The scene felt like a safe space for me when I first started going to shows. I thought I had finally found a place where I was able to be myself without fear of any judgment. I felt the energy of musicians spreading their messages, screaming into their microphones about fighting for justice, and I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted other people to find this safe space, too.
As I continued going to shows, the dark and disgusting parts of the scene began revealing themselves to me. I experienced sexual harassment and assault at most of the shows I went to. I noticed just how many lineups were full of the same cis straight white male bands. I watched as femme, LGBTQIA+ and POC bands and musicians with unbelievable talents were pushed aside. I lost friends and saw others lose friends to drugs that were normalized by the scene.
I still want the scene to be the safe space I believed it was when I started attending shows. I want everyone to feel safe and comfortable being themselves. I want the messages being spread by those affected by the system to be heard, front and center on stage - not put on the backburner. I want the scene to be a solution: an escape from the issues we deal with due to the capitalist societal structure we are forced to live under, and an avenue for change.
The scene is full of people who understand the problems in the system. We are not oblivious to the evidenced issues in capitalism, or our scene itself. The punk subculture's foundation is built upon challenging society's idea of "truth" (based in a complicit, capitalist framework), and fighting for a more equal and just society. Fighting for the society we wish to see. We do this through music, through protest, and through just being ourselves in a world that wants us to conform. How can we effectively use our scene to fight inequality and oppression, when shows are riddled with the very problems we wish to fix? We must ensure our own scene fixes these problems, rather than perpetuate them. I want us to be able to fight the system, and we can't do this in a scene that is not safe or inclusive.
We all have a responsibility to keep our music community safe. We need to be aware of the ways in which the scene has excluded femmes, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. We need to work to remedy this. Additionally, we must be mindful of the prevalent drugs within the scene, their side effects, and their consequences. Furthermore, the open normalization of harmful drug usage causes us to stray further from our community's goals, and turns our cries for liberation into those of dissociation. This dissociation furthers the capitalist mindset of societal helplessness, a mindset which our scene is built in direct opposition to.
This brings us to the very point of this zine. It is meant to be a starting point - ideas for how we can tackle these problems. I want to start a discussion, I want our community to come together, and recognize the issues in our scene and work to change them. Because if we can't do that, how will we ever change our world?
Protecting our Community: Harmful Drugs
Dangerous drugs, such as inhalants like noz and whippets, should not be accessible at shows. Inhalants have been a large part of the scene since the 90s, and have done more harm than good. These drugs can cause seizures, death by asphyxiation, nerve damage, permanent brain damage, and long-term psychological problems.
I have heard first-hand accounts of people collapsing/seizing at shows due to inhalants. I have had conversations about these drugs with others, and a lot of them have never heard of the dangers. When users do not know the risks associated with use, this makes the drugs much more dangerous. I do not allow these drugs anywhere near my events, and I urge others to do the same.
I understand the ways in which these drugs can offer a short-term solution to the constant turmoil of existing under capitalism. I was a user of these drugs; unaware of the negative effects, growing up in a scene where everyone was using, and it was normalized - it was okay, or even expected. I was using shows as an excuse to escape through drugs, and I realized that wasn't what I wanted to be doing anymore.
Leaning into drugs as a solution is a product of capitalism. It is a way for those in power to maintain their control. As previously stated, it furthers the narrative that we are helpless in capitalist society. If those of us who hate the system choose to escape it through drugs rather than fight for change, the people in power win. The government depends on the people to work during the week, participate in capitalism, and go home on the weekends to suppress any frustration towards the system through pointless entertainment, such as drugs. If our shows are allowing, providing, or encouraging of this dissociative cycle, are we not also complicit in furthering the capitalist ideology and feelings of helplessness?
The scene is not pointless entertainment. We are here to spread our messages through art and music, and to provide a space for people to escape frustration in a healthy and productive way. We are capable of change - we just need to protect one another. Keeping our scene true to its foundations and belief that change is attainable is extremely important if we wish to continue to oppose capitalist ideology.
We should always be prepared to help keep our fellow community members safe in spaces where hard drugs are prevalent.
Carry Narcan, and know how to use it in case of emergency.
Narcan is a necessity at every event. If someone were to experience an opioid overdose at a show, multiple doses of narcan may be needed before EMTs arrive. This can potentially save someone's life. Even when using non-opioids, fentanyl is often used to cut other drugs, and often results in death without intervention using narcan.
It's also insanely important to test your drugs. Testing strips are available at WiseBatch.com along with other harm reduction products.
We encourage these to be available at shows in addition to narcan.
Ridding the Scene of Predators
We are aiming to create an environment where musicians and artists can grow, and where music lovers can discover new bands and find solace within a like-minded community. Predators have been making their way into our scene since its beginnings. The music industry as a whole has consistently proven itself to be a space where predators can thrive.
Since I started attending shows at 15, I was repeatedly harassed, assaulted, groomed, etc. by predators in the scene. Many of whom were in bands that performed regularly. This should not be a normal experience for young femmes in the scene, but it always has been. The Riot Grrrl movement arose in the 90s in an attempt to create a safe scene for femmes. However, this movement had issues of its own, as they were exclusionary towards many other marginalized groups.
Current attempts to rid the scene of predators have also been, unfortunately, unproductive.
One can make people aware of predators by posting about them on social media, but this is not sustainable. Social media moves so quickly, people will forget about the post, or some predators may threaten defamation lawsuits against their victims due to posting information publicly. In the end, this can put victims in even more danger.
