conversation all clubs, promoters and artists should be having regarding sustainability at music shows. One of these is BLOND:ISH, and in 2018 the Canadian-born artist launched her Bye Bye Plastic foundation as a way of creating “awareness and bigger conversations about sustainability, and how we can create social and environmental impact in our scene,” BLOND:ISH reveals. This led to the launch of an official Eco-Rider, which encourages others in the industry to pledge their loyalty to creating a sustainable future for music events without single-use plastics.

“As artists, we can use our position and voice to make a positive change – and that’s what Bye Bye Plastic’s Eco-Rider does,” BLOND:ISH tells Beatportal. “Bye Bye Plastic’s Eco-Rider is a kind request to events and promoters to not provide single-use plastic items in the artist green room or DJ booth. There’s a focus on plastic water bottles, cups, straws, food ware & cutlery.”

BLOND:ISH is known to be an artist who inspires others, and in four years, Bye Bye Plastic’s Eco-Rider has spearheaded significant change in dance music with over 1500 artists pledging to adopt the rider at their shows, including Adam Beyer, Eats Everything, Jamie Jones, Hot Since 82 and Peggy Gou. It’s a positive movement BLOND:ISH hopes will continue to gain momentum with more people taking the first step.

“We’re seeing more musicians turning to Bye Bye Plastic because of the Eco-Rider itself. We’re now expanding beyond the dance music scene by working on partnerships with the likes of Gigwell – which will enable us to share the Eco-Rider with over 65,000 musicians across all genres. We can’t wait to see what kind of change this creates in the future.”

You can learn more about Bye Bye Plastic’s Eco-Rider here.

Hannah Wants DJ Rider

Hannah Wants – embracing sobriety

It’s no secret DJ riders stereotypically involve booze – especially expensive bottles dusted off from the top shelf. However, alcohol isn’t the core of every rider. We’re witnessing an increasing amount of DJs embracing sobriety. Hannah Wants is one of them, and she went sober as a result of her unhealthy habits at shows.

“I’ve been in this game professionally for over 12 years and have been involved in my fair share of partying with drink, drugs, hotel afters, no sleep, and the worst airport hangovers you could imagine,” Hannah shares. “But there came a point where I thought – what the fuck am I doing? My physical and mental health was suffering and my output and productivity wasn’t what it could be.”

This led Hannah to try a no-alcohol approach, and it has provided the artist with a renewed perspective. “It’s kind of wild when you think about it – in what other profession are alcohol and drugs so normalised?” Hannah says. “My mindset is shifting to the point where I’m preferring to be sober in the rave. Nothing beats waking up with a full memory of the night before and knowing you haven’t poisoned your beautiful lil body.”

But it’s not just a clear head that is benefitting Hannah. It’s also the fact she can now dedicate her rider to more positive ventures – one of which is asking promoters to instead donate to her mum’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rescue charity. “As an extra incentive to stay sober, I’ve incorporated an optional donation to a charity that’s close to my heart,” Hannah reveals. “I’m an animal lover, so it’s a nice feeling knowing that by me going to work sober I can help some dogs in need.”

Plastician DJ Rider

Plastician – connecting with promoters in fresh ways

DJ riders can often become a bit too serious – especially when they reel off a list of expectations and demands for promoters. Plastician has taken a more informal approach with his rider in recent years – inserting some light-hearted fun into the shows he plays by asking promoters for pictures of animals doing human activities. Bizarre? Yes. Brilliant? Absolutely!

“It’s a bit of fun that started after a gig in Austria where there were pictures of animals doing sports dotted backstage,” Plastician recalls. At the time, he was talking to other DJs about their riders and realised some of them were “adding requests so they’d know the promoter had read it”. This led the grime and dubstep artist to start asking promoters for a picture of animals doing a sport or job.

