Talent Should Transcend Gender

Tony Nwachukwu, who runs electronic producers sharing network CDR at Plastic People, agrees there has been a growth in female DJs and artists embracing digital live performance solutions such as Ableton Live, Traktor, Serato, loop pedals and samplers, but not so much on the production front: “I have yet to see a growth of engineers and producers,” he says. “It seems to me that in terms of technical skill men seem to gravitate towards the more mathematical and scientific approach needed within production.” (It is important to highlight at this juncture that there are highly successful male producers who are also not technically empowered, including prolific producers such as Ashley Beedle.)

Maya Jane Coles

Maya Jane Coles

“In my experience women’s approach to production is more about crafting through lyrics and melody,” Nwachukwu adds. “Men express themselves through hardware. Saying that, Maya Jane Coles has been an attendee at CDR over the last five years and her productions have always stood out. It’s about music at the end of the day. Talent should always transcend gender.”

According to Nwachukwu, the presence of women at his CDR events hits approximately the 10-20% mark which is “standard at these types of events”. Interestingly, at his recent Berlin CDR special which featured the godmother of electro, Peaches, the attendance grew by another 10-15%. “To be frank, attracting women to events with a technical focus traditionally has always been a challenge and I’ve been mindful of ways to encourage female producers and artists,” he continues. “What has worked is to showcase female artists and producers across our events and social media platforms. Successes like Maya Jane Coles help massively. It’s about visibility.”

Raised Eyebrows

For women to impact upon the male saturated space of electronic dance music is tough, not just with the mastering of the technical side or the creating and playing of tracks, but with the individual’s reception. Most female DJs have been subjected to inappropriate and at times abusive behaviour whilst working – including, although rare, by other women – even if for the most part their reception is positive. Such anecdotes cannot be swept over and are indicative of the still unbalanced society we live in. There are reams of stories to be told, such as men leaning over the decks and twiddling the mixer, pissed blokes deliberately bumping the CDJs to balls-up a mix and having a go at scratching the vinyl, uninvited. Plus the many stories of blokes scrutinising one’s beat mixing and choice of records and high-fiving the male friend hanging out next to the decks for dropping a ‘killer tune’. There are still even looks of surprise when a woman is spotted behind the decks, similar to the surprise when a remix or production is discovered to be by a woman. As Nwachukwu affirms: “It’s true. There is an element of surprise in these cases but I long for the day when this won’t be the case.”

Lady Gaga's response to media reports of her weight gain

Lady Gaga’s response to media reports of her weight gain

Women are often ignored during technical discussions when it comes to events, which Charlotte Hotham of Bugged Out finds increasingly annoying: “As the only woman in the office my opinions are always valued and respected. I’ve run festivals for years but still encounter sexism in production meetings where most of the attendees are men and the front of house and sound desk chats go over my head. I just roll my eyes and ignore it.”

Female DJs are often judged on their looks – hardly an eyebrow-raiser – to the point where it impacts on their career progression. “I’ve never once felt I couldn’t get anywhere because of my sex, and have always worked with a great bunch of people, but I have had sexist comments about my looks from blokes whilst I’ve been DJing,” laughs Lottie, who recalled a well-known promoter saying he wouldn’t book a particular female DJ to be resident at his club on the basis of her arse being too big. “He has since apologised about that, but it can’t be ignored. Men can be the ugliest gits on the planet and be embraced as amazing DJs, but women will receive comments about their looks.”

Author Lulu Le Vay
20th December, 2012

Comments

  • Good article.

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  • 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.

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  • only difference is girls got the option of sucking dick to book the gig

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  • @truth. Um, Is that option not open to guys too?

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  • Great read.

    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……

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  • Female or male, unfortunately more often or not, it’s still who you know. Not what you know.

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  • @ 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.

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  • 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.

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  • cooptro – Fascinating insight. Thanks for that. Sounds like Europe and North America have a lot to learn from South America.

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  • Female or male, unfortunately more often or not, it’s still who you know. Not what you know.

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  • 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.

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  • 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?

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  • 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..

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  • 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.

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  • 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!

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  • 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.

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