EDM.com Spotlight

EDM.com Spotlight

Emma Hewitt And J’Adore Want To End The Conversation On Gender

Want to fix the gender gap in EDM? Then stop talking about it.

Emma Hewitt is a prolific vocalist who has been featured on tracks by Chris Lake, Cosmic Gate, Dash Berlin and Gareth Emery, as well as releasing albums and headlining shows across the world independently. J’Adore is a Denver-based DJ who, after paying her dues in the local scene for several years, is about to kick off a residency at a major Las Vegas nightclub in addition to her world tour. Aside from both being EDM artists who closed out 2014 with performances at Decadence NYE in Denver, the only thing the two really have in common is that they were the only women on the bill.

The shortage of female talent on the lineup was in no way unique to Decadence, as New Years celebrations like OMFG NYE in San Diego or the Webster Hall NYE Ball in New York City also showcased predominantly male talent.

The phenomenon hasn’t escaped the attention of industry insiders. In recent years, there has been no shortage of media outlets covering the disparity between male and female performers. However, according to an emerging attitude in the EDM community, a few of them do not realize what they say on the topic could be hurting rather than helping.

In an interview with EDM.com, Hewitt explained:

“A lot of people will often ask me, ‘It must be difficult being a female in such a male-dominated industry,’ and things like this, and I’m sure a lot of people do have problems like this, perhaps, but for me I just feel like it’s quite negative to actually focus on that. I feel like if we all individually focus on our careers and really doing the best that we can do, and putting our best work out there, and really pushing ourselves without being sidetracked by issues such as ‘maybe I won’t be taken seriously because I’m a girl’ or whatever, I think we can rise to the top of our career whatever gender we may be.”

Hewitt’s call-to-action to shift the focus away from gender by no means stems from a recent epiphany and her track record of artistic integrity qualifies her to make such a declarative statement. She and her brother, guitarist Anthony Hewitt, made a name for themselves while writing and performing music in Australian rock band Missing Hours prior to their foray into dance music, but fewer fans know what caused her to cross over to EDM. The group was briefly signed to Sony Music Australia, and for the first time Hewitt also disclosed the details of why the arrangement fell apart:

We had an experience with Sony where it started off great and we were in control of the production and the rest that was going on with the band, but it kind of got taken out of our hands a lot and we were getting pushed in a direction that we weren’t really happy with anymore,” she said. “There were A&R people who signed us that then left to work with different companies, so then other people inherited us within the label and they didn’t have the same investment in us as the people who signed us did.”

Hewitt recalled that Sony repeatedly dropped the ball on marketing efforts, but she and her brother drew the line when the label interfered with their creative process. “We started out being very organic and real and it kind of became this manufactured, trying-to-be-Evanescence thing, I guess,” she said. “There was already Evanescence doing that very well, we didn’t need to try to be the Australian version.”

She and her brother departed from their deal with Sony and she began collaborations with Chris Lake which yielded “Carry Me Away,” a progressive house track that marked the beginning of her exploration of EDM. Her brother became her manager, still participating in the music writing process. “There were no set guidelines of how you get live shows or how you pursue that career but my brother and I thought, ‘Nope, this is the way we want to go, and the way will become clear if we put our hearts into it’ - and it did,” she explained.

Hewitt chose her principles over a deal with Sony to pursue the ambitious course of making a career as a vocalist primarily featured on EDM tracks. For the reason that nearly any other artist in her position would translate this career path is a major risk, her explanation is difficult to challenge when she says that there are no barriers of entry for female artists in EDM. The perception that women have less of a chance to succeed in the industry is a harmful thought, though. J’Adore sat down with EDM.com to express why an entirely opposing viewpoint sets female artists back as well.

I've definitely experienced comments said that I have gotten to the point that I am as an artist because I am female,” J’Adore said. “I think that this is a tired point of view and I'm very excited to be a part of a shift. As an artist, I strive to give my fans a pure taste of who I am, and so my agenda is to be an original talent and be recognized and appreciated without gender being in the way of that at all.”

The shift in question is not the only one she plans to be a part of, either. A proud mother who describes her child as her own heartbeat walking around outside of her, J’adore participates in the morning sober rave movement. In addition to playing at many popular local clubs, she maintains a residency at a CorePower Yoga and frequently spins at other yoga gatherings as well. “I personally love the morning rave concept,” she said. “It brings a boutique festival experience to a whole new audience in a super healthy way. I definitely plan on continuing to explore this.”

While J’Adore’s blonde hair, blue eyes and trim figure certainly don’t hurt her brand, she also makes the case that they didn’t land her any deals either. “There is so much that goes into an artist becoming successful on a large-scale level,” she pointed out. “How they look isn’t going to get them very far with the ridiculous amount of competition and talent in our industry.” She has additionally resolved not to resort to sexualizing her image gratuitously, even if pressured to do so at any stage of her career in the interest of breaking down stereotypes within the industry.

However, while the dance music community doesn’t shut out female performers, some argue that they receive preferential treatment. It still doesn’t answer the question at the heart of the matter: Why are there so few women in EDM?

Hewitt shared her own theory. “I think perhaps sometimes it can actually be a fear thing that there is a gender issue, and perhaps women may think it’s tougher to get into before they actually try to push themselves so much,” she speculates. “I think that anything we think of as a problem does manifest itself to become a problem. That thought never even entered my head. For me, it was more of an obstacle to overcome the fact that I was a singer in a DJ-dominated industry, and because of that I set out to prove everyone wrong.”

At two very different stages of successful music careers, Hewitt and J’Adore both share perspectives which suggest that the only thing EDM fans who want to see more female artists have to fear is, in fact, fear itself. Early dance music originally spawned from racially and sexually inclusive communities, and those enduring facets of its modern identity remain some of its strongest assets. It can be argued that highlighting the gender divide portrays it as a less inclusive community than it actually is, assigning more power to a problem that’s only there because people say it is.

Of course, it bears mentioning that while dance music may not suffer from especially worse gender discrimination issues than other lines of business, it is by no means devoid of such instances. Female artists should not remain silent about situations in which they've suffered deliberate injustices. While artists like Christina Tran and Emma Burgess-Olsen expounded their owns reasons for avoiding talking about the gender gap in a group interview on Thump, Lauren Flax shared her own story of being sexually harassed by DJ Kaos behind the decks in the same conversation. Similarly, it is not realistic to expect people to suddenly stop overreacting to the trend, either. The organization Female Pressure, for instance, shows no signs of discontinuing their releases of statistic-laden press reports denouncing the male domination of festival lineups and demanding changes.

Nonetheless, the landscape of the EDM movement appears abundant with possibilities for artists of both genders. “[Decadence] was such an incredible way to finish the year. . . and what a way to ring in 2015 as well,” Hewitt recalled. “I couldn’t come out feeling more on top of the world. I did think to three years ago where I was playing a rather small club show on New Years Eve.”

While it’s a bit late for New Years resolutions, though, it’s never too late for anyone to change their outlook. “I was definitely inhaling gratitude for my 2014 and exhaling some powerful intentions for 2015,” J’Adore said of her performance at Decadence. With any luck, plenty of artists of both genders will be afforded opportunities to do the same.