Lineups Don't Lie: Dance Music is Still a Boys Club
A look at the numbers reveals a massive gender gap on the decks at dance festivals in 2014.
It's hardly news that women are underrepresented in various facets of dance music. Although imagining a rave without girls is a sad and scary notion (and an awkward reality at some dubstep shows), people don't seem to blink when dude after dude rolls up to the decks at the world's biggest festivals.
Despite countless attempts to analyze this DJ booth gender gap, critique its causes and even offer a few simple solutions, there has been little improvement in balancing the male/female DJ ratio over the years. Now that 2014 big festival lineups are mostly released, we looked at the numbers to see just how pervasive this inequality is.
The freshly released Electric Daisy Carnival lineup features 184 acts. Of those, five are women or include at least one female member. That works out to a shockingly low 2.71%. Electric Zoo fares slightly worse with three women artists out of 116 announced so far (2.58%).
EDC New York fared marginally better at 4.4% with 3 out of 68 artists, whereas Chicago's Spring Awakening festival scored higher with 5 out of 91 artists reaching 5.49%. Next was Ultra, with a 13 female artists out of 220 for a mere 5.9%. Mysteryland's first US iteration performed best out of all the large electronic music festivals, with 6 of 87 artists, or a total of 6.89%
Genre-oriented festivals like Movement Detroit and Mutek Montreal stand out with the highest percentages of women. Movement weighed in with 9.09% (12 out of 132), whereas Mutek reached 9.57% (9 of 94). It seems techno might be ever so slightly more female-friendly for DJs.
Gender disparity isn't only the domain of dance music, but when we compare these numbers to mainstream festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo, the gap closes a little. Of the 166 acts who played six stages of Coachella 2014, 34 featured women. That's 20.4%. These numbers get worse when analysis is limited to the Sahara and Yuma tents where only 4 acts included women artists. Bonnaroo's lineup (including superjams and comics) held a ratio of 18.22% or 35 out of 192 artists. Even Electric Forest's scattershot line-up of DJs and jam-bands reached 11.3% with 13 women compared to 102 men.
Cursory historical analysis shows that this is not a new trend. In 2004, EDC featured three females among 37 different acts. In 2009, the number of women performers stayed the same, but the lineup had expanded to 86 acts. That same year, first Electric Zoo featured only two women out of a 58 artist-strong lineup.
It's worthwhile to note that the women who do perform are generally the same from festival to festival. Acts like Krewella and Nervo are main stage mainstays in 2014 while Nicole Moudaber, Anna Lunoe and Maya Jane Coles frequently populate side stages. A dearth of women leads to an absence of variety among those female performers and no female artist has top billing at a major North American dance music festival.
Bookings like these are used as an indicator of both career achievement and financial power in the big business of dance music. The numbers make it clear that women are being left out of the equation. Now it's up to the industry —and more importantly, the fans— to decide what to do about it.
*A previous version of this story reported Mysteryland as having three women artists on its lineup.