When it comes to the music industry, the attitude towards females can be just as exclusive as it is within the tech industry. Certain genres, such as EDM, can have a “Boys Only” mentality that makes it hard for female artists to make a name for themselves. Fortunately, there are brave (and not to mention ultra-talented) women pioneering the EDM industry and showing that us girls have what it takes to hang with the boys.
EDM (electronic dance music, club music, or simply dance) is an umbrella term for electronic genres such as techno, house, dubstep, and trap music. You might recognize names such as Calvin Harris, Afrojack, Diplo, or Swedish House Mafia — some big commercial acts in EDM. This style of music requires producers and artists to spend long, tedious hours in the studio. That hard work pays off when DJs and vocalists get to travel the world to play at epic parties and festivals like Electric Zoo in New York City, Spring Awakening in Chicago, or Electric Daisy in Las Vegas.
This wild fame and fortune is merely a dream for many; it is especially elusive, however, for the hundreds of female EDM vocalists and DJs struggling to get the credit they undoubtedly deserve. In this day and age, it is shocking how many obstacles these female DJs encounter, and how little credit or respect is given to EDM vocalists. DJ Hanna Hanra described the issue in her piece for the Guardian, stating, “I hit the glass ceiling. I realized that it didn’t matter how many times a week I DJ’d or how much I charged or how much people enjoyed what I played. I was losing the impetus to fight my way through the boys’ club.”
Sadly, this bias has been going on for decades. Male DJs don’t experience the same bias that female producers find in the EDM world. Hanra explained that before many of her shows, male DJs would adjust her settings or sound board without asking. Sound guys, thinking they were doing her a favor, would try to explain how sound equipment — the same equipment she had been using for years — would work onstage.
In her interview with Halley Bondy, Kito Lee of DJ-duo Faux said, “You have to prove yourself a bit more within a male-dominated industry or scene. That’s how I felt at first. I wanted to be as good as the boys. Better than the boys.”
When Faux No’s music started catching the public’s attention, Lee confessed that it was annoying to hear comments from producers about her “schooling the boys.” When it comes down to quality music, does it really matter if a guy or a girl is writing it? The beautiful thing about music is that it brings us together as humans, regardless of race, religion, or gender. EDM, even though it started as a man’s game, shouldn’t be any different.
Despite female artists being credited and mentioned by name after appearing in a producer’s song, they don’t receive much admiration for their contributions. Most artists don’t just sing, but add to the collaboration by writing the lyrics and melody for the vocal tracks they provide. A scandal in the pop industry in the 1990s (which ended in a revoked Grammy from a group that used lip-synching) led to the creation of rules for giving correct credit to artists involved in releasing a song. So vocalists get their names in the title, but how many times do you say, “Hey listen to this new song by David Guetta and Bebe Rexha and Nicki Minaj!” instead of just “Have you heard David Guetta’s new song?” The vocalists are often the ones slighted in this partnership in terms of renown and revenue, which is the nature of the beast that is EDM. Since DJs and producers do so much work in compilation, editing, and production, vocals aren’t as high up on their priority list for compensation, and you rarely see EDM vocalists given the opportunity to perform live.
Before we raise our feminist banners and start protesting this injustice against woman vocalists, let’s consider that this is an issue for all EDM vocalists. Calvin Harris shared in an interview with YourEDM that female vocals are preferred in the genre for the qualities that match perfectly with the style of music.
“[Female voices] are always at the perfect frequency to play in a club… It’s basic science. A man’s voice is likely to interfere with the bass line which is why you don’t hear many classic dance tracks with a male lead,” the hit DJ explained. So although there is a significant issue with the recognition given to female EDM artists, at least a handful of hopeful male singers can relate to the struggle.
Despite the lack of popularity of female artists in EDM, there are plenty of vocalists and DJs working to make a name for themselves in the industry. For starters, check out NERVO, Rebecca & Fiona, Haley Gibby and Ana Sia for some EDM girl power!