Why is electronic music such an overwhelmingly male-dominated industry? Are women discriminated against, or is it just different for girls? Lulu Le Vay meets some of the world’s top female dance producers and DJs to find out.
Dance music is dominated by men. Despite the presence of a handful of female producers, engineers, DJs, artist managers and songwriters, the industry is overwhelmingly male. Is that a problem? Not everyone agrees. “I’m so over this debate about being a woman in dance music,” opines DJ Heidi Van Den Amstel. “I don’t feel discriminated against and have done well in the industry on my own without any help from anyone. However, it is naturally good to see more women involved.”
Although Heidi raises a fair point – plenty of female musicians, DJs, journalists and managers have succeeded with (pretty much) equal respect and support from their male peers – this is still a debate that surely needs re-airing based purely on the evidence. According to PRS for Music, just 12% of writers on its books are women, a drop of 4% from 2011. Only 4% of Music Producers Guild members are women. The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts says just 6% of the students enrolled on its sound technology course are female – a figure that hasn’t changed for three years. Only one spot on this year’s DJ Magazine Top 100 was taken by women, in the form of Australian blonde model twin sisters Nervo. There were none last year.
Just Not Nerds
Despite the hackle-raising statistics, is it possible to argue that there is currently a shift taking place, particularly within electronic dance music? Although we’ve witnessed in recent years mainstream female dance-influenced pop artists envelop the charts, the writers and producers behind them have been men – Florence (Paul Epworth), Amy Winehouse (Mark Ronson), Lily Allen (Greg Kurstin).
The more underground electronic scene now boasts numerous talented female producers who who write and perform their own work – Hyperdub regulars Cooly G and Ikonika; Cassy Britton, whose debut album is about to be released on Planet E; Kim Ann Foxman of Hercules and Love Affair, who is currently launching her solo career; the ubiquitously hotly tipped Maya Jane Coles; Kate Simko; Nina Kraviz…
This credible emerging talent is inarguably a positive spurt, but the representation of women in this arena in contrast to men is still minimal. Are women simply not interested in the technical side of production? Or just not good at it? “Girls love music, but they’re just not nerds,” explains DJ and producer Lottie, who has been DJing for 20 years. “I was always the nerdy one amongst all my friends, male and female. They would dance around to a great record, I’d be the one to go and find out what it was and go out and buy it the next day.”
Despite a long career as a DJ with productions and remixes under her belt, Lottie has only just embarked on embracing the technical side, having just completed a course in Ableton so she can work without relying on an engineer. “I’ve made loads of tracks, but not by myself on the computer, which is what I now want to do,” she continues. “I’m working on mastering Ableton several hours a day, which is hard but not a chore. I’m a 40 year-old mum and never been so excited! It’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”
According to the Sub Bass audio school, 40% of the course attendees are women, a figure that Lottie finds unsurprising. “I can see a growth happening before my eyes, literally!” she says. “Production is nerdy and a bit tricky, but so many girls following me on Twitter are sharing tracks they have made. I can see over the next five to ten years a real explosion of female producers.”
Wicked article. We like how it looks at a few different views. We are seeing more and more girls getting in to the scene recently which is great. Although it’s funny to see how some are in it for the right reasons and some unfortunately aren’t, same case with guys though too. If you’re in it for the right reasons and have the right attitude then you will do well.
only difference is girls got the option of sucking dick to book the gig
@truth. Um, Is that option not open to guys too?
The fact that we still have morons like ‘truth’ around shows why this kind of article needs to be written and this issue needs discussing.
There’s way too much sexism in the world of dance music, too many blokes groping girls in clubs and too many dickheads who think female artists ‘suck dick’ to further their careers.
And, in case you’re wondering, I’m a man……
Female or male, unfortunately more often or not, it’s still who you know. Not what you know.
@ Truth I’m sure there are women and men that have “sucked dick” to get a gig but those kinda people really wouldn’t last long in an industry of this nature.
I think the reason why women don’t find it as easy to access is because men hold them back, possibly scared because generally speaking its easier to market a woman than a man.
Simply put sex does sell and a nice looking young lady would sell much easier than some hairy french dude. once we get a girl in the same place as deadmau5, tiesto, guetta or any of those well marketed guys then you’ll see a real shift in the number of female producers, DJ’s and Live acts coming through.
I find it funny that in developed countries where dance music has a long tradition, there are still this kind of issues. In southamerican countries like Uruguay (mine) and Argentina, there are many women DJs and producers, almost 1/3 of the total. I have never seen a guy harassing a female DJ here, they are all pretty respected, and many very skilled technically. I guess our societies rely much more on the importance of women in every aspect, and especially dance music has always been a genre-welder here. I’ve seen much more chauvinist vibes at UK and German venues, for example.
cooptro – Fascinating insight. Thanks for that. Sounds like Europe and North America have a lot to learn from South America.
