Female DJs More women working the turntables

Gudrun Gut has been a driving force in the music scene since the 1980s.
Gudrun Gut has been a driving force in the music scene since the 1980s. | Photo (detail): GGut live Sonoras 2018 © Jose M. Pedrajas

female:pressure – a network helping to boost the number of female DJs.

The number of women in electronic music has risen since the late 1990s. But that does not mean women are over-represented in the electro music scene. On the contrary. Nadine Moser alias Resom, Susanne Kirchmayr alias Electric Indigoand Gudrun Gutare icons of electronic music but they are convinced that women in the industry have a much tougher time than men. With the international network female:pressure, they are trying to get more women working the turntables and greater acknowledgement for their work. 

Back-handed compliments and scepticism

Susanne Kirchmayr has repeatedly encountered sexist behaviour in her work as a musician: “It starts with insulting back-handed compliments like ‘You are really good for a woman’, which every female artist has heard”. Femininity is not a disadvantage per se, she says.“All new DJs have to work hard to get noticed and being a woman can certainly help in that respect because female DJs are the exception, so they stand out.” But Kirchmayr reckons the advantages are outweighed by the disadvantages: “What I regularly find is that women face greater scepticism. They have to prove themselves while men get nodded through. Women need a stronger personality and a thick skin. Otherwise they quickly give up.” 

As Electric Indigo, Kirchmayr has helped define the music scene since the late 1980s. In 1998, she founded female:pressure,an international network for female artists in electronic music and digital arts. The mailing list carries messages about the music business, warnings about sexist promoters and details of podcasts and joint activities. Today, female:pressure has 2,370 members in 75 countries, including a growing number of non-binary and transgender artists. “We are big on solidarity,” Kirchmayr stresses. Everyone is welcome – from newbie to pro. 

  • Nadine Moser alias Resom offers DJ workshops to motivate more women to work the turntables. She is convinced that women in electronic music have a much tougher time than men. Photo (detail): Resom @ Camille Blake
    Nadine Moser alias Resom offers DJ workshops to motivate more women to work the turntables. She is convinced that women in electronic music have a much tougher time than men.
  • Susanne Kirchmayr, founder of the female:pressure network, has repeatedly encountered sexist behaviour in her work as a musician. Photo (detail): Electric Indigo © StefanFuhrer/WienModern
    Susanne Kirchmayr, founder of the female:pressure network, has repeatedly encountered sexist behaviour in her work as a musician.
  • In the 1980s, Gudrun Gut was founding member of the Berlin band Malaria!. It is nice – she says – to see improvements in the visibility of female artists. Photo (detail): GGut Moment 2018 © Mara von Kummer
    In the 1980s, Gudrun Gut was founding member of the Berlin band Malaria!. It is nice – she says – to see improvements in the visibility of female artists.

Better visibility for female artists

Gudrun Gut has also been a driving force in the music scene since the 1980s – as DJ, presenter, music producer and owner of the music label Monika Enterprise.A founding member of the Berlin band Malaria!, she does not think women have a harder or easier time in electronic music than in any other area of the music business. It is pretty much the same everywhere, she says: “The music scene as a whole is very male-dominated – just look at any record collection.” And she recalls the early days of female:pressure: “One eye-opening moment was when we started to count how many men were being booked and how many women. Some festivals had a 100% male line-up. That shocked us all.”

The scale of male dominance in the music scene was also highlighted by an analysis conducted by the British Guardian newspaper in 2015. The paper’s website published the flyers of the year’s music festivals but blanked out all of the male acts on the bill. The result: in many cases there was hardly anyone left. 

Kirchmayr and Gut are pleased to note that female DJs have an easier time getting bookings today than at the turn of the millennium. “There are more women in electronic music now and we have seen the development of a strong feminist discourse,” says Kirchmayr, summing up progress in the 20 years since the network was created. Gut also points to improvements in the visibility of female artists. It is nice – she says – to see a slowly growing awareness that not all the acts that can be booked for festivals are male.