August 07, 2018

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festivals like the upcoming Moonrise Festival bring thousands of people together to dance the day and night away. To an outside observer, the EDM scene can seem eccentric, even uncouth. It's common to see girls at EDM festivals dressed in nothing but a bra and booty shorts. Their bodies and faces are sometimes painted, and they could easily be sporting butterfly wings attached to their backs as they jump around to a loud beat. Upon closer examination, however, the rave scene is offering women more than a just place to let loose and party.

Electronic Dance Music is a genre that is replacing traditional guitars and drums for MIDI Keyboards/Controllers and DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) systems. Sounds high-tech? Well, it takes engineering skills and a strong knowledge of hardware and software to DJ at a music festival. And don't let the techy talk fool you. This is an area where many women are thriving.

Only ten years ago, female DJs, or music engineers, were like women in other areas of engineering today. They had very few role models. Now however, many female DJs make more money than their male counterparts by getting gigs at fashion shows. These big events pay more than clubs and festivals because they're affiliated with big name fashion brands. Although there are more male than female household names in the EDM industry, for example Tiesto and the late Avicii, women are catching up.

Anna Lunoe is a perfect example of how women are not only entering the industry, but also thriving. Originally from Australia, Lunoe expanded to the global stage in the mid-2000’s, and in 2009, Ministry Of Sound asked her to be the first woman to curate one of their mixes. Just a few weeks afterwards, the record was certified gold, highlighting her skills and creativity. Lunoe started releasing original productions in 2011, and the title track from her first extended play record “Real Talk” reached number one on the Beatport Indie Dance chart and remained there for several months. She continues to tour globally, and has attracted thousands of fans to several large music festivals, including Coachella. Lunoe will be performing at Moonrise Festival at Pimlico Racetrack this upcoming weekend in Baltimore Maryland.

Artists like Anna Lunoe use technology to create their work in a time when attracting and keeping women in tech is proving a major challenge. Studies show women make up less than 26% of the STEM (Science Technology Engineering, and Math) Industry and between 2006-2014 the number of computer science degrees women attained actually decreased. This trend has political and social leaders worried that women may miss out on the ongoing 4IR (4th Industrial Revolution) taking place in the STEM field. Just last year, former First Lady Michelle Obama implored Silicon Valley to make room for women in technology.

So why are women underrepresented in the technology field? Debbie Sterling, a female engineer and creator of the toy Goldie Blocks, suggests the problem starts with stereotyping girls at a young age. In her TED Talk, she describes her challenges getting her girls’ construction toy to market. Upon being turned down in a pitch to executives of a major toy company, she was told, "construction toys for girls don't sell." Trends show that while boys are shopping for Lego blocks and toy trains, girls find themselves in the "pink aisle" buying dolls and playhouses. Sterling learned that girls love to read, so she modified her toy into a book of basic engineering principles with building toys attached. She raised money on Kickstarter.com to get her toy to market, receiving praise and gratitude from many parents raising young girls.

As a female engineer, Sterling is part of only 11% of the total engineering population. Shifts in the job market put our women in danger of missing out on healthcare, education, and standard of living benefits that come with well paying STEM jobs. To break the stereotype that engineering is a boy's field, Internet programs like "Girls Who Code" and "Kode with Klossy" are trying to teach coding to girls as early as Kindergarten age.

 

In this context, EDM is more than a beat to dance to. It's the genre in which music is moving to the same technological beat as everything else. EDM involves computers, sound equipment, and ingenuity. With a 45% female fan base and a growing number of women building the tracks, EDM is connecting women to technology at a time when that connection is needed.

 

Written by Blake Garrett and Chris Bornmann