Discwoman And Changing The Record Of All-Male Electronic Lineups
Meet the women helping balance the turntables
Gaze down the lineups of an EDM festival–or the Highest-Paid DJs list–and you’d be forgiven for thinking electronic music is only produced by white men. Of the 231 acts at this year’s EDC Las Vegas, just eight included female members–that’s 3.5% of all artists. At the forthcoming Electric Zoo in New York, only six of 92 acts announced so far were women or included a female member.
Though acts such as NERVO and Krewella are regularly featured on such lineups, allowing them to command the fees that might soon land them on the Electronic Cash Kings list, the gender disparity onstage remains dismal–and that’s not just in the U.S. A 2015 report by female:pressure, a network of female electronic artists, found that men comprised 82% of 44 international festivals’ lineups. There’s even a tumblr dedicated to pointing out very male lineups.
At a festival, women are nearly exclusively heard onstage in the controlled samples of female vocals that comprise EDM hooks. For listeners at home, women are visible only in the sexualized stock art of YouTube videos. And it’s an industry secret that top male DJs have, on occasion, written requests into their riders for attractive women to serve refreshments backstage for them.
Now several women are working to balance those festival turntables. Discwoman, a New York-based platform and party-thrower, represents and showcases female-identified DJ talent in the electronic music community through regular club nights. Since its first event at Brooklyn’s Bossa Nova Civic Club in 2014, Discwoman has thrown events with all-female lineups in Boston, Philadelphia, Montreal, Detroit and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“You can’t just talk about it, you have to do something,” says Frankie Hutchinson, who founded Discwoman with DJ Emma Olson and Christine Tran. “We saw that to change lineups we would have to get more control in booking, so that’s why we went into being a booking agency,” Hutchinson explained while in Detroit during Movement festival, where Discwoman were running an all-female, 15-hour show with local collective Girls Gone Vinyl to raise a funds for a scholarship to production classes at Detroit’s Music Industry Academy.
There is a concern that gender-specific lineups tokenize female DJs, but without bringing attention to the artists made invisible by the systemic under-representation of women, it seems impossible to shift the scales.
In order to counter such monolithic presentations, “we need to have the mentors, the networks, the role models,” says Girls Gone Vinyl co-founder Maggie Derthick. Hutchison says female bookings are on the increase, but looks forward to the day women are integrated into lineups rather than segregated to one showcase.”
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