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One Friday afternoon last year while I was working away on my laptop at home, I tuned in to a live video stream from an apartment on the other side of Dublin city. Over the course of an afternoon, a rotating lineup of local DJs broadcast turntable-based sets from a non-descript living room. It doesn’t sound like the most exciting prospect in the world but there’s something entertaining about watching people spinning songs and having fun without you. And I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so.
From hard techno in the Netherlands to house music from South Africa, to rap shows from New York to dance music club nightslike Sidetracked in Dublin, niche musical genres are using the now ubiquitous laptop webcam to broadcast themselves using sites like Ustream. These collectives are using the medium to its maximum, gathering together geographically displaced passionate fans in one virtually-augmented club space.
London-based site Boiler Room (boilerroom.tv) is the best example of the recent phenomenon. Pitching itself as “London’s seminal Ustream music show”, the site has fast become the place for up and coming underground electronic producers and DJs to showcase their skills. Every Tuesday, the club night is broadcast from an undisclosed warehouse in London. If you want to actually be present in the room, you’ve got to be invited. But the lineup of names that have played there in recent months is a rollcall of the best producers in electronic music right now: Kode9, Four Tet, Jamie xx, Pearson Sound, Lunice, SBTRKT, Mount Kimbie, Jacques Greene and Girl Unit.
Boiler Room has quickly become one of the prime destinations for getting clued up on fresh new DJ talent even though it has been only running a year. It’s the first place to hear that brand new cut that have other DJs watching online around the world scrambling to identify it.
For club promoters Frankie Grimes and Eimear Fitzmaurice, watching Boiler Room nights is a social thing not something you do alone when you’re bored. The pair have begun projecting Boiler Room nights on a screen and through the PA in The Bernard Shaw in Dublin.
“It’s a very entertaining three hours if you involve yourself in the chat function and spend your time searching for track IDs,” says Frankie. “If you listen through a proper PA like we do in The Bernard Shaw, it’s as good as having an actual DJ there.”
The reason for the success of Boiler Room and video streaming sites like Ustream is simple: it creates communities using the language of the live experience: “It’s the next best thing to radio,” says Eimear. “It lets people in on more than the music. It’s about atmosphere and the reaction of the crowd.”