Annie Mac Explains How She's Working To Make Music More Equal

Although gender equality has come a long way in the past several decades, female representation within the music industry is still worryingly low.

This statement might come as a surprise to some, as on an artistic level, there are so many female DJs and musicians at the frontline. However, on a wider perspective the gender gap is massive - currently women account for just 30% of the industry and earn on average 30% less than their male counterparts.

The figures are even starker behind the scenes, for example in production, a profession made up of just 5% women, while only 15% of labels are majority owned by women.

In a bid to level the playing field, Smirnoff has launched the Equalising Music Pledge as part of a wider campaign dedicated to driving equality across the entire industry.

Endorsed by the PRS Foundation's Keychange initiative and spearheaded by BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac, the pledge encourages people to do one thing in 2019 to support gender equality in music.

Pretty 52 caught up with Annie to find out why she's heading the action and how you can get involved.

Although she's never worked with a brand before, Annie explains: "With Smirnoff, I felt comfortable because we were all very much on the same page in wanting to try and make a difference."

And what better person to do so than Annie Mac? As the first solo woman to take the top spot on Radio 1's taste-making role, the DJ and presenter has gone on to shape the musical landscape in the UK, breaking new artists and bringing underground music to the mainstream.

Annie mentions she's never encountered any challenges during her career or felt alienated as a DJ specifically because of her gender or as a mother, but she does point out that many of her accomplishments are firsts.

(Annie Mac, credit: Smirnoff)
(Annie Mac, credit: Smirnoff)

Not to mention, she's spent the last 15 years DJing in clubs and major festivals all around the world where most of the time she was the only female on the slate.

Even today, film festival and club night lineups are under the spotlight for being male dominated, something Annie thinks starts in the boardroom. "If you look at any top tier of any record label, all of them are run pretty much by men," she says.

"Until women are in the board rooms, it's not going to be amenable for them to have a long, full-time career in music because it's a real lifestyle choice and that doesn't suit raising a family.

"I just think that if there were more females in these positions making the decisions too, it would really trickle down," which is something this initiative is looking to make happen.

Since Smirnoff first launched Equalising Music in 2017, those behind the campaign have already persuaded more than 150 festivals to fulfil a 50/50 gender balance across their lineups, including events under the Annie Mac Presents banner.

"That includes our Lost & Found Festival, which we've done already this year, AMP London festival, which we've also done already, and then all of our club shows moving forward," Annie explains.

"Judging from what we've already done this year, it's totally achievable," adding that it's been a "pleasure" to choose from the surge of talented female DJs seen in recent years, including The Black Madonna, Peggy Gou and Honey Dijon, to name but a few on the slate for this year's Lost & Found Festival.

As she has done throughout her career, Annie will continue to use her voice within the industry to champion women in music and their male allies, driving the campaign in a bid to redress the balance. And she says that you can do your bit too.

Your pledge can be something as simple as going to a music festival with a female headliner, streaming a recommended album by a new female artist or donating to the PRS Keychange.

Or, if you work in the industry, you could commit to recruiting a woman in an area that is dominated by men in your building.

And if you're a woman who's interested in making music, Annie insists there is definitely a place for you - whether it's selling music as a promoter, working on the technical side as an engineer or starting a label.

"There's no reason why women can't do that. It comes across as intimidating, but you can make your own music, create your own label, manage your own artists. Have the courage to own your ideas," says Annie.

"This isn't about the numbers; I don't want it to feel mathematical. It's about looking around and seeing who's in the room with you and who you work with on a daily basis, or thinking about who you listen to, who you spend your money on, and making sure that it feels equal.

"If it doesn't? Then it's about figuring out what you can do to rectify that."

Sponsored by Smirnoff Equalising Music

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