By Andy Hermann
As the Hollywood-based casting guru behind Jersey Shore and A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, Doron Ofir knows how the lowbrow culture game is played. But even the man who gave the world Snooki might have been caught off-guard by the outrage over one of his latest projects: a competitive EDM reality show.
Within hours of announcing auditions for the as-yet-untitled show last week — via a flashy online application at EDMCasting.com — Ofir and his casting company found themselves beset by angry blogs and tweets, accusing them of attempting to ruin EDM culture with a would-be “Jersey Shore for DJs.” A “Stop edm casting” Facebook page sprang up and was quickly peppered with comments like “this is honestly the most disgusting thing ive heard” and “Whoever came up with this needs to get shitkicked in the face.” All this for a show with no title, no premiere date and no guarantee of even going into production. (Most of Ofir’s projects are “cast contingent,” meaning they only get picked up if he can find enough, er, talent).
Apparently many big-name DJs are not reality TV fans. Skrillex protégé Porter Robinson tweeted, “Whoever wins this ‘edm reality competition’ (barf) will be so soundly rejected by the dance community that they won’t get booked anyway.” Deadmau5 put it more succinctly: “thanks edmcasting.com, eat a dick.”
Speaking by phone from his Hollywood office, Ofir breathlessly defended both himself and the show — which he is quick to note he is not producing, only casting. “It’s really combining my first love with my current career,” he insists, describing himself as a dedicated “house music head” and 20-year veteran of the dance music scene.
Ofir chalks up the backlash less to his Jersey Shore resumé and more to a cycle he’s seen in dance music culture before. “Every five years or so the EDM community explodes and everyone starts hating on each other,” he says, describing how scene veterans look down their noses at the newbies: “Omigod, they’re going to infiltrate my experience.”
Erik Wolford, who spins regularly around L.A. under the name DJ Wolfie, insists that’s not the issue. “I personally, as a fan of the genre, love that it’s getting its day in the sun,” he says. But having worked in production on several reality shows, he would never agree to appear on one.
“The first thing I would say to someone going on [a reality] show is: You are now giving the narrative of who you are over to somebody who doesn’t give a shit about you. They give a shit about creating a show that’s chock full of drama that will get good ratings.”
Sabrina Riccio, a Palm Springs native and founder of the dance music lifestyle website peace.love.EDM, agrees. “I know a few people who’ve been on reality TV, and they’ve regretted it. The producers will do whatever it takes to tell the story they want to tell.”
On her website, Riccio wrote an impassioned condemnation of the EDM reality show, declaring, “It’s shows like this that are destroying the American EDM scene.”
Speaking by phone from her home in San Diego, she elaborates. “It’s completely destroying the essence of what this music is about, which is PLUR: peace, love, unity, respect,” she says, citing a section of the application that asks would-be contestants to brag about their “physical, material and social” assets as proof that the show’s emphasis won’t be on the music. “To me, the whole idea of this show has no respect for the culture whatsoever.
“Jersey Shore made me sick to my stomach,” she adds. “But I may be a little biased because I’m Italian.”
For Maximilian Robinson, a 19-year-old producer based in Tennessee, the potential rewards outweigh the risks. Robinson, who’s opened for Skrillex and dubstep-loving rockers Korn, has already submitted his application.
“I’m not worried at all,” he says, when asked about the #StopEDMCasting uproar. “There’s a lot of haters in the EDM scene but honestly none of them are important. People hate on Skrillex and look at him. I’m simply trying to make a career out of doing what I love.”