Beyond the Dance Floor: Female DJs, Technology and Electronic Dance Music Culture

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While the two male DJs received recognition from scene networks, the overwhelming majority of our female interviewees described how, especially in the beginning of their careers, the informal scene networks ignored their DJ activities. As one of the female DJs explains:. Fundamentally, unknown female DJs have difficulty in securing legitimate positions in music scenes because of their gender Gavanas , Farrugia This female DJ used a typical method to compensate for her exclusion from male-dominated scene networks: she organised her own regular club nights, to which she invited other DJs and where she herself performs, and she set up her own networks.

Taking into consideration the above quote from the female DJ, it becomes clear that the narrative is based not on chance or luck, as the two male DJs had justified their performances at club nights at the beginning of their careers; nor does she present herself as a co-founder of the techno scene or as a good DJ.

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The female DJ views the turning point in launching her career as labour-intensive event organisation, which gave her the advantage of starting her own informal scene network in which to gain the recognition of colleagues and club audiences. Back to: PopScriptum 12 - Sound, Sex und Sexismus Content Endnotes This book is written in a journalistic style for a popular audience but may nevertheless provide preliminary findings for future research..

For a more detailed discussion of this issue see Reitsamer a. Buscatto , Cohen , Whitely While all these studies arrive at the conclusion that female musicians find it more difficult to develop a sustainable career, they also provide insights into the gendered and racialized practices ingrained in the specific musical world for accessing resources, gaining recognition and making a living from music-making.


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We then describe the relationship between technology and masculinity as one of the key gatekeeping practices in electronic dance music that results in negative effects for female DJs and music producers. Finally, we discuss how female DJ networks develop diverse strategies for advancing the careers of their members and how the success of women is devalued by male DJs.

Our findings are based on 75 interviews with DJs active in the trans- local electronic dance music scenes in Berlin, London, Vienna and Stockholm conducted between and , complemented by recent interviews with DJs based in Stockholm and an analysis of discussions on an internet forum for female DJs between and Content Working conditions in electronic dance music scenes Numerous scholars have explored the working conditions of musicians in diverse musical scenes by highlighting the endemic features of creative labour: precarious employment, low and sometimes non-existent wages, dense social networking, the holding of multiple jobs to sustain livelihoods and music-making and the blurring of work and leisure that often leads to self-exploitation e.

Banks , Hesmondhalgh and Baker , Zwaan et al. These working conditions seem to be reflected in trans- local electronic dance music scenes in Western cities. However, the neoliberal encouragement of up-and-coming DJs to become cultural entrepreneurs is a fairly recent development within trans- local electronic dance scenes, thus marking a break with the previous employment practices of DJs. Ultimately, Lawrence observes, these changes led to a neoliberal framework in which DJs became freelancers who could expect to spin records once or twice a month as opposed to having regular DJ residencies.

Moreover, the digitalization of music and the availability of digital music technology have enabled an exponential spread of dance music tracks and DJ mixes accompanied by a sharp increase of the number of DJs and music producers now competing for public appearances at local bars and clubs Fikentscher , Karpetz And DJs increasingly compete with each other by charging lower rates than their colleagues to get the job.

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Statistics compiled by members of the DJ network Female Pressure www. Similar gender inequalities are documented in other creative and cultural industries such as film e.

Jones and Pringle or classical music, where established orchestras remain the domain of male musicians and conductors e. Allmendinger and Hackman That was the time that techno [in Vienna] had taken off so extremely, and I was there, because we had thrown the first techno parties in Vienna, where I DJed. We were on the same wavelength and since I was already pretty good at spinning records at the time, they took me in. They let me play at their parties and whoever could DJ with Trife Life was immediately in demand.

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You have to be at the right place at the right time to get a chance. They mutually invite one another, regardless of whether they have a good selection and can mix or not, and they sit and talk about music as if it were a science, and make collaborative music. And then I had the idea to develop my own structures, and even make my own club. In the s, the majority of the female and male interviewees took on this dual function of DJ and club promoter at the beginning of their careers.

They occupy a decision-making position in the music scenes, which allows them to participate in the game of recognition and power and as a result, they affect the career progression of the next generation of DJs significantly.

