unnamed

F**k Your Boys’ Club: Being a Woman in London’s Music Scene

When I learned the hard way that the underground music scene in London was dominated by men, I was disappointed but not surprised.

 

“Once a promoter, always a promoter.”

 

I say to myself, as I once again hype up another event on social media. I never thought I would still be part of the underground music or nightlife industry, but here I am, in London, doing it all over again. I’ve quit three times and yet somehow always find my way back to it. I guess, deep down, I have a genuine love for the music and energy created by raves. But I have gone through so much just to be here.

 

unnamed-4

 

I love the loud pounding music, the flashing lights, the vibrations of the bass-line, the passing moments between people that catch your eye, it has always had this ability to take me somewhere else. Unfortunately, my party sanctuary isn’t always as heavenly as it seems, in fact, because the industry is so heavily dominated by men, it often times is a nightmare.

I started in the industry when I was 18 and worked as a club promoter. Eventually, I worked my way up, running weekly dance nights. I was also involved in working with a music label. You would think that with all this experience under my belt, that I would become slowly climb to a point of success in my passion. Think again.

 

I have worked with men who paid me large amounts of money every week to come to their meetings, only to dismiss my opinions because “the men are talking”.

 

London’s music industry is always subject to constant change. Club nights and music trends change and rebrands happen all the time. New promoters are introduced to the industry and new ideas are put forward, and the roster of DJ’s are also constantly shifting — so why does it seem like the one thing that stays the same is that it is still dominated by men?

It is no surprise that in the mainstream world of music, men dominate the scene. According to a study done by BBC in 2017, most music festivals, including the UK’s historical Glastonbury festival, are dominated by male acts and headliners. The alarming results showed that 8 out of 10 headliners were all-male rock acts, which failed to show the diversity of the UK music scene. The percentage of headliners in the last decade show that 80-90% have consistently been all male-groups or performers.

So when I learned that the underground music scene was similarly dominated by men, I was disappointed but not surprised.

 

unnamed-3

 

I looked at the line up for Field Day this year, which is a mix of different types of genre with some of the bigger underground names, not even 30% of the acts are women. On a smaller scale, I’m part of a few communities with local promoters and I always find myself constantly in rooms full of men. On my newsfeed, I constantly see posts from all-male collectives asking if “anyone knows any female DJs?”, only for them to tokenise for their lineups, to fit a quota. I don’t have time for their performative efforts for equality.

 

I have worked with men that claimed they cared about diversity and inclusivity, but in reality, they were tokenising or fetishizing me

 

During my time in the London music scene, I have worked with men who disrespected the women and femmes in the industry. I had made complaints against a resident DJ who was sexually harassing me, and instead of providing support, the men I had worked with decided that it would just be easier to replace me with somebody else. I have worked with men who paid me large amounts of money every week to come to their meetings, only to dismiss my opinions because “the men are talking”.

 

unnamed-2

 

I have worked with men who have never given me any credit for my work and claimed it all as their own. I have worked with men that claimed they cared about diversity and inclusivity, but in reality, they were tokenising or fetishizing me. I have worked with men who often made sexist or racist remarks about me and still refused to apologise for them. I have worked with men who do nothing but uphold the patriarchal “boys club” environment instead of being open to change and progress in the industry. This is why I have quit three times.

After quitting the third time, I was quietly defeated by the underground music industry even though I still loved it. One day I got a message from somebody who asked me why I wasn’t part of any events anymore. She said it really inspired her to see me running an event back in the day because she was so used to seeing men doing it. I realised then that my role in this industry was beyond what the men had hired me for. Me, along with other marginalised people working in this industry, whether as promoters, managers, bookers, DJs, sound check technicians, are meant to be working in this industry in order to create a significant change. We were representing the much-awaited progress in this industry, and we are doing it.

 

r001-010

 

There are some collectives in the scene that require honorable mentions, who have inspired and helped me have faith in the music industry again. We are all working tirelessly to dismantle the boys’ club and create safe spaces for each other to be seen and heard.

EASTERN MARGINS

 

In London there are multiple collectives working tirelessly to push for this change in the industry, to shift it from the almost elitist misogynist boys’ club environment to something more inviting, supportive and inclusive. I currently work with a collective called Eastern Margins. We aim to platform East Asian and Southeast Asian artists with our underground parties. We also push to create a safer space for our patrons in the club scene. Not only are our lineups diverse and inclusive but so are our dancefloors.

PXSSY PALACE

 

Pxssy Palace is another collective in London who work tirelessly to create progress in the music industry. They’re a queer collective that run a club night which centres queer women, trans, non-binary and intersex PoC. Their parties are fantastic, I have never felt more comfortable in a nightclub environment than I have at Pxssy Palace. They also run DJ workshops, organise fundraisers and use their platform to create awareness and push for intersectionality.

UNITI WORLDWIDE

 

Uniti Worldwide run awesome, sweaty, heaving raves in London centuring womxn, non-binary, LGBTQI creatives and bring PoC to the front. Their raves are called PLUR, standing for Peace Love Uniti Rave and have a summer rave series coming up in London. The line ups for their raves have always been intersectional and represent a variety of people. Usually in sweaty, dark, warehouse rave spaces, I feel quiet anxious, but at Uniti parties I feel safe to let myself stomp the night away.

NAFF

 

NAFF run female lead nights at venues such as Corsica Studios, one of the bigger London clubs. They run an event at Corsica Studios which is one of the bigger London venues. It’s rare that these bigger venues have such an all female line up as these spaces tend to be the playground for the “boys club” however seeing what NAFF is doing is very motivating. They give aspiring DJs like myself hope that maybe one day I can also play at such a high profile venue.

DIASPORA DISCO

 

Diaspora Disco run a mix of art and music club nights platforming East and Southeast Asian artists. Siren London, another collective that pushes for forward-thinking movements in dance music. For someone who has been in this industry for over seven years now, it is amazing to see how far it’s come.

 

 

The diversity of these collectives and the nights they run have also shifted the diversity of the people that come to these events. Representation is important because people want to go to places where they can see themselves in the lineups and in the crowds. There is also an increase in the variety of music being played. More experimental music is being played instead of your typical pop-friendly 4/4 beats.

 

unnamed-5

 

With the increase of inclusivity in the scene, there is also a lot more discourse on sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and other problematic behaviours and how we can eradicate them. People are beginning to think critically about how they can do better. The more we platform marginalised people in this industry, the more progress will happen.

Eventually, my rave sanctuary will finally be a sanctuary for everybody.

Jenny Wang is a writer from Melbourne who is now based in London. When she's not struggling with her identity crisis of being Chinese/Australian, she works on her music and her art.
  • shane willett

    Cool article

FacebookTwitterWhatsApp