Promoting Diversity and Providing Recognition to Irish Female Talent

Kevin Murtagh


Part 1: The DJ

At present day, Ireland is an amazing hotbed of talent and activity within the underground dance scene. For such a small country the scene is multicultural, diverse, and unique to the island which is very good to see from my point of view and from others such as DJs, promoters and industry staff alike. There have been many solid female artists coming out of Ireland over the years and they continue to shine through domestically and internationally as nightclub and festival favorites, most notably the likes of Annie Mac, who was with BBC Radio for 17 years, presenting her own show ‘Dance Party’ and Waterford native Cailín who has gone from strength to strength over the past few years with her skilled turntablism, 12” vinyl releases, residencies with some of Ireland biggest collectives & events, and her performances at Boiler Room & the mighty Tresor Berlin to name but a few.

Rises like this are a very strong and powerful motivator for up-and-coming females within the scene who dream of achieving the same goal. In a previous interview, Cailín talked about how the scene was evolving in terms of the ladies, she said “It’s no longer unusual to see a girl behind the decks or appearing on a record. It’s becoming a safe place for girls to give it a shot.” This continuous spark of diversity is very positive and fresh for the scene going forward as it will enable more and more people to have the confidence to become involved and bring their creativity and ideology to the table which will benefit and help grow the industry in which we love, and the whole male / female debate to be washed away with. 

In terms of up-and-coming talent and artists, there is a multitude of DJs, Promoters and Collectives to choose from, ranging in so many different genres spanning from house and disco to trance and techno, and everything in between. From my own research and experience looking into female talent, I find that harder, faster genres of music such as 90s inspired sounds, trance / acid and all styles of techno are most prevalent around Ireland with many of the artists that are doing well are following this sound. I spoke to well-known Dublin DJ Kaycee to get her current thoughts about the industry and how it is developing.

What are your thoughts about the growth of the female scene over the past few years?

"I think the recent growth of female talent in the dance community is fantastic! As we know in recent years female artists only made up about 20% of most major festival lineups which isn't really a vast amount and dare I say certainly for the most part not even close to equal although recently we've been climbing the ladders. Most promoters and event organizers have noted the lack of equality in this area and are now doing their very best to push and promote equal male and female talent on their lineups. We are slowly but surely getting there and it's a step in the right direction. I also find that the term "Female DJ" is thrown around quite a lot and that in itself is still very dividing. We are still just DJs and much prefer that term. I think that's the next step is losing the term "Female" we don't call men "Male DJs" or use the phrase "All Male Lineup" so I do feel that should be our next venture in this matter, but baby steps I guess."

What do you think of the level of female talent coming through in terms of DJs, Promoters, Managers etc.?

"It's really nice to see! I've actually met so many girls in the industry that have been terrified to take the plunge in fear of getting laughed at or put down by others, however with the sudden rise of females in the industry this has given them the confidence to take a step forward and give it a go. I've had countless chats with so many girls who have literally said that myself and many other women in the industry gave them the confidence to go for what they love and that in itself is a winning factor and such a positive outcome for us. in terms of promoters etc. giving women equality the outcome is pushing more and more up and coming female talent because they're no longer afraid. On top of that the support with women in the industry is astronomical we all stick together and have each other's back which only makes us stronger in this matter and I think from anyone hungry to start their journey they're quickly taken under our wing and shown the ropes whether it be producing, event management or DJing, we all help each other out it's a lovely little community we have going."

How have you been inspired to play your sound and why do you think females within the Irish industry gravitate towards harder and faster genres?

"What inspires my sound is essentially my personality, naturally I'm an extremely open-minded person and my outlook on life in general is fair. I give everyone and everything a chance so essentially I'm more open to different genres and sounds. I feel my dad has a part to play in this as he would play a vast number of genres ranging from Progressive House right through to Hard Trance so I've been exposed to a lot of these sounds at home and growing up, whereas a lot of the dance community today wouldn't have, their only encounter with dance music is on a night out which in turn a lot of these aren't actually properly structured sets or songs/genres being played at the right time and the reason for that is people are afraid to play out of the ordinary,  like hello?? you're the DJ don't be afraid to take a risk and show them songs they wouldn't normally hear or that you feel you don't hear enough of on a night out all of these factors are what inspires me to keep playing my sound.  I don't want to be the same as everyone, I want to stand out and I'm not afraid to take risks on the crowd because I hope at least one person will think " I haven't heard a track like that before and it was beautiful I'm going to go home and try find some more like that" if I can get one person in the room to think that my job is done. I'm there to expand your musical interest not to play the hits or what's hot. I'll play what I feel is appropriate to that time and moment and my slot and I'll do my best to fit as many genres in there as I can to make it a journey for the crowd.

i feel a lot of people these days stick to playing one genre in a mix or club which is fine if that all they play but I think variety makes a great set. I also noticed it's all about heavy techno these days and who can bang it out the hardest. That's cool if you're closing out the likes of  Verknipt but every set needs a start middle and an end, it can't be banging right through. Someone wise once told me and I'm sure you've heard this popular sample before too "Something for your mind, body and your soul" you need to hit all of those senses when you're playing because if you're playing just for the body, you'll lose a lot of people off that dance floor that can't keep up or are fed up.

