How Discwoman is reinventing the future of community action


In mid-March 2020, when stay-at-home precautions were put in place across the United States to help prevent the spread of the disease coronavirus, platform, collective agency and reservation agency based in New York Discwoman tweeted asking for donations on behalf of their list. Last year was set to be the agency’s biggest year yet, with some of their performers gearing up for their first European tours, but more than a hundred shows were canceled in space. only a few days. Discwoman exclusively represents women and non-binary artists; most of whom are people of color. The group’s co-founders – Emma Olson, Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson and Christine McCharen-Tran – knew many of their artists would soon find themselves in dire financial straits due to this unexpected domino effect.

To their surprise, however, the tweet ushered in a wave of backlash from the industry as a whole. Some argued that their artists did not deserve the money in the larger matrix of needs, while others believed that Discwoman was trying to turn a period of acute collective suffering into a kind of money grab. For the three co-founders, it was a painful moment that would fundamentally reshape Discwoman’s future.

“None of us expected this, especially because we felt it was very clear that a lot of what we do is based on community and helping others,” Hutchinson said. from Berlin a few days before the tweeter’s first anniversary. “At that kind of moment, you have to think about the industry you are a part of. Why are we giving so much to an industry that obviously doesn’t care about us at all? What can you do to earn respect? What do marginalized artists need to do to be understood and valued in this industry? ”

Despite the backlash from the tweet, Discwoman secured donations. After distributing the money, they were able to redistribute a few hundred dollars to each of their artists as a stopgap to help them get through the month. But hostility to their efforts has brought to light something more sinister in the world of dance music. “So many people who are interested in this music don’t want to talk about racism because they see it as separate,” says Olson. “They are purposely looking for dance music so they don’t have to deal with that sort of thing.”

Since its founding in 2014, Discwoman has established itself as a life force pushing for more inclusive dance floors and fair rates for women and non-binary artists in the world. electronic music scene in New York and around the world. Discwoman’s list grew to 17 artists. There’s DJ and visual artist Juliana Huxtable, 700 Bliss, the experimental collaboration between Philadelphia-based artist DJ Haram and Moor Mother, and Chicago-based artist and Smartbar resident Ariel Zetina, to name a few.

The heart of Discwoman’s work has always been community-driven, which is precisely why the backlash from that tweet last March was so hard for them to take. They have donated thousands of dollars to organizations like the ACLU and the Sadie Nash Leadership Project over the years, and they raised over $ 19,000 last summer for the mutual aid organization Equality For Flatbush. through the third installment of Physically Sick, a fundraising compilation which they created in 2016 alongside New York DJ Physical Therapy. Hutchinson says that in some ways the protests and activism that resulted from George Floyd’s death justified their first cry for help. “It only gave a more complete picture to understand the depths of the crap of the people trying to drag us around for help. And in turn, all those people who tried to drag us needed help themselves, ”says Hutchinson.

It’s because of these trends that Olson sees the future of Discwoman, and the future of nightlife in general, as a much more guarded place. She can’t imagine playing in front of thousands at a cavernous European club in the near future, even as things start to open up more. “I have a feeling that there will be a return to the underground that existed maybe 10 years ago in New York, where you would find yourself in very small parties, kinda haphazardly.” She says it’s been hard to motivate yourself to look for new music when there isn’t a party at the end of the tunnel. She has focused her energy on more private pursuits, like setting up her new studio space where she has set up a small listening room where she can casually play records with her friends. “I find this smaller-scale community space to mean a lot more to me than trying to fly all over the world every weekend,” says Olson.

McCharen-Tran says that in some ways, like the Covid-19 Pandemic temporarily abandoned most of the business side of her interaction with the artists on the list, she was able to foster more intentional relationships with the signers of Discwoman. “It brought me closer to a lot of them and it changed the way we communicate. There is a lot more, “Are you comfortable with this?” and “What are all the things you need me to ask?” “” Olson finally had time last year to study the long-term organization. “I now realize how detrimental it was for us not to spend this time really refining our vision and what we wanted to offer to others,” says Olson. “We just didn’t take that time because it didn’t feel like it. We might all be together in the same room three times a year, and we just laughed about it instead of realizing there was something wrong with it.

Hutchinson sees the pandemic as a kind of double-edged sword in terms of Discwoman’s future; on the one hand, her fatigue sets in, but she wonders if this is not simply the result of being physically disconnected from her community. “I think when you’re sitting alone in your bedroom it’s easy to feel the world is against you, but when you’re surrounded by like-minded people on a dance floor – nothing matches that feeling, and I think it might bring back some of my drive and energy. Her enthusiasm hasn’t completely gone away, but she’s tired of being one of the few people to talk about these issues. “I think we need the next generation to step in with that energy, which I’m seeing happening. There are so many enthusiastic new collectives that match our vision. There absolutely could be more pressure for change in the industry, ”Hutchinson said. “But maybe it’s not us,” Olson intervenes before Hutchinson finishes his thought: “Maybe we pass the baton.”


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