A recent online survey has shown that despite growing awareness and support for gender equality in the music industry, 73% of people would not refuse to attend a festival knowing that it featured an exclusively all-male lineup. The question was asked as part of a series of Instagram polls undertaken by electronic music publication Electronic Beats. The survey revealed an array of surprising attitudes, some of which appear to contradict the rising tide of gender equality that has dominated the festival news in the electronic music scene over the past year.
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39% of respondents said that the gender of a DJ was important to them, whilst 27% of people believed that promoting all-female lineups bolsters the cause of gender equality. Although these concerning responses appear to shed some light on the ambivalent attitudes of some festival-goers towards the equality movement, it could be argued that the issues are not simply black and white. In response to the idea of female-only festival lineups, one respondent said that “there is a strong argument for female only lineups however, normalising women being more present and therefore creating more balanced lineups is more powerful”. This suggests that although support for gender diversity in dance music is there, there is some disagreement over the right way to address the issue.
The world of live music has long been a male-dominated industry, with dance music, in particular, skewing heavily towards male performers. Despite increasing support for gender equality in all areas of culture since the turn of the millennium, the electronic music scene has remained resistant to the tides of change. Electronic music publication Resident Advisor recently chose to end their long-running yearly poll of the world’s top DJs due to a glaring under-representation of female artists. The Forbes list of 2018’s highest-paid DJs featured few women, with a completely male-dominated top 15. It seems that the gender imbalance in electronic music is symptomatic of a wider problem in live music culture: an analysis of more than 600 headline appearances across 14 major festivals last year found that eight out of ten top slots were taken by all-male acts.
The upshot is that awareness surrounding the issue is growing, and many steps have been taken in the right direction over recent years to promote diversity on the festival stage. Festival news is seeing increasing coverage around the issue, and festivals are putting together a growing number of female-only lineups and stages, seen by some as a key method of empowering female artists and shining a light on female talent. Although mainstream electronic music culture is populated by a majority of white male DJs, the underground scene has undoubtedly opened up over the past decade, allowing artists of all genders to make names for themselves as talented selectors. Programs like the Keychange Initiative, a recent commitment made by 45 international festivals to achieve an equal gender balance by 2020, are encouraging developments that point towards an increasing support for inclusivity and diversity in the industry.
Before the gradual assimilation of electronic music into the mainstream over the past 20 years, the industry’s gender imbalance may once have been justified by a lack of female interest in what was once something of a niche genre, difficult to break into from the outside. Fast forward to 2018, where dance music dominates festival line-ups, charts and listening habits across the globe, appealing equally to fans of all ages and genders across the globe. Anyone with a pair of headphones and the right software can learn to DJ, and the societal barriers that previously prevented women from entering creative professions have largely fallen away. In the contemporary landscape, there’s no longer any legitimate reason for the under-representation of female talent in the top tiers of the electronic music industry.
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