In the years before Twitter trolls and Instagram influencers, internet music forums were a hotbed of hot takes, heated discussions and the discovery of new artists. As punters riled up producers, and users tussled over tracks, voicing opinions on everything from production techniques, forthcoming releases and genre pioneers – infamous threads (Ben UFO vs Zomby, anyone?) showcased the rising viral power in electronic music debates.
Discussing his experiences on OG forums like DNBA and Dogs On Acid, d’n’b producer LSB explains: “It was a way of discovering new artists, but I met lots of real cool people through them – some I’m still good friends with today.” This URL to IRL connection extended to forums for clubbers, too. The infamous Gurn.net, aimed at the harder, trancier end of dance music and, admittedly, often as brutally savage to newbies as the beats it celebrated, breathed its last before the end of the ’aughts, but at a time when Sundissential and Godskitchen ruled the UK, it was a vital tool for bringing together aspiring ’Crasher kids with like-minded ravers from all over the UK. The Slam forum was the digital epicentre of Scottish techno culture, with Optimo’s a haven for the more arty crowd. Back in 2003 John Brophy, Tim Aylott and Dave Brophy launched online platform DontStayIn (Previously known as YouGotSpotted.com). The site allowed users to revel in a visual sea of club photos, event listings and more, in turn gaining a loyal fanbase from Oldham to Arizona (where arguably it helped keep PLUR culture alive before the great EDM wave). It was Facebook for ravers when ‘the social network’ was a mere glint in Zuckerberg’s eye. “We had events where everyone knew each other – it was like a family,” says John. “We had people form lifelong friendships, marry – and some still have DSI tattoos.”
The music forums, particularly, were rife with the next generation of talent eager to interact with others who shared their niche interests – and some who just wanted to argue with anyone who dared to dislike their favoured sub-genre.) For me, growing up in a far-flung corner of the country in a town with barely a club to its name, the ability to engage with artists and fellow obsessives on platforms such as Dubstepforum, the Erol Alkan forum and Dogs On Acid helped shape my musical interests. But as other, more popular platforms gradually dimmed the light on online message boards over the last decade, these once crucial hubs for dance music discussion lost favour with fans.
“On Dubstepforum I chose a male alias… I’d hope forums today would be more inclusive”
But now, in 2018, they seem to be making a slow but steady return to the spotlight, with new message boards and indeed new mediums heralding the return of the format – sans the keyboard warriors who dominated forums in their heyday with their pre-Twitter tone and Instagram-unfriendly vocabulary. “Back in the day I was on Dubstepforum but chose a male alias because it was so blokey,” says London-based DJ/producer E.M.M.A. “It was a boys’ club – I hope any discussion boards these days would be more inclusive.”