Today is International Women's Day and so this post will be about women making electronic music. Kind of...
Let me begin with a little story. When I started working at Ableton as a tech support I noticed two things.
- There was only the rare email or call from a woman asking for technical help.
- I turned out to be the first woman giving tech support there (Laura Escude was a product specialist which requires as much knowledge, but is a different job).
Later I learnt only 7% of the Ableton Live users were female. That was in 2010 or 2011. I didn't expect a high percentage, but 7% sorta shocked me. That really got me thinking. Computers have become common household objects, musical gear and software has become much cheaper and easier to operate. So why is it still such a low number of girls and women making electronic music?
So no, I won't write about a trend of more women getting into music. I don't want to focus on the female greats of electronic music or talk about how there are so few women in electronic music in this post. Instead I'd like to propose why the percentage might be so low. It's not based on any statistics or in depth research, but rather personal experiences and endless conversations about the subject with both men and women. In short, my theory is utterly subjective.
For me, music has always been an integral part of my life. Making music or not making music was never the question. Most guys, however, seem to get started with music when they're teenagers. When I meet a guy who plays guitar, I always ask when he started. 'As a teenager?' 'Yes.' 'To appear cool and impress the girls?' Generally, I get a yes as well, if somewhat more reluctant. No woman I talked to got started with music for these reasons though. Why? Because a girl is rather seen as kooky and boys don't find girls making music more rad. There's simply no incentive there. There are also less role models to aspire to. Girls rarely get into music to reach a certain social status.
The percentages are still pretty even when it comes to learning an instrument, but they start diverging dramatically when it comes to music production and the use of technology. There's an interesting theses called 'De-gendering the electronic soundscape: women, power and technology in contemporary music' from 1996 that is still worth the read. In it Brown concludes: