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.”