Set of the Day

Podcast Platform & Label

Marshal Jefferson

Racism: no, discrimination: yes – Marshall Jefferson reasons the end of his DJ career

House DJ legend Marshall Jefferson explained in a feature of Mixmag magazine why he quit DJing. According to Jefferson, the main reason for his decision was the discrimination of black artists, which according to Jefferson is not necessarily synonymous with racism. The comparatively low (financial) success of dark-skinned performers in the electronic music business is partly simply due to “numbers” and also “own stupidity”, says the 61-year-old. In the modern business of the house and EDM sector, however, discrimination is a major factor.

Jefferson, who became world-famous above all through his hit “Move Your Body – The House Music Anthem”, reports on several events in which he briefly assumed that he had been racially treated, but subsequently found that this was not the case.

This was also the case with an event in Germany, which took place several years ago. According to Jefferson, a “world-famous white British DJ” was playing on the main floor at the time, but he was not convincing. Some of the visitors therefore went to the side floor where Jefferson played. About 4,000 people had been there. The DJ from Chicago played a great set, but a report in a music magazine said that the white DJ played a sensational set and Jefferson a terrible one. Racism then? No, he says. “The white DJ had a publicity manager and a marketing machine behind him. I had nothing like that. So the reporter thought he could denigrate my set because there would be no consequences,” says Jefferson.

The displacement of black people from the electronic sector increased with the rise of the Dutch in the 1990s, the icon continues. “They came out of nowhere and suddenly made the big bucks,” he recalls. “They just knew how to stage and promote themselves. For us blacks it was nothing, we were much too cool for that,” admits Jefferson, who of course has often thought about racism in the industry, but always tried to explain a tendency to disadvantage black artists with logical facts and economic thinking. “You have to look at the numbers: There are many more white people than ethnic minorities. […] White people want to see white heroes, just as black people want to see black heroes […]. That’s why white artists would be paid higher fees, explains Jefferson.

In the last section of the article, however, he takes a more critical and harsher tone: House music is the capital of racial discrimination in the music business. This in turn has to do with the worldwide and commercial rise of the EDM genre, because only white people would produce EDM. Finally, Jefferson also referred to the New York techno legend Kevin Saunderson, who a few months ago also took a stand on discrimination against black artists. “It feels as if someone is permanently preventing black artists and producers from being part of this scene,” Saunderson had said at the time. This view is apparently shared by Jefferson, who believes that black music is now being tailored to the white listener market: a “white sound” simply sells better, he concludes.