Two Local DJs Upset At This Year's Midi Electronic Stage Booking
by Brian Offenther
Yesterday it came to my attention that there was some controversy being generated by Shanghai's DJ Mia and others regarding the Electronic Stage at the upcoming Midi Festival. Her comments, along wih those by others in agreement and disagreement, received a lot of attention on social media like Facebook and Weibo.
I asked Mia to tell us what happened. Here's what she said (edited for grammar, clarity, updated information, and to address general readers in Shanghai).
I was shocked, disappointed and angry when I saw the lineup of the electronica stage of the upcoming Midi Festival this year.
I have been playing at Midi since 2010, and for every MIDI then on, and they chose to give me the first time slot on Sunday. I would of said nothing if the DJs who played after me are the ones who had been in the scene in Shanghai for years, who have worked hard to build up the dance music scene. But down the program, I saw names I don't even know, or otherwise international artists.
So I called the music director and asked for the reason behind this whole lineup. The reason he gave me is because I play deep house. I told him, “Are you telling me if I played hard techno then you are going to put me at the best time slot, because I do play techno and minimal and you know that.” Of course I was being sarcastic. Besides, deep house is one of the hottest genre in EDM now. A lot of amazing underground EDM artists are producing and playing deep house in big music festivals all around the world. Using that as an excuse is a joke to me.
I heard this has happened to some DJs at the last Midi as well, so I feel there's a need for me to expose this. I refuse to work for someone who doesn't respect the artists and the audience. I believe there's a serious ass kissing competition going on on the lineup list.
There are many great local EDM artists that are not even on the list, such as Mau Mau, The Acid Pony Club, Teasy, Alex Marta, Razor, Santochino, STD, Void, Cha Cha, and many others...these artists worked really hard to build up this scene in Shanghai! When I asked them so why aren't they on there, the organizer said ''The problem in Shangai is because of these 'DJ gangs' that won't allow any newcomers in so that's why the scene never grows...and the DJs that you don't know on the lineup, some of them actually have years of experiences in DJing.'' So I said:
''Really, maybe your music director should remember who booked him when he was a nobody and gave him chances to play at my parties! About those 'we don't know who they are DJs' you are telling me as long as I have years of experience I can just show up in town and play at the big music festivals without earning any respect from the people in the scene first? So you are telling me if I go to Barcelona now I can just play for Sonar? If I move to Berlin I'm just gonna play at Berghain? I worked for you guys for years, if I'm a bad DJ I believe no one will back me up for this, but if this is what I'm getting for working hard for you guys, then no thank you!”
And the real funny thing is afterwards the music director is blaming the organizer, saying he has no control over the lineup and the organizer blamed the music director that put the list together without confirming with her before sending it to Midi. I think maybe they should stop wasting their energy on telling me this BS that I know for a fact is not true. Instead, they should put more energy on how to do things right!
After negotiating with the music director for an hour, he said the best he can do is to move my spot to the first one on the first day! Really?! Like, what's the difference? So I told them please give my spot to some other ass kissing champ because I think they would love to play for air, or just to put their name on it. So, I announced on my Facebook and Weibo that I won't be playing for Midi and the whole reason behind it. I'm so thankful that all I got positive responses from people.
I've been posting this on my FB and Weibo for half a day now, with 50 “Like” on FB so far, and many positive comments. Almost 7,000 people has read my post on Weibo and many have left positive comments as well. The people working for Midi this year said people in the Midi organization were angry about what I did and ask the organizer to contact me to take down the post on Weibo, and not to compare it with the Strawberry Music Festival, which I never did. If they have read my post carefully enough, all I said is I'm pulling out because of the unfairness of the lineup of Midi, and for those who wanted to see me at an out door music festival, I will be still playing for Strawberry Music Festival. I did not tell anyone not to go to Midi. Of course there are still are a lot respectable artists that are in the program (at Midi), and please support them as well. All I did was say the facts. If they don't like the facts to be exposed, they should probably not have done it.
Here is the whole story. We will still do great parties and together make Shanghai a better place to party. Big thanks for everyone's understanding and support!
DJ Mia then solicited DJ Thomas Cher for comment. Here's what he wrote (edited for grammar, clarity, updated information, and to address general readers in Shanghai).
The Midi Festival electronic stage is always a bit messy, but that's normal. It's a big festival, and there a lot of things to do. But this year might win the what-the-f*ck award.
No DJs, that has been contacted earlier by the organizers got any news about the Midi line up for weeks. Nobody called or emailed us to see if we were okay and/or were available with the time slots they 'd like to give us.
Suddenly the new "music director" put online the final line up on Facebook! I was a bit shocked I have to say, because I have played several time at Midi and the JZ festival, and such a thing has never happened before. I saw he put me at 1 pm when the audience is not around. He told me, as he told Mia, it's because the music style is more suitable for this time. That is quite hilarious when you see the line up he came up with. Don't get me wrong, there a are also good DJs in the line up. But it's very far from being a good representation of what the Shanghai electronic scene is today.
