It’s hard to remember a time without social media. For Generation Z’s, that time has never existed. For most, social media has become such a part of our daily lives and for many, a part of our careers. This couldn’t be truer for a DJ.  Ask any music lover to open up their social media accounts and you are almost guaranteed to find that they follow at least one, if not dozens of DJs and artists. And it’s likely that these artists boast an enormous social following. For the younger generation of DJs, you could even go as far as to say that without social media, their real-life following wouldn’t be half as large if it weren’t for their online presence.

In a new documentary produced by Pioneer DJ, notable artists and industry professionals take a closer look at the impact social media has had on the world of electronic music. The 40-minute documentary questions the role social media plays in artists’ success, downfalls, and mental health.

If you’ve opened your socials on the evening of an event that you didn’t attend, you’re likely able to catch a majority of the show through friends’ channels. In crowds, you’d be hard-pressed to find a person without a phone in hand, documenting the music, themselves, and the party that’s unfolding. You are there, at a live event with a huge performance happening right in front of you, but when your phone is in an outstretched hand capturing what’s happening on stage, you aren’t watching the real thing, you’re watching it through the phone screen.

Social media is bittersweet. On one hand, it makes it so we can live vicariously through others and “attend” events we’re unable to. However, how much of that event is truly being experienced if the person recording is so fixated on capturing what is going on.

And it’s not just about the experience. This bittersweet notion transcends through all aspects and all uses of social media. Social media connects you directly to the artist, giving you a glimpse of their personal lives that was once reserved for their close friends and industry insiders. You’re able to communicate with them first hand. This communication, though, is not always positive. In fact, a lot of it is negative. Whether it’s critics of their performance, disgruntled fans, or Internet trolls, so much hatred is spewed through these social channels. And it’s not a forum board that the artist will never read. It’s personal, sitting there on their latest post or in their inbox.

no social media likes in neon sign

This is when it starts to negatively affect artists’ mental health. Whether it’s keeping up this persona, constantly being available to your fans, or receiving negative reviews of your performance, appearance, or records, this all takes a toll on the artist. And it’s 24/7. We’ve also seen social media used as a tool by DJs and producers to open up the conversation surrounding mental health. Social media can be very isolating, but it also creates a space where the brave few open up and others resonate, realizing they aren’t the only ones struggling.

Social media has become so inextricably linked to electronic music. We see artists like Martin Garrix who went from being a teenager making beats in his bedroom to headlining the biggest music festivals in the world. That kind of lighting fast jolt to stardom wasn’t possible before social media. Many festivals and events will base their artist selection on social media following, curating a lineup with the biggest social media presence in the hopes that their fans will come along. When a new artist is looking to be signed to a label or manager, their social media (along with their tracks) works like a resume.

As an artist, your online persona is crucial. It could be what stands between you and your next gig. This pressure alone is enough to take a toll on your health, but it is also the leading reason people find it so necessary to keep face. This online persona becomes exactly that: a persona. It is curated, it is careful, and a lot of the time it is manufactured. The line between make-believe and reality is extremely fine in the age of social media. But it’s not just the artists. Everyone is working to display the absolute best versions of themselves living the best moments. You need to be seen by your peers at the big festivals, behind the tables with the DJ, and at the afterparties. Because, if you didn’t post it, did it even happen?

With big names like Carl Cox, Annie Mac, and Danny Howard weighing in, “INSTA DJ” opens the can of worms that is social media in the world of electronic music. Social media is a double-edged sword. It’s progressive, it’s detrimental, it’s life and industry-altering, and it’s not going anywhere.

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