How Detroit techno is preserving the city’s beating heart in the face of gentrification

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Detroit, the birthplace of techno, is facing the pressures of gentrification. Willie Orlando Ford, CC BY by Carla Vecchiola, University of Michigan-Dearborn For over two decades, Detroit has celebrated its status as the birthplace of techno with an electronic music festival held over Memorial Day weekend. But like the city around it, the festival has changed. At its inception, the event was free and focused on techno music and Detroit musicians, primarily the Black Americans who started techno – just as house music was developing in Chicago – in the mid-1980s. Now, the price of a weekend ticket is US$309, plus a $46.15 service fee. And some festivalgoers have noted it no longer draws as many Black attendees as it once did or as one would expect, given the racial makeup of the city. It has long since dropped “Detroit” from its name, rebranding as the Movement Electronic Music Festival in 2006. In short, to many Detroiters, the annual festival has gentrified, as have the central corridors of the city. As an ethnographic researcher of Detroit techno – and a self-confessed “househead” – I have watched as the city and its music have changed as more and more Black Detroiters...