This post first appeared on Medium.
This week the music blog Your EDM released their list of 30 Under 30 in EDM. I certainly noticed — only two women made it onto the list (the two sisters, Jahan and Yasmine Yousaf, aka Krewella), and even then they occupied the same single spot.
I don’t want to debate who made the list and who didn’t but what annoyed me about Your EDM’s write up was the author’s obliviousness and lack of acknowledgement that very few women made the cut.
Others have also noted what Your EDM failed to point out. A friend of mine pinged me last night and asked me to offer up some names for 30 women under 30 in dance music. I was stumped. The best I could come up with was a handful of notable female artists (like Nervo or Maya Jane Coles). Even when I expanded my range to any women of any age influencing dance music, my list was still surprisingly thin.
Diving deeper into Your EDM’s 30 Under 30 list, you’ll notice there’s a healthy mix of names that are primarily known as being artists (like Skrillex) as well as those that aren’t known for making music themselves but do a heck of a job as young promoters, label heads and managers (like Jake Udell).
Why are women so under-represented in lists like this and especially as young industry leaders and influencers? How do we get more women onto future lists? Here are some thoughts.
1) Electronic music is made mostly by men.
It’s possible that when the people producing the final product are mostly men, you run the risk of making the industry less attractive to women. This isn’t as far-fetched as it sounds and this same scenario plays out in other industries as well. Perhaps there is common ground between why few women get into electronic music and why women are under-represented in other industries, like tech.
Thinking about it in another way, are there plenty of female artists around, but they just don’t do as well at the elite level? And after Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech last weekend, I can draw this long bow too — is there a wage imbalance at play? Are women paid less than men at the higher music industry levels? It happens in the movies, so why can’t it happen in music too?
2) EDM is mostly marketed to and consumed by men.
I should preface this by noting that I am not your typical electronic music fan. For starters, I’m a girl. I’m also over 35. I turn up at electronic music events and I feel like the resident grandma. It doesn’t stop me. I have so much enthusiasm and passion for engaging with, consuming and writing about good electronic music.
I have noticed a pattern in the events that I attend — the more underground and less mainstream the event or act, the less likely women are to attend. It can mean that I’ll show up in Brooklyn somewhere and be seriously outnumbered in the ratio of men to women.
Consuming EDM at festivals or shows usually comes in an environment that’s gritty, loud, very dirty and full of small packs of men. For some women that kind of environment could be mildly annoying at best or viewed as dangerous at worst. I’ve experienced the powerful collective energy the large crowds at these events can generate and while it’s a rush, even I’m intimated sometimes. I can see why women avoid these environments — the fear of being crushed, trampled and injured by the surge of forceful energy in front of a stage is a real one. Women often consume EDM at its sidelines.
It’s a perpetual cycle. If males are more likely to attend and engage with electronic music, then the promotion, marketing and product offering naturally gets aimed at the largest and strongest market. Women get cut out of product-promotion loop.
3) Women, especially younger women, are reluctant to step up and out from traditionally safer industry roles like marketing, promotion or PR.
I have no actual proof of this but I see it happening in other industries like tech. Women, especially younger women, are often drawn to industry roles that rely on soft skills and relationship building, like PR or marketing. When women are younger, they often lack the confidence, the role models, the guts or the support to take on more senior or outlandish roles that might thrust them more into the spotlight. Taking on these senior roles is the catalyst for building influence inside an industry and is what helps propel people onto 30 under 30 lists.
So what’s the answer? How to we get more women onto next year’s 30 under 30 in EDM list? Completely rethinking how EDM is promoted to women to encourage more of them to attend events would likely help. Promoting long-term loyalty and converting young fans into lifelong ones isn’t done well. Most of all the industry needs to better collectively nurture, encourage, mentor and fully get behind the young female talent it already has and what’s waiting in the wings. This applies at an artist level and even more so for women working to influence and build a music career behind the scenes.