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For decades, the electronic music scene has been ripe for acceptance and self-expression without judgment. As a result, fans, producers, and their teams represent all identities and races. However, there has been increasing disillusionment in the lack of diversity in live shows and tour lineups. There exists a solution that artists and teams can implement: inclusion riders.

Inclusion Rider
NotLö, a queer woman, performing live.

What is an inclusion rider?

An inclusion rider is a contractual clause/stipulation that requires a certain level of diversity in a production/show. For artists, this would imply that, at the very least, the lineup for a show includes people from marginalized groups. Meaning, their support (VJs, lighting, supporting artists) would be women, Black, indigenous, people of color, disabled, non-binary, and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Inclusion Riders
Chee, a black artist, playing Red Rocks. Shot by CHING.

Dr. Stacy L. Smith proposed inclusion riders in her 2014 column in The Hollywood Reporter. Dr. Smith is the founder of USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative. Additionally, she directs the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which uses data to create solutions battling inequality. Actress Frances McDormand also further popularized inclusion riders in the closing of her 2018 Oscar acceptance speech.

Although Dr. Smith and Frances McDormand pressed inclusion riders for Hollywood, they are easily adaptable for the electronic music industry.

Why are inclusion riders important?

Again, people from all backgrounds compose the electronic music industry. However, most of the people occupying the stage are white men. Obviously, this is not representative of the demographic of fans and those who work behind the scenes. Booking only one group of people completely ignores the vast amount of talented artists that are not white men. This is also not representative of where electronic music came from. It cannot be forgotten that black, queer communities created electronic music. Therefore, lineups and production teams should be representative of the history and the fans.

Inclusion Riders
A Hundred Drums, a black woman, mixing at the 2021 Deadbeats Backyard Jamboree.

Undeniably, it is discouraging to repeatedly see lineups that do not reflect the demographic of the scene as a whole. People seek acceptance and safety in this scene, as well as wanting to see and hear their identities represented on a stage and sound system. That feeling inspires those people to create; to become a part of the electronic music industry. It perpetuates a positive feedback loop that will yield the next generation of greatness in the scene we all love so much. The use of inclusion riders will help guarantee fans and artists are shown the respect they deserve.

Where do we currently stand?

Presently, inclusion riders are not yet an industry standard. However, there are a few people who are paving the path for normalizing inclusion riders in contracts. For example, Arielle Lana LeJarde is a writer with our friends over at FUXWITHIT and This Song Is Sick. Furthermore, she is the head of PR for Bonsai Collective, Kumo Collective, and for artists chromonicci and camoufly. LeJarde juggles this while managing Colson XL, spüke, ero808, capshun, and Sashe Rome. Her industry credentials and experience are off the charts; she utilizes her growing platform and the massive respect others have for her to inform and openly advocate for inclusions riders. In this corner of electronic music, she is currently among the most vocal proponents of inclusion riders.

Not only is LeJarde sharing the word and assisting others with inclusion riders, a few artists already have them. Dazed discussed inclusion riders with several artists who currently have them, including object blue and Breaka. Pirate blog revealed that only 7% of artists currently have an inclusion rider. Pirate continued on to include information from Om Unit’s inclusion rider, as well as sharing thoughts from Om Unit about it. OAKK, an Asian bass/trap producer, read this article, built his own inclusion rider based on the information, and went on to share his own template on Twitter.

These pushes and transparency about inclusion riders are building a strong foundation for other artists. It creates and perpetuates a cycle for more people in the industry to hop on board. Additionally, it informs those who may not be aware of what an inclusion rider is at that moment.

Moving toward a more inclusive music scene using inclusion riders.

The importance of proper representation on stage of the fans in the crowd and those working behind the scene cannot be understated. It helps others recognize the talents of Black, indigenous, people of color, women, disabled, non-binary, and members of the LGBTQ+ community; these artists deserve the same opportunities as their cis white male counterparts. Inclusion riders would assist in guaranteeing that other artists are allotted the same chance to be on stage. Moreover, fans seeing people who represent them on stage builds a strong community filled with the love and acceptance that electronic music often touts. Building an overall better music scene begins with putting marginalized people on the same stage alongside white men. Talent and hard work do not discriminate based on race nor sexuality nor gender identity. It is time these lineups and stages began reflecting that, and inclusion riders are a fantastic way to enforce that.

Note: cover image is a photo of Dr. Stacy L. Smith.

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Toni Nittolo

biochemist | audiophile | editor-in-chief for Electric Hawk | plant parent

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