In order to adequately combat the issue, we need a way to make SHOW PROMOTERS and BANDS aware of these predators so that they are no longer booked (if the predator is in a band) or no longer allowed to attend shows. We need to build a connected network to keep shows safe.
The following is a compiled list of promoters willing to receive and spread this information.
Please send: details on the incident (as much as you are comfortable sharing), the predator's name and socials, any bands or projects that the predator is involved with, etc.
As promoters, we need to make it abundantly clear that predators have no place in our scene.
Ensuring Inclusivity at Shows
Above all, the scene is meant to be an inclusive space. However, there are so many lineups that circulate with the same cis-straight-white-male bands. There is no space left for those who are affected by social injustices, who deserve to have their voices heard and their messages spread. Femmes, people of color, the LGBTQIA+ community, and more, are constantly pushed to the backburner - while the cis-straight-white-male bands are given the spotlight.
I would like the scene to be a vessel for change. We should be fighting against harmful societal structures. We should be uplifting those that the system constantly fails.
The music industry has always platformed the cis-straight-white-male. According to a demographic sampling model (published in 2023 from Arizona State University) analyzing artist samples from Rolling Stone, Billboard Hot 100, and ultimate-guitar.com, an average of 81% of artists on these platforms were male, and an average of 71% were white. According to a survey of 1,227 musicians in the United States, which was conducted by the Music Industry Research Association in 2018, 72% of female musicians report that they have been discriminated against because of their gender, and 67% report that they have been the victim of sexual harassment. 63% of non-White musicians said they faced racial discrimination.
We, as the local music scene, should be aiming to break this cycle. We should be platforming musicians that the industry continuously ignores.
I had a conversation with Maraia (@maria.kq), a musician and promoter from Anaheim who put together Grrrlfest, an all-femme music festival at FTG Warehouse in Santa Ana.
"I hadn't seen a huge fest with 15 bands that are all femme-fronted or have femme members. I was like, 'I think this needs to happen,'" Maraia said about Grrrlfest. "Being a femme in the music industry, it's definitely not the easiest sometimes. The community is definitely getting better and more inclusive, but there's still a lot of sexism... People belittling me or acting like I'm dumb."
These experiences of discrimination are all-too common in the music scene. We should be fostering a diverse community. We should be dismantling the current system, creating a music scene with actual equal opportunity.
Platforming artists who often face discrimination in the music industry can also inspire new generations of musicians who may otherwise feel disheartened by the cis-white-male-dominated scene. As Maraia said, "Hearing girls screaming in the music as opposed to a bunch of guys, it just kind of made me feel like, 'Oh, I can do this.' I feel like for a long time it wasn't as socially acceptable for non-men to be into that type of music... There was a lot of judgment with that, and I kind of felt discouraged for awhile. Then, I heard Bikini Kill, and I was like, 'Oh shit.'"
Promoters and others who throw shows have a responsibility to always keep diversity and inclusion in mind when booking. Uplift our community and provide a safe space for all.
Inclusive Scene Participation
On another note, inclusion also relates to classism. Venues across Los Angeles have taken to charging absurd amounts for booking, even when backline (drums, PA system, etc.) is not provided for shows.
One begins to ask oneself, how accessible is it to actually participate in our local scene?
The DIY scene is full of artists trying to make ends meet, who often do not have the disposable income available to front hundreds or thousands of dollars to book a space.
It's a difficult question, whether or not venues have the right to charge these amounts. Rent and operating costs are obviously major expenses. However, if venues treated shows as a community effort rather than as a chance to make a buck, the scene would thrive and these venues would see major growth in being a supportive vessel for the DIY scene.
As a community, we could combat this issue by avoiding booking these venues altogether, but this would greatly limit the spaces we have available to throw shows. Instead, we can push to make shows a more collaborative effort, where many individuals are able to pitch in for these venue costs.
We can also focus on finding and protecting our underground spaces, like backyards or under-the-bridge spots for generator shows.
What is the Solution?
To address the issues discussed in this zine and more, every last Wednesday of each month a scene meeting will be held at The Smell in Los Angeles (247 S. Main St., Los Angeles, 90012). Anyone can attend, from promoters to bands to vendors to those who go to shows.
At the start of each meeting, attendees can submit anonymous concerns to a team of promoters, who will be spearheading the meetings to keep us on track. The meetings will operate as an open discussion with everyone attending.
All attendees are encouraged to participate, either through bringing issues forward or by offering ideas for solutions.
We will also discuss ideas for future shows, causes that may need support in the form of fundraisers/spreading the word, finding individuals interested in working on shows together, or even hosting workshops on different aspects of the music scene! The scene as a whole can then be fully involved in the show-throwing process.
Meetings, shows thrown as a community, and zines created by meeting leaders will be known as S.I.C.C., an acronym for Safe, Inclusive, Connected Community.
Through these meetings, we can connect and uplift our community. We can create a safe and inclusive music scene.
The first scene meeting will take place on February 28, 2024 at 5 p.m. At the meeting, we will begin our first discussion on scene issues, and we will also be running a workshop regarding DIY live sound for shows!
If you would like to be notified when future scene meetings occur, follow @sicc.scene on Instagram. If you are unable to attend a meeting but would like to bring an issue to our attention, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to working alongside you to combat the issues our communities currently face.