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However, in addition to experiences of exclusion from informal organised networks that are generally dominated by young men see also Cohen , female DJs have to cope with further gatekeeping practices. In electronic dance music, which evolved in the early s, the use of machines and digital music technologies has become essential preconditions for DJing and music making. As a result, technological mastery has become central to the values and social interactions as well as the ideals and passions related to DJing and music making.

Likewise, in the literature about electronic dance music, men and machines are featured as foundational e. Perhaps it is normal for a guy who builds loudspeakers [ But I think I am probably the third sex laughs. This DJ addresses the symbolic association between masculinity and technology in society in general and in electronic dance music scenes in particular, such that technological competence has come to constitute an integral part of male gender identity, and, vice versa, a specific notion of masculinity has become central to our very definition of technology Cockborn and Ormrod At the beginning [ Male DJs have a bigger hunger for fame, and they stick around, while many women give up.

In order to combat under-expectations and doubt, female DJs constantly have to prove themselves. In this process, self-representation may prove to be a minefield. Content Gendered self-promotion and self-representation in the context of post-feminism As mentioned above, creative labour is increasingly governed by values of entrepreneurialism and musicians are encouraged to think and act like cultural entrepreneurs. But I also need a lot of time to train myself artistically to improve my DJing and music-making takes also a lot of time and also all the gigs, especially if you go abroad.

For this DJ, self-marketing means maintaining and expanding her trans- local and online networks by using new media technologies and meeting people at local parties.

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This form of sociality and the corresponding strategies of self-promotion are regarded as essential for a successful career Wittel , McRobbie However, as Scharff illustrates in the empirical study on female musicians advancing careers in classical music, strategies of self-promotion are gendered and female musicians have to navigate several gendered difficulties. Her female research participants, Scharff argues, took on broad entrepreneurial discourses by describing their work and themselves as products that had to be sold, but the majority of her interviewees expressed a dislike of self-promotional strategies.

Their dilemmas relate to normative expectations that women are modest as well as the association of women who sell themselves with prostitution, among other gendered constraints. McRobbie addresses the recent pervasive sexualisation of contemporary popular culture within the wider context of neoliberalism.

Breaking The Myth Of The Female DJ In Electronic Dance Music

She argues that this dominant economic and cultural mode of Western societies encourages girls and young women to turn their bodies into vehicles for individual achievement. Within this neoliberal framework, the ways that women represent themselves and style their bodies seems to be of immense importance Puwar As the media place more importance on the appearance of women, female DJs have to manage their femininity both in terms of the connotations and issues they raise as well as their physical appearance Puwar Historically, we can identify three types of gendered representations for female musicians McClary , Rodgers Second, music journalists tend to compare the work of female musicians reductively to other women artists simply because they are women.

As a result, female DJs are seen as representing the capacities of women as a group, for which they are marked and visible per se Puwar Third, the recent pervasive hyper-sexualisation of contemporary culture also manifests itself in representations of female DJs and music producers in music magazines for example, URB, DJ, IDJ, Mixmag , posters and flyers, as music journalists and club hosts pay more attention to their appearances than to their musical skills and their work. And [ Like this kind of thing [ According to a number of women, they also experience the ambivalent advantages of such tokenism, paradoxically changing the minority status of female DJs in club culture.

You would get a lot of attention, but I used to hate it when a promoter would decide to have an all-girl DJs night as a novelty. I especially hate it when that is the only time you get asked to play! Nowadays, there are a lot more women DJs and I can see that the ratio of male and female DJs is now slowly starting to balance out. Few of the DJs addressed age or youth as an important precondition for sexualized self-marketing strategies and the scene-specific classifications according to sexuality and ethnicity. However, we did not find a complete resistance to femininity among our interviewees.

In the final part of this article, we want to address female networking strategies and the challenges associated with them. However, even though they embodied feminist goals, some of these networks took measures to distance themselves from feminism in order to maximize their appeal in a male-dominated industry Farrugia The female DJs develop two main strategies for escaping this dilemma and the attendant accusation of receiving invitations to performances not because of DJ skills, but for being a woman and, moreover, forging networks with other women.

These positive changes might be traced back to the fact that male club promoters and festival organisers have become aware of gender inequalities, exclusion and segregation as a result of the queer-feminist politics of female DJ collectives. Content Conclusion In this article, we explored some of the gendered dynamics in trans- local electronic dance music scenes in Western cities in the context of neoliberal working conditions, competitive individualism and post-feminism.

