Surprise, Women DJs Still Don't Have Equal Pay

Women DJs are still fighting to be paid as much as their male colleagues for the same work, according to an extremely broad new story in the New York Times. What’s shocking to me is that some venues still think they can get away with this. Do they think women won’t find out how much their male counterparts are being paid?

The interactive feature story mostly focuses on Brooklyn-based DJs, but that potentially obscures how well-established and admired some of these women are. One of the biggest names interviewed for the piece is Jubilee, who grew up going to raves in Miami and got her start in South Florida club scene. Today, she’s signed to Brooklyn’s dancehall record label MixPak, but Jubilee is incredibly accomplished outside of the borough; this photo depicts her deejaying at the New Yorker Festival in 2009, and last year she had a residency show on BBC Radio 1. Even still, she tells the Times that she routinely suspects she’s underpaid:

“I’m going to go ahead and say that I am probably being underpaid,” Jubilee said. “I have a lot of men I work with, and I’ll straight-up ask them, ‘What was your offer for this, because mine was this.’”

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The one bright spot in the piece, which serves as a surface-level introduction to the work of various Brooklyn-based DJs, is the insight into how collectives like Discwoman and Working Women have been instrumental in getting their members better rates. While Discwoman is based in New York, its members are from all over, and are similarly big names in the electronic music world and beyond; the Ecuadorian-Lithuanian DJ Riobamba is a leading voice in reggaeton, has had a monthly Red Bull Radio show, and fits in as easily at Lincoln Center as she does at MoMA PS1 Warm Up.

The benefit of being in Discwoman, though, is about the collective. “We decided we wanted to find a way to get women paid,” said Discwoman’s Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson. She went on:

Discwoman represents 19 D.J.s, who perform all over the world, from New York to Tokyo. It has negotiated rates that currently go up to about $2,000 an hour, Ms. Decaiza Hutchinson said.

Now some clubs “magically double” their number when Ms. Decaiza Hutchinson complains about a skimpy fee, she said.

Riobamba added that being a part of a larger group has given her a lot of leverage when it comes to getting paid on time:

“I’m super grateful,” she said. “When I was starting out, I was chasing down money a lot of the time.”

Now Discwoman does that, and she can focus on her music.

Although women shouldn’t have to depend on the collective just to negotiate a fair rate, it’s inspiring to see that there is strength in numbers, and that at least some women can successfully gain better rates when they band together. And equal pay is just one more thing to worry about:

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