Resident Adviser has decided to bid adieu to one of its most popular features: the highly anticipated (and very polarizing) RA polls. And from an editor that absolutely abhors contests and the quantifying of talent (or popularity), this is fantastic news.
It’s hard to imagine the behemoth that is Resident Adviser today was once just a small outfit from Sydney, Australia, that in 2001 it was simply trying to support its local electronic music scene. Sixteen years later it’s now a highly influential online magazine that plays a substantial role in this aspect of the music industry.
In 2006 it began its first top 100 DJs poll as an underground alternative to the more mainstream rosters that DJ Mag, Mixmag and Pitchfork had. Real, legitimate artists that had impressive Discogs and touring schedules that once didn’t stand a chance to be held up against the likes of the Armin Van Buurens and Afrojacks, finally had their own metric system. For the first two years voting was done via the site contributors, but from 2008 through 2016, the readers were asked to join in on the process. The poll has since then grown to be a hotly debated topic, as well as being the most popular and anticipated content in the site.
RA explains, “What began as a lighthearted way to praise our favorite artists and toast the year gone by had become something of more serious consequence: an industry index influencing many different parts of club culture, from event lineups to artist fees to the atmosphere of the scene in general.
“On a more basic level, we decided that we don’t want to rank artists in this way. On reflection, to put artists in a list in descending order of perceived quality does a disservice to them, even the ones at the top, and creates an atmosphere of self-interested competition. For this reason, we’ll also be stopping the staff-voted, numerically-ordered polls—that is, top labels, top tracks, top albums and top mixes / compilations / podcasts.”
UK DJ and Producer Paul Rose who goes by the moniker Scuba, stated to Thump Magazine last year after posting a satirical tweet about giving away free Ketamine if people voted for him in the RA poll, “Really, the message I was trying to give is how the RA poll provokes ridiculous behavior in DJs. My Facebook feed yesterday was a mass of DJs appealing to the general public and each other for votes. It’s really quite undignified, and I think the whole thing is pretty lame… The difference is that the DJ poll has a direct effect on people’s earnings, and that’s why DJs take it so seriously and campaign so hard to get a good ranking…I don’t blame anyone for soliciting votes, everyone wants to make more money… I just don’t think a hierarchical list at the end of the year really serves any purpose at all, other than creating division.”
Added to those sentiments, our world view is changing, and particularly this year the growing awareness and sensitivity towards issues of feminism, the Queer community and representing diversity in general. If there was one thing that the electronic music community was in solidarity with, it was acceptance of all differences.
“If our goal was to reflect the past year in electronic music, our 2016 DJ and Live Act polls were the culmination of a growing feeling: that the homogeneity of the results didn’t represent the diversity of the scene. Musically, they featured just a portion of the music we cover and that gets played in clubs. But that’s a comparatively trivial point. More pressingly, the DJ and Live Act lists were overwhelmingly dominated by men, mostly from the US and Europe. They didn’t represent the reality of electronic music in 2016, a scene in which countless incredibly talented women play to packed clubs each weekend. To continue running these features would be to diminish the vital contribution they make to electronic music.
“It’s also important to remember that dance music is an art form born in queer communities, shaped by people of color and populated by artists of all genders. But, simply put, this isn’t something you’d know by looking at the recent results of our polls. At best, the lists misrepresented the reality of the scene; at worst, they helped to reinforce some of its harmful power dynamics, which still favor white men above everyone else. This is reason enough to make a change.”
So in lieu of doing best of the year lists, RA has instead decided to do 3 features that present a variety of noteworthy artists and music that they feel have made significant contributions to the scene that extend beyond just the same straight white male fraternity many of the top names came from.