Women In EDM: The Future of Festivals is Female, So They Say


In continuing with our Women in EDM series, this is an optimistic piece. It has to be. Or else many of you will be pissed. We know that there’s a serious problem with female representation at festivals, especially of the EDM variety. It’s been documented by numerous media channels that cover entertainment and culture—DJ Mag, Huffington Post, Vice, Pitchfork, USA Today, Metro, BBC, LA Times … The reporting, and data that supports it, is glaring. And you know what? It’s also depressing. Just look at the lineup for Ultra, minus the men:

Ultra Music Festival: 2.8% female inclusion.

We’re looking at THREE performers of 107, or 2.8% female inclusion. And it’s a bit confusing as to why DJ Mag—knowing full well the issue of female inclusion, having written about their commitment to lessening the gender gap and all—would name Ultra “#1 Festival in the World.” Of course, Ultra hasn’t come out with any statement addressing or strategy to improve these abysmal statistics (and yes, this has been a flat rate over the festival’s history).

So, can we turn to PLUR-preaching Insomniac, who has no issue with publishing about the gender gap in EDM and need for more female inclusion, for real progress? Perhaps … but as of now, only in concept, and some very fluffy language:

Dancing in a group of eight on the grass at cosmicMEADOW, Christopher was proudly wearing his “The Future Is Female” T-shirt. Originally from Morocco but now based in San Francisco, he’s been raving for three years. He feels that the female presence in dance music is often undervalued and overlooked. Electronic music still has a long way to go in creating opportunities for female artists (and even EDC can do more). But the vibrant female fan base and jaw-dropping sets from Mija, Alison Wonderland, Rezz and Nicole Moudaber showed just how crucial women are to the future of the scene.

OK, EDC (and Insomniac). Do more. You’ve been around since 1993 and are an industry leader. What’s your excuse for your female inclusion to only look like this in 2017?

EDC Las Vegas: 7.6% female inclusion. (Figure also includes all artists not listed on the poster: 15 male, 8 female.)
Beyond Wonderland: 3.7% female inclusion.

While I appreciate the intentions of the young man described above, he’s an individual expressing his views with a t-shirt. But Dear Festival Corporations—you don’t get to “wear” feminism like a trendy article of clothing. Case in point, HARD Summer Fest. As DJ, producer and writer Dani Deahl wrote in this article:

About a month ago, I obtained a copy of the treatment for 2017’s HARD Summer trailer, written by its director, Agata Alexander. The visionary behind HARD’s viral videos for years, Alexander wanted this year’s preview to use humor to shine a harsh light on a very real problem that has (arguably) always existed within American dance music: sexism.

“The goal is to support equality and welcome everyone,” it reads. “Challenge the norm and show the world right from wrong. Let’s have fun.” Below it, in large type, “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE” is emblazoned. Fuck yeah, I thought. I had hope.

But in a cringe-worthy, tone-deaf, Pepsi-like turn of events, this is what we get. Fake breasts on male DJs (effectively reducing the female experience down to “boobs! lol!”), irritating overuse of “girls” in reference to women (trust me, it’s annoying as hell to present yourself as a professional woman and be instantly discredited in a room full of men by being called a girl), and the best part, the ACTUAL women in the video only speak for 16 F&#%ING SECONDS. Yes, 3.2% of the total time. And not all of them speak.

If this is going to be your approach, your female inclusion effort better come out SWINGING. Granted it’s an improvement, but 23.6% female inclusion does not reflect the level of attention this video desperately seeks. It’s a big, bold (*ahem* and misguided) statement with a puny (come on, not even a quarter of women performers) follow-through.


Hard Summer Music Festival: 23.6% female inclusion.

So to the companies that loudly wave the flag of feminism for EVERYONE to notice—but have yet to affect real change in the lineup, let alone in your own organizations’ corporate leadership (I see you)—here’s your cookie. You did it … without actually doing it. Congratulations, you figured out that women and exclusion are hashtag-trending.

My advice to you is to take note from Moogfest. They just did it, and didn’t announce it to the world for a pat on the back. Take a look at their lineup, minus men:

On the Sound side, there’s 45.2% representation, and on the Thought side, 40.8% female representation (organizations that have women leadership and/or significant membership stayed), averaging 42.7%. No video, no fluffy articles; just the actual thing. In fact, the only mention in their own media about female inclusion is in Lauren Di Monte’s speaker bio—she’s an NCSU Libraries Fellow who pushes for diversity in STEM fields. What do you know, the organization hired a qualified, scholarly woman to address the audience about inclusion herself.

And like something poetic, rather than boasting “The Future is Female!” at every opportunity, future-oriented Moogfest shows that actually, the present is female—when you take off the “this is how it’s always been” blinders and just book it that way.

The Optimistic Part

Things are changing, and this is good. At least female inclusion is becoming a more important talking point among festival promoters. Some, like Moogfest, are just making the move. And some, like San Francisco’s Together Fest, seek to show what an all-woman lineup can be. It’s promising. But here’s the reality: Don’t look to giant festivals for a trickle-down effect, because bottom line, it’s all about profit. They’ll continue to book the largest names, male and sometimes female, so long as they bring in the audience and the cash.

Here’s what you can do. You see all those names above? Find their SoundCloud and social media pages. Like them. Listen to them. Share their work. Go to their non-festival shows when they’re in town. Bring all your friends. If you throw events, book them if you can. When you buy festival tickets, write/post/tweet to the festival that you’re there to see mija, or Anna Lunoe, or Alison Wonderland, or Nicole Moudaber; and when the festivals finally give them the headliner treatment they deserve, you’ll bring all your friends and spread the word about what a great festival it is, and thank you for not booking Tiesto as headliner for the millionth time.

Be the change you want to see. Because the future is only female if the present is, too.

About Ash Cash Dillon

Ash Cash Dillon is a legit word nerd with a killer bass face and a love of all that is stone cold groovy. You can find her writing all over the interwebs, business world, and take-out menus via sharpie vandalism.

View All Posts