Anyway, I told the new "music director" if he wanted me to play at 1 pm he just would have had to ask me if I am okay with it. He could have simply told me, "Sorry, but there are a lot of DJs, there are no good time slots for you this year," and I could have simply said, "Okay, I understand. No worries if I'm not playing for this time and will play the next one.
"After all, we are human, and I can understand he wants some of his friends to play. I'm not greedy, but I can't accept people just using my name and putting it on the flyer without even confirming anything with me.
At this point, I felt he was confused. He said he was sorry, and tried to change the line up and give me a bit better time slot. But then i realize several DJs were as upset as I was, and were ready to just cancel the gigs. So we did !
At this point, I knew there were no way to come back to my decision, because the organizers will of course feel embarrassed and try to get some DJs back in by proposing the time slots of the other canceled gigs...we need to stand together and hope nobody will change sides.
And now, the only way that our actions make sense is that the media say loud what everybody deeply thinks.
After receiving these comments from DJs Mia and Thomas Cher, it came to my attention that some of the DJs that had announced they were pulling out of the Midi Festival had reconsidered. We asked Mia and Thomas Cher to comment on this. Here's what Thomas Cher said (edited for grammar, clarity, and to address general readers in Shanghai).
What I mean by stand together is not taking each other time slots. For example, if they were offering me the time slot that [Name of DJ Retracted] took for Midi, there will be no way I'll accept it, because it would be like I betrayed her.
Now, if some DJs finally accept to play at the same time slots that was initially planned, why not, it's totally acceptable.
Everybody makes his own choice, and at the end of the day, we are just the addition of all the choices we have made in the past.
I'm also open to communicating with the Midi organizers. I am not at war against them, and actually I have a pretty good relationship with [Midi organizer's name retracted] the boss of electronic stage, and she understands my decision and is not angry against me. But for this time, they already have their line up and, for sure, I am not going to take the time slots of the other DJs that cancel so I'm not gonna play.
I think this whole drama is going to be positive for the next festival.
I then solicited Midi organizers for comment. This response came from Steve Dowler (edited for grammar, clarity, and to address general readers in Shanghai).
As one of the main contributors to last fall's Midi Electronic Music Festival, I worked very closely with the people who were contracted this year by Midi to organize the electronic stage for this Spring's Midi Music Festival. While my focus is usually on sponsors and vendors, I am reasonably exposed to what is happening on the DJ stage while it is being planned (all be it more so then than now).
I remember very clearly a similar issue with one or two of the DJs at the last festival. A couple of very talented DJs dropped out because they were not happy with how the line up was created. I remember many stressed-out conversations brainstorming about how to make everyone happy when everyone wanted a later time slot and no one wanted to play early.
We went back and forth about what was more important. Was it more important that we played the people with bigger names and more experience last, or was it more important to control the rhythm and flow of music? What we decided after rounds and rounds of conversations was that ultimately it didn't make sense to put three DJs that played the same genre of music back to back, even if they were the three best DJs on the stage that day. There had to be a build up of energy, a peak, and finally a release where people could relax and go buy drinks, use the restroom or whatever.
I understand that the argument could be made that you could control the energy of the crowd in a similar way by doing some sort of a 2, 1, 3, combo (by rank of crowd appeal and recognition). The issue therein still lies that different styles of music do hold different kinds of energy. To make the most extreme of comparisons, a roots reggae vibe would be very relaxed and euphoric whereas something like heavy metal would be very high energy in-your-face kind of stuff. And it continues throughout the spectrum of electronic music as well (Moombahton vs Drumstep, etc.). I'm not saying anyone has argued this point but I'm simply playing devil's advocate.
Now I am not personally familiar with Thomas and his experience in the scene, unfortunately, but I do know Mia. I have the utmost respect for her and have seen her rock shows out here with no problem stealing the spotlight. She's an incredible DJ and a cool person. I personally booked her to play the Midi DJ stage after-party on May 4th, which even after talking with her today, she is still scheduled to play at alongside Dave K and Ben Huang.
I do understand where she is coming from. Her logic of not just being able to jump easily into a good slot at Sonar if you just moved to Barcelona, or in Berghain if you're new to Berlin, definitely holds water and is not something I will even try to argue with. Mia has paid dues out here and has quite a following to show for it. I can say though from someone organizing the event's perspective, that a festival is better with people there. The earlier the people are there, the better the environment is for everyone who comes after them and so on.
At least with regards to Midi Electronic Festival, the consensus was that by putting a couple of the bigger more talented people up front, we had hoped to draw people out earlier and thereby improve the overall experience of the festival for everyone (a music festival organizer's number one priority). Now, is this everything that was involved in making the decisions of the line up this Spring? I couldn't be the one to tell you, as I personally was much less involved this go around, but I can tell you I am sure from my experience working closely with this year's team contracted by Midi to organize the electronic stage, that it likely played a very large part. I hope that helps.
I consider myself a proud part of the Shanghai music scene. As the scene is small, it is impossible to cover any event completely impartially. Still, I have made the greatest efforts to cover this story with fairness and sensitivity. If you have any comments, feel free to leave them below, or write me a private email at email@example.com... I value your feedback.