The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Monday, April 30, 2001

Clubland Crackdown

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: Dance club owners and rave promoters have become the target of local governments and law enforcement agencies around the country, according to a recent report in the New York Times. The stated reason? The rise of drug overdoses by dance music fans who use Ecstasy or GHB at the clubs. The number of people who found themselves in emergency rooms from Ecstasy overdoses rose from about 280 in 1994 to 2,850 in 1999, according to statistics quoted by the Times from the Department of Health and Human Services' Drug Abuse Warning Network. According to the Times, authorities are cracking down in New York, Chicago, Lewiston, Me., Detroit, New Orleans and Los Angeles. This is very bad news. For more than two decades clubs around the world have been breeding grounds for numerous strains of electronic music. Only in a club or rave environment can DJs see for themselves the success or failure of their mixes. Such internationally acclaimed artists as the Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and Moby (and hundreds of lesser-known DJs and electronic artists) got their start in the dance clubs. If local governments succeed in closing the venues where electronic music is played, the impact on what is likely the most experimental and innovative form of contemporary music could be devastating. I am no advocate of drug use, nor do I advocate the abuse of alcohol — both of which have been part of pop culture since at least the turn of the 20th Century. Some of the greatest musical artists, from Billie Holiday to Kurt Cobain, as well as a minority of their fans, were drug abusers. Does that mean their music should be banned, or that clubs and concert halls where they performed should have been closed? Of course not. It is no surprise that, with a right-wing government in place, there should be a crackdown on gathering places for freethinking people who want to have fun and don't necessarily subscribe to Bush's philosophy of mindless consumerism, corporate capitalism and retro-conservative politics. Certainly if club owners are involved in dealing drugs, that's a problem. But thus far, authorities are simply alleging that club owners are aware of and tolerate drug use in their venues. "The government has always targeted people who went to concerts," Graham Boyd, director of the ACLU's drug policy litigation project told the Times. "But that is very different than targeting the people who provide the music, and the First Amendment protects music. That legal principle is clear."

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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