It’s a well-known yet depressing fact that women are still massively underrepresented in electronic music. In 2019, only 7% of Billboard’s Top 100 DJs were women, and they occupy less than 3% of the industry’s production and technical roles. For women of colour, that figure drops to a shocking 0.3%.
Clearly, then, something needs to be done, and if you’re looking for a rallying cry, you should check out Underplayed, a new documentary that’s being released on Amazon Prime Video today - International Women’s Day.
Filmed over a summer festival season, this explores the electronic music industry’s current gender, ethnic and sexual equality issues by profiling a selection of pioneering artists and producers, all of whom want to see long-term change and to inspire future generations.
An official selection at both the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, Underplayed features NERVO, Rezz, TOKiMONSTA, Alison Wonderland, and Tygapaw.
The film is directed by New Zealand director Stacey Lee, who says: "When the pioneering godmothers of electronic music first began tinkering away in their scientific labs back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, they could never have imagined their little back room experiments would make way for a blossoming 8 billion dollar global industry today. Nor could they have foreseen how drastically its very creative, egalitarian roots would transmute from an open experimental playing field, to an industry dominated by a one-dimensional male point of view.
“This is a universal theme, and sadly one that I can personally relate to as a “female” filmmaker in a heavily male field. I empathize and understand the frustration of having to fight harder to be considered for jobs ‘because there aren’t as many good female directors,’ to turn a deaf ear to the belief that women ‘can’t be technical’, that we don’t deserve equal pay, or in my instance, hiding my pregnancy beneath an oversized blazer so I wouldn’t jeopardize my chances of securing jobs.
"When I learned about the shared plight of the women in electronic music, I saw a necessity to tell a story that speaks to the deeply personal and very human impact of this global issue. That transcends the music space, and speaks to the collective experience of so many working women today from film to politics and beyond."
"Ultimately Underplayed raises the question; do we want our ears to be controlled by logarithms, safe bets and preconceived formulas… or become a space that is radically free to sound as rich, diverse and ever- changing as the world around us?
“The hope is for Underplayed to stimulate the conversation needed to break down the systematic bias’ and bring electronic music back to its open, diverse and fiercely experimental roots. To remind us that equality isn’t about one side defeating the other, but by all sides coming together for the greater good. Because the more we can lift each other up, the more we all have to gain."
Amazon Music is also hosting a release-day roundtable, Women in Electronic Music, on its Twitch channel. This will feature Stacey Lee and a selection of EDM stars and kicks off at 6pm PST.
Find out more about the film on the Underplayed website.