Women are ‘Underplayed’ in EDM

Written by on June 30, 2021

I was introduced to EDM early on in life because of my mom. However, it was not until elementary school that it clicked. My mom bought this Tiesto CD: “Club Life, Vol. 2 – Miami” and it was all I wanted to play in the car throughout the summer of 2012. Next thing you know, I was surfing through YouTube looking for more artists in this genre. I quickly became a huge fan of Major Lazer, Krewella, Porter Robinson, Pegboard Nerds, and many more. There are so many sub-genres of EDM so I could not tell you which is my favorite but, my taste has continued to develop as I learn more about this beautiful industry. It is an industry that allows one to freely express themself; it is a safe space for so many. 

A few months back, I was working on my monthly playlist for the WMSC music team. The theme is women artists that empower and inspire me. It was only until I started filling it that I realized there were barely any EDM artists in it because I barely knew any female DJs. I kind of had this moment of self-reflection, “Like, hold-up.” EDM is one of my favorite genres and here I am trying to create a personal playlist of powerful women artists but the EDM was lacking representation. 

Underplayed is a documentary that discusses the problem that women face in the dance music industry: they’re not seen. The documentary is a 2020 Tribeca Film Festival Official Selection as well as a 2020 Toronto International Film Festival Official Selection. It is available to watch on Amazon Prime as of March 8th (aka International Women’s Day). The documentary stars artists such as Rezz, Alison Wonderland, Tokimonsta, Nervo, and many more talented women in the electronic industry. 

Underplayed discusses the numerous battles women in the industry face. “People will say, ‘Why haven’t women done it?’ Well, they have done it, and they’ve been doing it, and they have been there all along. But, they’ve been invisible,” Suzanne Ciani (Electronic Music Pioneer). A surprising statistic in the documentary stated only 5 of the top 100 DJs in 2019 were women. “In 2018, only 8.5% of solo acts at festivals were female. In 2019, it dropped to 8%” (Djane Magazine). Maxie Sedge (from 50/50 gender balance initiative Keychange), “There are so many examples of artists and their agents saying, ‘Oh no, we’ve already got a woman on that lineup.'” This is their way of demonstrating “equal opportunity” aka their token woman artist. The documentary also discusses many more challenges women face that cross with ethnicity and sexuality. 

To learn more, I highly suggest watching Underplayed. It is an eye-opener of the realities of this world I cherish. It is empowering and inspiring for any female artist or creator working (or trying to work) in the music industry (EDM or not). 

Synopsis: “Electronic music was born from the ideals of diversity, community, and inclusivity, and yet in 2019 only 5 of the top 100 DJs were women. Filmed over the summer festival season, Underplayed presents a portrait of the current status of gender, ethnic, and sexual equality issues through the lens of the female pioneers, next-generation artists, and industry leaders who are championing the change and inspiring a more diverse pool of role models for future generations. Ultimately, the film explores how gender disparity happens, a theme that transcends music and finds relevance in many of today’s industries” (Underplayed the Film).

Favorite Quotes: 

  • “I’m glad I didn’t give up,” Tygapaw. 
  • “We are not trying to take a space that men occupied. And we don’t want to be men. We actually have our own voice,” Suzanne Ciani



Article By Yazemin Yilmaz