I feel most people gravitate towards the faster styles for numerous reasons, firstly they're a lot easier to mix if you're starting out, Secondly, techno nights are extremely dominant in Dublin but it's going to burn out very soon I can assure you. There's a lack of multi genre nights, I feel they're divided by genres like you either have an all-techno night or and all house night but why not both or more? also house nights are little to none in Dublin now. Thirdly hard and fast techno is more fun and more crowd pleasing, it's easier to bang it out and get a reaction from the crowd than actually taking the time to sit down and slowly work your way up. Last of all there's a stigma or snobbery around most other genres and that's purely down to little to no knowledge due to not being exposed to these at night clubs and the lack of nights for these genres out of fear of losing money due to the ever-soaring venue tax."

Part 2: The Collective

Along with DJs and Promoters, there are a countless number of female oriented collectives that are established and starting up. For this I spoke to Stark Collective about their start up and progression.

The purpose of Stark Collective and how it came about:

The sole purpose of Stark Collective is to show off the talented female DJs that Ireland has to offer. It came about when Shauna Costello & Charlotte Hicks linked up and developed the idea together. Charlotte is a found advocate of the industrial side of techno whereas Shauna likes to mix a bit of everything, especially acid techno. “I really liked her music and vice versa so it was a natural thing to want to do something together! Our broad knowledge of sub genres within techno work well together because it means that we can explore different up and coming DJs and throw new ideas at each other without it becoming repetitive”. 

How are you trying to promote females through your platform?

“We thought that there were so many DJ collectives out there and as brilliant as they are, we wanted to do something different. We decided to keep it girls only, I don’t think that the girls get as much recognition as they should, especially in the Techno scene. Therefore, we have asked some extremely talented girls who live in Ireland to release some mixes through our own page. Here we promote their SoundCloud and Instagram, hoping that they get the recognition they deserve. We are still waiting for lots of talented females to send us on their mixes and they will definitely not disappoint”.

What are your plans for the future?

“It’s still a developing idea and we are thinking of ways to make our collective better. We have so many ideas yet to put out there! One aspect of the page is writing about the DJs who have inspired us to become part of the music scene, which I think is cool and important because there is a reason we started DJing! We will make sure that our team that are running the nights with me are enthusiastic about the music and the night itself, I think it’s so important to have a team of genuinely good people. We love seeing people buzzing to run their own event”.

Part 3: The Manager 

To find out about management within the industry, I caught up with Instinct Society founder Jennifer Hession for a chat.

“I primarily work as the Artists Manager and promoter for Instinct Society. Instinct Society is both an artist's management agency and events collective. Started it back in September 2019 by a friend and I and we had our first gig booked for April 2nd, 2020. Initially, our vision was to run nights out/events for our college IADT while also allowing students to be involved as performers. We felt that our college lacked a lot of gig night like events that also resulted in DJ’s in IADT not getting any gig opportunities. We planned so many gigs for the students that were specially planned out according to our college calendar but due to covid none of them never went ahead”. 

I asked Jennifer what it was like starting out in a so called ‘male dominated scene’ and if the support she got starting out was sufficient. “Honestly, I haven’t taken much notice as a ‘female’ in the scene as I just see it as a bunch of artists working together. Everyone has their vision or opinion on how they either approach things or see things but for me, it’s been fine. From the very beginning, every single person has been so supportive of what I’ve done so far and what I’m going to be doing and I am very grateful. During covid, I’ve still been able to connect with other artists, managers, promoters and so on through social media and the support just keeps continuing to grow”. 

“I do have a funny story when I did start instinct and I was in contact with a DJ about gigs via email, the DJ thought I was a man running a page which I thought was funny. I didn’t mind it at all, and I did kind of expect it since it is seen by a lot of people as a male dominate scene, but I think it’s completely changed now. And as for the future especially after I graduate, I would like to take it a step further with Instinct. Events will be on the table post covid but for now I’m more focused on the management side of artists since it correlates to my degree. I want to take on more artists managers to work with me especially the students in my course or doing my course in order to try and give people the opportunity to manage different types of artists such as singers, rappers, bands and everything in between while also still working with DJ’s”.