It is of no real surprise that the current state of dance music is a male dominated industry. Take a look at any festival lineup and you will see the vast majority of bookings are (white) men. In fact, some 82% of festival lineups are made of male artists, including a whopping 96.5% of Las Vegas’ Electric Daisy Carnival (considered to be the preeminent US festival destination).
Looking to balance the field, a Brooklyn, New York collective of female DJ’s, Discwoman, have brought female-identified talent to lineups throughout North America, including New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, and Puerto Rico. Founded by Franckie Hutchinson with DJ Emma Olson and Christine Tran, Discwoman not only looks to increase the US dismal 3% – 14% female festival bookings, but also draw attention to the hypersexualized nature of the industry. From Youtube stock art to rider requests for attractive backstage personnel, the fact women feature prominently on the majority of festival tracks remains an afterthought in any conversation outside that of physical marketability. Olson described her own experience to Forbes magazine with, “I had someone that wanted to represent me for a while and it quickly became this, ‘Your body is an asset and we should utilize that”.
The collective do identify a host of systematic problems within the industry, which also result in the low numbers of female representation, including those of technology and mentorship. “It’s rare that a 6-year-old girl will get a synthesizer or a computer as a gift,” Olson has stated. “We need to have the mentors, the networks, the role models,” added Detroit-based Girls Gone Vinyl co-founder Maggie Derthick.
Though there is concern such gender-specific lineups are, in fact, detrimental to the kinds of awareness Discwoman strives for female DJs (essentially, tokenising the artist), however by that same token, without attention brought, a wider dialogue is impossible. “You can’t just talk about it, you have to do something,” said Hutchinson. “I realized it’s important to be outspoken about it instead of pretending we’ve moved on and that everything’s fine–to talk about the fact that it’s not,” added Olson.
With regular club nights, a prominent online identity, growing roster, and the drive for change on their side, Discwoman seems poised to, at least, interrupt an industry well in need of a reality check; not to mention, the wider social dialogue promoting women in technological fields. Whether their influence spreads beyond the US (or the hyper-social consciousness of Brooklyn) remains to be seen, but there is no doubt it is an influence that is needed, welcome, and encouraged.
For a visual look at the male dominated nature of electronic music lineups, check out the eye-opening Very Male Line-Ups on tumblr. You can also check out the Discwoman panel discussion on women in electronic music below.