It's girls to the front for a Celebration of Women in Electronic Music

“Women are under-represented, not just in electronic music but in all music, and I think having a night which actually has just women artists is a great idea because it’s so rare.”

Initially incited through discussion on a Facebook page dedicated for Non-DJ Electronic Melbourne musicians, A Celebration of Women in Electronic Music is fast approaching. True to its name, the purpose of the event is to showcase a lineup of female artists bound together by their mutual penchant for electronic music. The lineup features an eclectic mix of sub-genres in the electronic realm such as synth-pop, ambient trip-hop, dream-pop and electro-folk pop. The event has been running annually for a few good few years now, but 2017 is looking like the biggest incarnation yet.
Marita Ryan, otherwise known by her musical moniker Symmetrix, has been a core member of the Non-DJ electronic Melbourne musician collective for several years now, and has been around since the inception of the women’s event. “From my point of view, women are under-represented, not just in electronic music but in all music, and I think having a night which actually has just women artists is a great idea because it’s so rare,” says Ryan.
“Thom (one of the event’s pioneers) said to me recently, ‘Oh but there’s so many bands that have women in them,’ and I get that, but I’m talking about just women artists, just solo female artists. Girls to the front for once.”
The event not only creates a space for female artists to take the reins and exhibit their music, but it also works to dismantle ingrained misconceptions that men are the predominant gender in crafting and caring about electronic music. The event allows for women to congregate, network with one other and build communities that can offer support for women in their songwriting and musicianship.
In terms of producing electronic music, Ryan recalls starting out using software like Audacity and Reason, but having to learn more complicated recording programs like Ableton in order to be taken seriously. “Initially, I was so overwhelmed by learning Ableton but now I just do what I can. I think if all women could get over that initial intimidation we’d see a lot more women making this kind of music. I really do believe that.”
Ryan acknowledges that women who use less advanced equipment feel anxious about sharing their music in fear that they’ll be belittled. “That happened to me in the early days, I think in the music industry you’ve gotta be a bit thick-skinned. I guess if the passion and will is strong enough you go 'fuck it' and do it anyway.”
Electronic music is, for many songwriters, a totally foreign but exciting territory that presents itself as an attractive alternative for those that feel stuck and bored with guitar music. Ryan recounts, “I started off doing rock guitar music and acoustic stuff, I don’t come from an electronic music background, I couldn’t even play keyboards for a long time there. I didn’t even think I could write electronic music, but I thought there had to be something more.”
Ryan reflects on how the internet, and Australian music communities such as triple j Unearthed function as a double-edged sword, in that they support some artists but don’t give countless others a chance to be heard. “You get very self-conscious about all this crap, but you really shouldn’t. It’s very hard. It does take work. The internet provides a market that you can tap into. I find it quite empowering.”
Ryan speaks about the other women who are set to play at next month’s event. “Emah Fox runs Ableton workshops at MESS that promote women and non-binary artists, she’s doing some great work. Catherine Meeson was the woman who first suggested that we have a woman’s night. She’s one of those women who said to me that I could take my music to another level, which I really appreciated.”
With over one thousand people showing interest in the show’s Facebook event, it’s clear that the uniqueness of the occasion and calibre of talent on offer has sparked the public’s curiosity. “I know it’s free, but even getting people out to those free events is not an easy thing to do,” Ryan says. “I’m chuffed that so many people are interested, it makes me so happy.”

A Celebration of Women in Electronic Music is going down at Tago Mago on Saturday December 2. The show will feature live performances from Aphir, Shiver Canyon, Alpha Loop, and more.