While male and female DJs alike highlight the negative effects of neoliberal changes in electronic dance music scenes, our analysis has pointed out in particular the contradiction and dilemmas experienced by women DJs regarding technology, sex and gender, as well as sexual identity, self-promotion and self-representation. Our analysis has also shown how networks such as Female Pressure, Sister Stockholm or Pink Noises offer various advantages for female DJs and how the protest and pressure of such networks can achieve at least some positive changes towards equal opportunities in trans- local electronic dance music scenes.

However, female DJs, musicians and music producers still remain marginalized in these male-dominated scenes and, as a result, have to find ways not only to survive in the neoliberal and digital era, but also to struggle meaningfully against gender inequalities, exclusion and segregation.

Allmendinger, J. A four-nation study of the inclusion of women in symphony orchestra. Social Force 74 2 , pp. Banks, M. Basingstoke: Palgrave. Becker, H. Berkeley: University of California Press. Bourdieu, P. Cambridge: Polity Press. Brewster, B. New York: Headline. Buscatto, M. Author Michael Veal considers dub music , a Jamaican music stemming from roots reggae and sound system culture that flourished between and , to be one of the important precursors to contemporary electronic dance music.

Dub producers made improvised deconstructions of existing multi-track reggae mixes by using the studio mixing board as a performance instrument. They also foregrounded spatial effects such as reverb and delay by using auxiliary send routings creatively. Despite the limited electronic equipment available to dub pioneers such as King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry, their experiments in remix culture were musically cutting-edge. It featured layering techniques and incorporated elements of world music , deep bass lines and harmonic sounds.

Hip hop music has had some influence in the development of electronic dance music since the s.

This technique was further used to manually loop a purely percussive break, leading to what was later called a break beat. Turntablism has origins in the invention of the direct-drive turntable , [17] by Shuichi Obata, an engineer at Matsushita now Panasonic. In , George McCrae 's early disco hit " Rock Your Baby " was one of the first records to use a drum machine , [22] an early Roland rhythm machine.

It became the first well-known disco hit to have a completely synthesised backing track. Other disco producers, most famously American producer Tom Moulton , grabbed ideas and techniques from dub music which came with the increased Jamaican migration to New York City in the seventies to provide alternatives to the four on the floor style that dominated.

Euro disco continued evolving within the broad mainstream pop music scene. Synth-pop short for 'synthesizer pop'; [34] also called 'techno-pop' [35] [36] is a subgenre of new wave music [37] that first became prominent in the late s and features the synthesizer as the dominant musical instrument. It was prefigured in the s and early s by the use of synthesizers in progressive rock , electronic , art rock , disco , and particularly the " Krautrock " of bands like Kraftwerk. It arose as a distinct genre in Japan and the United Kingdom in the post-punk era as part of the new wave movement of the late s to the mids.

After the breakthrough of Gary Numan in the UK Singles Chart in , large numbers of artists began to enjoy success with a synthesizer-based sound in the early s, including lates debutants like Japan and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark , and newcomers such as Depeche Mode and Eurythmics.

The development of inexpensive polyphonic synthesizers, the definition of MIDI and the use of dance beats, led to a more commercial and accessible sound for synth-pop. This, its adoption by the style-conscious acts from the New Romantic movement, together with the rise of MTV , led to success for large numbers of British synth-pop acts including Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet in the United States.

The emergence of electronic dance music in the s was shaped by the development of several new electronic musical instruments , particularly those from the Japanese Roland Corporation. The Roland TR often appreviated as the "" notably played an important role in the evolution of dance music, [46] after Afrika Bambaataa 's " Planet Rock " made it very popular on dancefloors. During the post-disco era that followed the backlash against " disco " which began in the mid to late , which in the United States lead to civil unrest and a riot in Chicago known as the Disco Demolition Night , [13] an underground movement of "stripped-down" disco inspired music featuring "radically different sounds" [14] started to emerge on the East Coast.

The sound that emerged originated from P-Funk [18] the electronic side of disco , dub music , and other genres. Much of the music produced during this time was, like disco, catering to a singles-driven market. In the early s, electro short for "electro-funk" emerged as a fusion of electro-pop , funk , and boogie. Also called electro-funk or electro-boogie, but later shortened to electro, cited pioneers include Ryuichi Sakamoto , Afrika Bambaataa , [55] Zapp , [56] D.

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