The Jaguar Foundation has released the findings of its report, Progressing Gender Representation In UK Dance Music.
It sets out to provide both qualitative and quantitative data into gender balance in UK dance music, using research from a range of artists and industry executives.
The Foundation was set up by international DJ, broadcaster and host of BBC Introducing on Radio 1 Dance, Jaguar, in 2020 following her creation of the Future 1000 DJs programme with Future DJs (now Virtuoso) to improve the pipeline of female, trans and non-binary talent in dance music.
Jaguar’s mission is to encourage girls and minority genders to consider a career in dance music, help teach the technical skills needed to a wider cohort of people and break down real or perceived barriers to entry.
This Jaguar Foundation report was supported by the Sony Music UK Social Justice Fund, with research lead and primary author Nicola Davies.
The report found evidence supporting long-held beliefs about gender disparity in dance music – across the live industry, radio airplay, streaming platforms and in the gender balance of music organisation employees – as well as exploring a number of other discriminatory issues that female and non-binary people face.
It follows a report by the 2022 International Music Summit (IMS) showing that UK dance/electronic music is increasing as a share of people's listening for the first time in eight years. The global dance industry’s value is estimated at $6 billion. But despite the sector’s growth, the Jaguar Foundation has highlighted the multiple challenges still faced by non-male artists.
The Jaguar Foundation report found qualitative evidence that highlights a lack of mainstream representation for female or non-binary artists. Just 5% of dance music that featured in the UK charts had exclusively female or non-binary artists as the primary artist and feature.
A similar pattern is evident across radio airplay, with less than 1% of the top 200 airplay tracks across 2020-21 of 12 UK radio stations being only female or non-binary artists, as well as across Spotify’s key electronic music playlists which featured just 25% of female-fronted electronic music artists.
The Jaguar Foundation report also explores how important the live ecosystem is to dance music, and how it offers fewer opportunities for artists of non-male genders and minority backgrounds. Although the overall gender split of employees within the UK live industry isn’t hugely unbalanced, males occupy 63% of senior roles compared to the 37% for females.
The artists and executives interviewed also reported a range of challenging obstacles and issues – from a lack of safe spaces or regulations in venues, to tokenistic line-ups, to sometimes huge disparity in pay between men and other genders – describing the live ecosystem as still a “boys’ club”.
“This lack of female representation in prominent artist roles, especially as headliners, make it less likely for others to consider it as a career,” said Michelle Manetti, DJ, promoter & producer. “In technical roles like music production, there is a very low precedent for visible representation.”
My hope is that this becomes a springboard for much needed change in the electronic music industry
“It's always been a boys’ club, and that’s not just in terms of DJs, but the people behind the scenes as well,” added Manetti. “I think if the people behind the scenes from the managers, the people running the labels, all of these are majority men… That isn't going to encourage more women to come forward.”
Other key findings include:
- A number of issues, such as the risk of sexual harassment or objectification, late night-travel (often solo) and intoxicated crowds, lead to marginalised genders feeling unsafe when attending and working in live spaces.
- There is a continued pressure from the ‘male gaze’ that impacts the female image, both in person and online, with women in music being judged more on their appearance than men. Ageism is also more of an issue for women than men, reflecting wider societal issues.
- Qualitative research shows that jungle, drum and bass, techno and EDM genres continue to attract male-dominated and largely white crowds, reflecting the artist make up of those scenes.
The Jaguar Foundation makes several recommendations in the report to address the issue. It covers areas such as education, accessible working environments, measurement of progress, safety & inclusion riders, and heightened awareness of line-ups and venues.
The team collected data sets from Skiddle (live events), the Official Charts Company (sales & streaming data), Viberate (festival line-ups) and Chartmetric (pronoun database and radio airplay data) to create the most comprehensive research yet into these topics.
As well as collecting data, qualitative research was conducted through roundtable discussions with female, trans and non-binary people working in and around the industry, including founders of collectives, journalists and academics. The team also conducted one-to-one industry stakeholder interviews with people working as booking agents and label executives, and artist interviews across a wide range of ages, genres, ethnicities, regional location and artist type.
In 2020, Jaguar launched The Jaguar Foundation, with the aim to invest into projects to bring more women, trans and non-binary people into electronic music and help create a more balanced music industry for next generation of creatives and emerging artists. The programme was funded by the Sony Music UK Social Justice Fund and supported by DJs such as Annie Mac, The Blessed Madonna and Jayda G, with several of the programme’s students now working in the music industry as a result.
Following the release of this report, Jaguar is set to relaunch Future1000 alongside co-founders Virtuoso under a new banner: FutureDJs. The relaunch will include a new set of on-demand courses featuring a cast of educators curated by Jaguar. FutureDJs will be open to all ages from across the world.
Jaguar said: “I’m proud to bring this groundbreaking gender report out into the world. My overarching mission is to make the world a better place through my work, and bringing equality to the dance world is a huge priority for me. My hope is that this becomes a springboard for much needed change in the electronic music industry, and makes women and non-binary people feel supported and represented.”
Hannah Shogbola, Founder of Daju, said: "This report is an integral part of the change our industry so very much needs. A tool to educate and dismantle our archaic ways. Inclusivity and diversity is the core foundation of all things great, and we must be in complete acknowledgement of this. To be a part of this report was an honour - to support, to inspire & spread awareness we must continue this uprising!"
Steven Braines, He.She.They and The Weird & The Wonderful co-founder, said: "It’s so heartening to see Sony Music taking a lead on social justice and partnering with Jaguar and her foundation. Diversity and inclusion should be in the DNA of decision-making, not an afterthought, and to make any kind of real change social justice has to be front and centre. In real world terms, this report is so important for a fairer, more inclusive and more successful music industry.”
Click here to read the full report.