Since the 1990s, drum and bass (DnB) has been enjoyed worldwide despite being historically dominated by men. Emily Pugh, founder of Extended Play Promotions, talks to Megan Stevens, a young drum and bass DJ from the South West of England, and one of an increasing number of women who are trying to shatter the stigma that surrounds female DJs in this genre.
Megan might only be 20-years-old but already has a number of projects under her belt, such as founding the University of Gloucestershire’s DJ Society, setting up events company ‘Staggered’, and being a cherished resident (going by the artist name of MLS) at Bristol-born DnB brand ‘Just Be’, whose aim is to promote female DJs in the Southwest. Now in her second year studying Music Business, her life-long passion for music and especially DnB is transforming from a hobby into work.
Megan’s love for music is undeniable but she didn’t discover DnB until her secondary school days. “I was always that person who had her headphones in 24/7. I think the first drum and bass song I ever listened to was a Spor song. It’s a remix that he did but it was on this demolition DnB video montage and I absolutely fell in love with it.”
From that point her passion for the genre began to grow bigger and bigger. “I got my first bedroom controller and, I guess, that’s what really got me into it.” Not only did she start experimenting with her own music but relishing in the atmosphere of live events only seemed to stimulate her love of the genre. “I started going to raves and it was like, ‘Wow, I love this. I love the energy. I love the people here.'”
Many people speak of drum and bass as being a community of like-minded music-lovers and Megan has discovered this for herself. “A real advantage of being a woman in the drum and bass industry is that there’s increasingly a strong community of girls. We’ve created a network and support each other. I’ve met so many people and spoken to so many new young and amazing, creative women.”
Since establishing herself as a DJ in Bristol and now Cheltenham, Megan has come to realise that despite having set up the network, female DJs still represent only a small minority within the community. However, recent support from influential DnB brands, such as Fully Charged, has encouraged a surge in exposure for women in music but Megan is cautious about these changes.
“I still feel there is an issue with the representation for females, but it has improved a lot, especially over these last couple of lockdowns. I just hope it isn’t a trend that we’re starting to see more women because labels or brands feel pressured to have women regardless of ability. I wanna be on a line-up regardless of whether I’m a woman or not. It doesn’t have to be 50/50 all the time, just try and get close to that.”
One side-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has also been that it has allowed Megan time to reflect on how females are treated differently to men in drum and bass.
“When you see a guy on stage you don’t go, ‘Oh my god, it’s a guy on stage’, but when it’s a woman it’s made a big deal out of, and you’re being congratulated on being a female DJ than just a good DJ.”
She's eager to break through this stigma and change some of her own habits. “On my Instagram feed I put, ‘female DJ’ and then I thought, ‘Am I just doing what other people are doing and putting myself into that category of a female DJ rather than just a DJ?’”
“Just go for it”, Megan says when asked what advice she has for any women wanting to get into DJing or producing. In the digital age where there is so much opportunity at your fingertips, this seems the best way forward, although she warns about the downsides to a music career.
“Don’t underestimate how challenging a music production job or a DJing job is. You’ll be doing late shifts, early starts and it's mentally exhausting.”
Having said that, she could not be more positive about the prospects for young women in DnB currently. “There’s so many new emerging women in the scene now, there is no better time to give it a go.”
Emily Pugh (Founder of Extended Play Promotions)
MLS Social Media:
Extended Play Social Media:
Photos by Sophie Stagg