Alongside entertaining the artist when he finds them in drawers and cupboards at home, it’s a rider request helping Plastician connect with promoters and gigs on a more personal level beyond the standard business relationship. “It’s the perfect ice breaker, except when I find out the promoter has been stressing about it all day,” Plastician jokes. “That usually leads to an apology on my behalf, but most promoters know it’s just a bit of fun allowing us to connect instantly, while setting a nice tone for the gig.”

When asked about his favourite memory, the artist is keen to point out the picture of a dog wearing a Terrorhythm shirt on a skateboard. “That was in Seattle if my memory serves me correctly. The promoter asked if I’d be up for making it into a contest, so we gave merch and guestlist to the promoter’s next party to the person who brought the best photo. That was the winner and I kept it!”

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Krakatoa DJ Rider

Krakota – supporting local music artists

As artists grow, it can be difficult to stay in touch with new music – especially up-and-coming talent. That’s why we’re seeing more DJs using their rider as a tool to connect with local artists in the areas they’re playing – opening the door to new tracks and names they might not be familiar with. Krakota is one of these DJs. “In 2014, I decided to start asking promoters to curate a USB of music from new artists,” he explains. “Around this time, I’d started playing more shows in the UK and abroad, and people would often ask me how I got signed in the first place, and if they could send me music.”

This influx of interest is what led Krakota to come up with the “unusual rider addition” in the hope it would provide undiscovered and unsigned acts with a platform for exposure. Considering a DJ rider is “basically a list of demands”, Krakota felt the positive gesture would “give local artists an opportunity to physically give me their demos, and where possible, connect them with the right label or provide feedback.”

As an established drum and bass artist with releases on Sleepless Music, UKF and Hospital Records, Krakota recognises his ability to positively impact the next generation by utilising his experience and connections. It’s a motivation stemming from the artist’s own introduction to the D&B scene in 2011, which was prompted by intervention from S.P.Y. “He sent one of my tracks to Tony Colman at Hospital Records and I got an unexpected call from Tony a few days later,” Krakota remembers. “That’s how I started working with Hospital. I appreciated it so much back then, so now I’m trying to help new artists in the same way.”

Salute DJ Rider

salute – creating a more inclusive scene

salute is an artist who has been making a big impact on the house music scene with their upbeat creations, and now they’re hoping to make a different (but just as important) impact through their DJ rider. Earlier this year, salute revealed plans to include a diversity rider in their bookings – stipulating to promoters that at least one person (or 30% of performers) playing on the same stage as them should be from an underrepresented and/or marginalised group. If a promoter doesn’t adhere to this, then salute won’t play the show. It’s a brave stance, but a necessary one.

“My goal is to help uplift talented people who wouldn’t usually get these opportunities,” salute points out. “The ‘there aren’t enough women, LGBTQ+ or Black DJs to book’ excuse is a boring cop-out.” This excuse of ignorance is one we’ve heard too many times, when really, promoters aren’t looking hard enough. It’s a situation salute has first-hand experience of with “promoters putting their mates on line-ups to support me” instead of booking “an amazing womxn DJ who lives in the city.”

Lack of diversity in dance music is a conversation that has been growing louder over recent years, but not enough people push active change. This is why diversity riders are crucial to the progression of the scene, and it’s the drive behind many artists, including salute, adopting them. “Through my inclusion rider, I hope I can give at least one marginalised DJ in every city I perform the chance to show a crowd what they’re all about,” salute says. “I want more Black kids and young adults to see people who look like them on stages in clubs and festivals. I cannot tell you how much of a difference it would have made to me when I started producing music thirteen years ago!”

Not every artist knows where to start with diversity riders, but through better education and awareness, salute feels the scene can make significant progress. “There’s definitely a willingness among DJs to do their part, and it’s just a matter of letting people know this is something they can easily implement too.”

Jake Hirst is a freelance writer living in Bristol, UK, who has previously been published in UKF, DJ Mag, Data Transmission and Ticket Arena. A certified drum & bass head, you can keep up to date with his writing on Instagram.

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