Ireland’s electronic dance music scene has witnessed an explosive rise in popularity in recent years, but the gender imbalance present within is no match for the genre’s origins amongst New York’s minorities in the 1970s. Rather, it reflects a sorry state of Irish affairs. In 2020, just 20% of Electric Picnic’s planned line-up was female, and a gender disparity report on Irish radio found that Irish female artists were five times less likely to receive airtime in comparison to their white male counterparts.
Undeterred by the perception of the EDM scene as a boys’ club, however, are DJs Pauline Cosgrove and Ly Hagen, from Limerick and Dublin respectively. “It is a male dominated scene and has been for years,” says Cosgrove, who performs under the mononym Pauline.
“If I’m being booked by a male promoter, I automatically am a little bit more nervous that I might have to prove myself, whereas if I’m booked by a female-run collective, I know that they’ll know and understand that struggle.”
Still, she says, “I think the whole industry is aware of that, and is trying to push for better standards in that sense.” The male promoters that have booked her so far, she adds,have been “open and understanding and welcoming.” “I think nowadays there’s a responsibility that comes with being a promoter,” Hagen, known musically as Lychee, agrees.
Both creatives credit Skin&Blister, a Dublin-based platform designed to nurture and encourage female and non-binary artists – with propelling their success. Lychee recalls entering the electronic music scene after Skin&Blister advertised a free workshop on Instagram, and Pauline was inspired to start producing her own music thanks to the “solid understanding” of production she gained from their workshops. “They always have their eyes and ears open for female, trans, and non-binary DJs that are new to the scene, and are looking to platform them,” Pauline explains. Lychee, too, attributes the rising acceptance of female and non-binary DJs to this “conscious effort” made to highlight them.
The deliberate curation of all-female and non-binary line-ups is an important step to improve equality within the industry, Pauline believes – “I think the idea of moving past inequality is such a lovely idea, but I’m not sure if it’s realistic. “I think it’s important to spotlight underrepresented gender groups,” she continues, noting that all-female and non-binary line-ups can be an excellent way to do that.
“I’m not completely against having diversity for the sake of diversity given that it’s so difficult to really enter the scene. I think at times you need to have those tokens, but I’d rather that be coming from female promoters rather than it feeling like a top down situation. It does feel like it’s worth being performative for the sake of future social change.”
However, they say, “I’m a bit frustrated with how so much of female club nights are oriented around identity, rather than exploring how these nights, especially queer nights, can be socially transformative without additional labels.”
One successful club night, however, is Honeypot, a Dublin club night run by and for LGBTQ+ women and allies, which both Pauline and Lychee have produced mixes for. At these nights, Pauline explains, “The crowd obviously is primarily female and non-binary people, and it’s nice, I suppose, to have a space that you know you’ll feel comfortable in.”
Both Pauline and Lychee are optimistic about the year ahead. “As a DJ, I’m trying to push myself with really getting to know crowds,” Pauline says. “At the moment, I’m really trying to understand the flow of the whole night and where I fit into it.” She also hopes to start producing, stressing the importance of being proactive even in the face of rejection, noting her early experience sending her mixes to promoters. “I messaged a few people saying I have some mixes on my Soundcloud, and if you like my sound I’m available for bookings,” she recounts. “A lot of the time it wasn’t fulfilled, but some of the time it was.”
Lychee, who began to DJ in February of last year and opened for the all-female collective Puzzy Wranglers soon after, is starting their own club night, BPM aka ‘Bitches Play Music’. The night is modelled around the male-oriented promotion of the energy drink and aims to “commercialise hypermasculinity and challenge social norms” with “experimental and sometimes silly music.”
While the gender imbalance can make the Dublin DJ circuit feel oppressive at times, both artists are confident in the future of the genre and of the underrepresented groups within it. “There’s a lot of very interesting and inspirational artists in Dublin at the moment,” Lychee observes. “I think there’s a really bright future ahead.”
Ly Hagen: lychee800
Honeypot Club: honeypot_club
Pauline Cosgrove: pauline.wav