First things first, says Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson: “We only work in guarantees.” Hutchinson is one of three founders of Discwoman, an artist collective, booking agency, and events platform for women and gender-nonconforming electronic artists. Established in 2014 by Hutchinson as well as coordinator Christine McCharen-Tran and DJ-artist Emma Burgess-Olson, Discwoman has grown from a New York-based live-music series to a global feminist force. It currently represents 18 artists and has booked events from Mexico to Australia to Puerto Rico. The Discwoman mission goes as follows: to get more women and LGBTQ folks behind the turntables; to get them booked in major clubs and festivals; and, of course, to get them paid competitive rates.
In 2019, Forbes’ Highest-Paid DJs list was topped by the Chainsmokers, who earned $46 million in pretax income. It’s worth noting that not a single woman made the 15-artist list; yet to Discwoman, their goal is not to make more millionaires, but to make EDM “run more sustainably” for independent artists. Through shrewd negotiation and a do-it-yourself ethos, Discwoman collective have upped the stakes for marginalized people in the industry, many of whom might typically expect to play parties and festivals for shockingly low pay or, worse, beer and exposure. Still, the trio strike a balance: while advocating for more livable wages, they’ve also booked their fair share of benefit shows for progressive causes. Discwoman artists have raised funds for pro-woman and LGBTQ initiatives like the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, and the Ruth Ellis Center.
“Capacity and the door charge are the first things we ask about [when booking],” says Burgess-Olson, who performs as Umfang. “If [promoters] are walking away with $20,000, something’s not adding up.” The biggest advice they have for young DJs: “Ask your peers,” says McCharen-Tran. “’How much did you get paid? What’s the budget like?’ Was a promoter terrible to an artist, or did they have a great time? We track everything.”