Female or male, unfortunately more often or not, it’s still who you know. Not what you know.
as a female audio engineering student, i’m genuinely disgusted by the sheer quantity of dumbing down and outright badly researched “information” in this article. cool and all that you want to call out how women in electronic music are a minority/ novelty/ grossly underrepresented, but it makes it SO MUCH WORSE to see an article on the subject that relies heavily on a complete LACK of understanding about what actual musicianship/ production/ engineering entails (not to mention the sad fact that those three terms are used so interchangeably in this article it leaves me questioning whether the author has ANY knowledge of how music is made). it makes me sad to read that the entirety of what i’m working toward is simply swept aside as “the technical side” because it is that glossing over of hard details that perpetuates the myth that women aren’t technically oriented. next time, please hire a writer who knows something about what this “technical side” really is so that perhaps your interviewees might be inclined to directly discuss their relationships to the music-making process in ways that DO break barriers, rather than reinforcing them.
yeah kinda silly to say women aren’t or can’t be nerds. and tbh, screwing around with drum machines, synths, samplers is just good fun for anyone that’s actually making tunes. i mean, the only thing i don’t see women do often is argue over trivial minutiae online and that has more to do with the fact that’s it’s difficult enough without wasting time.
doesn’t really help to start off saying dance music is dominated by men either. a lot of men and women don’t really give a shit about “dominating music” and just wanna make kick ass tracks…besides there are plenty of women that were pioneers in electronic music.
in terms of women that have made electronic music, the ratio of good stuff to crap is way higher than with men, which likely has more to do with the motivation required to overcome adversity than anything gendered. that is to say, anyone can do it if they aren’t half assed about it.
also, with the number of great anonymous techno releases, who’s to say that it even is men and why assume that as the default?
Listen Lottie, with all due respect , I mean, I’ve seen you on sample sites selling samples packs and what not, unless I’m thinking of someone else… but if you needed a course on ableton at 40 in this day and age then you’re not really one to be interviewed in this capacity. I pressed my first electronic record on my own on a seven inch and with analog gear in 92 after seven years as a bass player having recorded my band in the studio on reel to reel mixed down to adat. I was fully versed in subtractive synth in high school in the late eighties and had a nord lead before I left home… I got the Roland tb303, the original akai mpc, 2000 and could run a protools hd 3 farm card auto 32 track board after going to school for it.. Long before ableton was on the market, and configured a twin akai z-4 hardware live pa also before ableton dropped. I had myriad beatboxes and stuff like the Alesiis mt88 and the Yamaha rs7000… and knew what analog digital diversion chips do and who roger Lynn and rob papin were and what bob moog did etc and on and on.. Why do we hardly hear females like me interviewed on this subject but mainly from chicks who are djs? this kind of female is out there. Interview them, no offense Lottie I really don’t mean to put anyone down, all kind Plur and support for your accomplishments… it’s just that I agree with the comment that whoever wrote this article seems a little lacking in the depth of technology or product history or musicology to write it… Arg..
There are some typo corrects to acknowledge in my postbut I think you get the idea.. I kind of gather that space girl isn’t doing interviews about now, but attack magazine I have been reading computer music since before the word blog was a word and I’m a tad disappointed you assumed mostly chicks would read this and not call you out to dig s little deeper for valid content on your take on this issue… because you dern well know that live pa’s and real dedicated production in the underground scene does not mean a person did it to be famous or for money… Rather the exact opposite is true… because we are just plain obsessed with it.
Regardless of gender, either you have the music in you and will do anything to present it or you dont. Like the thousands of other women who didnt let some gender illusion discourage them, others will do the same. Musical passion is possession. It cant be stopped. Real artists are conduits for cosmic power and there is nothing that can stop them. So its really your problem if your letting anything get in the way of your artistic trajectory male or female. And really, in art, gender doesent matter. Its the work that matters. A masterpiece is a masterpiece whether your a girl a boy or anything else.
That said, we dont need more producers we need more musicians!
What percentage of all DJs (working & nonworking and not including karaoke or radio DJ definitions, rather club-style DJing only) are female? I’m also curious if this has changed over the years.
Why does it matter? If you discovered some evil discrimination that would be one thing. But there isn’t. Almost all producers would love to have more female associates in the biz. Now that we know there’s no discrimination, buzz off and let people do what they want. Social engineers don’t even have to subvert society any more. They have trained everyone to self engineer. There are areas that women out number men, so what? They are doing what they want. Your gender is not a great idea to base you life goals on if you want to be successful and happy.