Time’s Up on Electronic Dance Music: 2018 EDC Festival Opens With Most Female Artists Ever

Black Madonna, Mija, Lauren Lane, Mariana Bo and Rezz are among the 15 women out of a total 250 artists

EDC 2018 Miji

Electronic music is such a male-dominated field that with only 15 females out of about 250 artists playing this weekend’s Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in Las Vegas, it’s still the biggest female lineup in the event’s 22-year history.

EDC is a three-night dusk-til-dawn festival that is the largest such event in North America.

Alongside mainstream names like Afrojack, Diplo, Hardwell, Kygo, Illenium and Kaskade, a crop of female producers from Italy, the original Chicago house movement, and a teenager from Texas will be among those playing the fourteen stages with names like “Cosmic Meadow,” “Circuit Grounds,” and the “Wasteland.”

Fans at EDC 2017. (Scott Hutchinson for Insomniac)

While 15 is an bjectively low representation (about 6 percent of the bill), there are not deserving superstar female DJs sidelined at festival time nor is this to say that there aren’t power women in other areas of the industry. All-female acts Krewella and Nervo are on the global circuit. Rezz was the only electronic act — male or female — to headline the hallowed grounds of the Sahara tent at Coachella this year.

Amy Thomson manages Swedish House Mafia, arguably still the largest looming global draw. The currently No. 1 song on the Dance/Electronic chart, “The Middle” by Zedd and Maren Morris, was written by 23-year-old Sarah Aarons.

So where are the greater numbers of women at single genre festivals?

An empirical view of industry data shows analogous low representation on electronic music charts and key platforms. At the other prominent U.S. electronic music festival, Ultra, 11 female electronic artists were on a similar-sized bill of about 200 in Miami this past March. (I’m not counting Ultra performer Azalea Banks, who is hip-hop and not routinely in consideration for dance festivals.)

“In general, the visibility of female artists in the EDM community is growing, but too slowly,” Emma Kapotes, a leading EDM vlogger told TheWrap. “EDC has definitely had some iconic female artist moments in the past few years.”

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Alison Wonderland (left) improvised a live collaborative set with Diplo and Jauz on the main stage at EDC 2017 (aLive for Insomniac)

The baseline landscape in EDM may not be reckoning with the long-gestating institutional and systemic issues that the “Time’s Up” movement has been addressing in TV and film due to a sheer smaller pool of entrants and shorter legacy, though the recent swift banishment of accused sexual assaulter of touring DJ Datsik underscores that these issues are never far from the surface.

In the entertainment industry where gatekeepers control the levers of content creation, the movement has focused on issues like salary equality with male co-stars and making sure that talented female directors or showrunners get a fair shot at reps in the director’s chair, executive suite or running a writer’s room.

Mariana Bo
Mariana Bo will play EDC 2018. (Instagram)

Electronic music production is more solitary but career trajectories and talent buyers are increasingly data driven. Festival bookings (and billing) hinge on ticket sale track records, Spotify streams, YouTube views, social media engagement, and other granular data that is readily available to large music promoters like AEG, Live Nation, and Insomniac who all run global year-round live event businesses that feed their marquee festivals.

Publicly available data tracks low female representation on the festival stages. As the cause or effect, it suggests female producer scarcity.

In DJ Mag’s much-read and much- loathed annual “Top 100” list, only four females made the cut. (Check out #84, the violin-playing Mexican, Mariana Bo, in our roundup of 15 Women of EDC below.)

On the current Billboard Hot Dance Electronic chart  for May 19, only six of the top 40 songs have a female artist credited in the lead position. There are tons of female vocalists on tracks by producers like Marshmello and Zedd, but country singer Maren Morris is not an “electronic producer” just because she beat out 14 other singers to get the gig on the hit “The Middle.”

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Maren Morris and Zedd perform “The Middle” at Omnia earlier this month. (Joe Janet)

Further, the Billboard “six” is inflated, benefitting from some flabby categorization. Billboard includes a few indie/indie pop singers and a female Instagram model who is suddenly producing. Of the names that are solidly electronic and would be at an event like EDC, there are two in the top 40 of the chart: Alison Wonderland and singer Vassy.

The imbalance on stage doesn’t track the audience watching them. EDM festival crowds are robustly diverse in ethnicities, sexual orientation and gender expression, and other than Hardstyle and some niche genres, significantly more diverse than what you would see at the Empire Polo Fields, home of Coachella.

“As a female EDM fan, it’s extremely inspiring to look up at the stage and see another female absolutely owning her set,” Kapotes added. “More and more opportunities should be given to deserving artists across EDM festivals and dance charts.”

Although the average age of EDC attendees is a surprisingly high 28, the tech-savvy Gen-Z females may help balance this out.

Mack Bartsch, who uses all analog equipment, performs as “Spaceprodigi.” (Instagram)

Spaceprodigi, 17, a rising producer from Houston (above), will play her second show ever on the main stage at EDC this Sunday night.