The 9th annual Girls Gone Vinyl party, which took place during Detroit’s Movement Festival, spanned two venues and 15 hours.
Electronic music has a notorious woman problem, with festival and nightclub bookings consistently dominated by male DJs. But two groups, New York City’s DISCWOMAN and Detroit’s Girls Gone Vinyl, are out to prove that there’s no shortage of female talent.
This weekend, during the Movement Electronic Music Festival in downtown Detroit, there will be a 15-hour showcase of women producer-DJs including Bloody Mary and Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale. All proceeds benefit a Girls Gone Vinyl scholarship fund that will send one artist to production classes at the Music Industry Academy, a woman-owned and operated non profit in Detroit.
Billboard spoke with Girls Gone Vinyl co-founders Maggie Derthick and Jenny Lafemme, the latter of whom is a DJ, about overcoming the genre’s sexism. Later this year, they’ll release a documentary, also titled Girls Gone Vinyl, that will shine a light on lady DJs around the world.
Billboard: You’ve said that in some ways, Movement helped spark the idea to start Girls Gone Vinyl in 2006. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Derthick: I had started Auxetic, another promotion events company, and was meeting women from all over the world that were coming to Detroit to for the festival. They’d reach out to me asking if I knew of anywhere they could play because the clubs and parties were booked up with boy after boy after boy. The girls would call and be like, “Isn’t there anywhere I could go?” Since we couldn’t find an immediate solution, we said, “Let’s have all of our girlfriends come into town and throw a party.”
Did it work? Has there been progress?
Lafemme: Maggie’s event was the first one where the lineup wasn’t boy after boy after boy, and we’ve seen more and more since then. But the cultural perspective is largely the same. We’ve been collecting data for years and women still only make up 4 to 6% of festival lineups. And it’s not for lack of talent.
Derthick: We’ve opened up the lines of communication, but on the business side, not much has changed. But communication is a good step. We also pair older female producers with younger producers, as a mentoring partnership, to help them navigate the business. And I should note that our stance is not anti-men, it’s just giving women a voice so they can be heard.
Is the stigma really that severe?
Lafemme: Yes. As a DJ, I was so sick of hearing, “You’re pretty good for a girl.” It was constant. There is such palpable doubt that you can deliver.
How do you feel about novelty bookings, when you’re booked solely so a promoter can say, “Hey, look! A girl DJ!” But at the same time, it’s an opportunity.
Derthick: It’s tricky. They don’t feel like they all-the-way count, you know? But ultimately, I say fine, book us for that novelty slot and we’ll show you how f—king good we are.
Lafemme: When you come and rock a party, people will book you for your music the next time. Slowly, it won’t be about being a female DJ, but being a great DJ. Period.
It’s a hard topic to confront nowadays because some women would argue that talking about EDM’s “women problem” is only prolonging it.
Derthick: I get it, they’re tired of hearing and talking about it, but that thinking is kind of backwards. You’ve got to look past feminism’s connotations, whatever they may be. I want to empower women before they’re 25 and out in clubs and accustomed to seeing a guy in the booth, you know? I want to demystify the idea that DJing is a boys club.
So what’s the best way to change the narrative?
Dethick: To talk about it.
Lafemme: To force the conversation and give exposure to as many female DJs as possible. Because the fact is they do exist, they’re highly ambitious, and you know, the ones in our film don’t strategize around being a hot girl who also DJs. They’re expert sound engineers. They keep their tops on.
Tell us a little bit about the documentary. Where does it stand now?
Lafemme: The film came about because Maggie and I said, “Okay, who other than us is going to tell this story?” And the next thing you know, we were in Miami and Berlin and had shot 400 hours of footage, all funded by our Kickstarter campaign. Now, we’re in the editing stage and we’re hoping to have it done by the end of year.
Any particularly special moments that you’d bet will make the final cut?
Lafemme: Stacey “Hotwaxx” Hale, the godmother of house music, had never played outside of the U.S. But through our project, we were able to take her to Berlin and Ibiza. It was f—king magical. She spun as the sun was going down to thousands of people and I’ll never forget it.
Why is Detroit so important for dance music?
Derthick: Detroit is a mecca. Producers dream of coming to this place. This year, we have a DJ coming all the way from Bosnia, and a lot of that is because Movement is a very special weekend. It’s really and truly about the music. They make an effort to showcase all kinds of music from true house to true techno and everything in between.