Annie Mac says female DJs ‘have to constantly fight’ for safety in the music industry

Annie Mac has shared insight into the realities of being a woman in the music industry.

The DJ, born Annie Macmanus, is known to many for her 17-year tenure on BBC Radio 1, on which she regularly championed new music.

On Tuesday (13 September), the broadcaster and writer took part in the Misogyny in Music inquiry at the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee. Singer Rebecca Ferguson, who finished in second place on The X Factor in 2010, also appeared.

Speaking about her experience, Mac, 45, recalled feeling unsafe at several points throughout her career, but noted that her association with the BBC brand offered a form of protection.

“I got into the music industry as a DJ for the BBC which afforded me a shield of protection because that role comes with an element of power to it, you’re able to make and break bands,” she explained.

"And I think that, coupled with having a very tight and protective female management team for most of my career, has really meant that I haven’t gone through anything traumatic with regards to misogyny.”

Mac went on to recount instances in which she’d been touring the US and found herself in vulnerable positions as a woman travelling alone.

“You would come out into Philadelphia airport praying that the promoter would come out, getting paid bundles of cash, $10 notes at the end of a night,” she continued.

“I look back and think ‘that was so silly’, but you’re in a situation where you are not in a position to afford a tour manager.”

Though Mac expressed that the “huge surge” of young female DJs is a positive development, she also noted that the industry is “really unregulated” for people without robust teams.

“They’re travelling about, they have no security, they have no tour managers, they’re not believed that they are the DJ a lot of the time, they have to persuade the security guard to be let into the club, there is no protection for them in the booth anyone can walk in, and most of all they work until 6am and the promoters are not prepared to pay for their travel,” she said.

Annie Mac (Getty Images)
Annie Mac (Getty Images)

“There is no understanding that it is not safe for a woman to travel home at that time of night – they have to constantly fight for their own rights when it comes to being safe.”

Later in the session, there was a committee question about whether there needed to be a #MeToo movement in the music industry in relation to whistleblowing sexual harassment allegations to spark industry-wide change.

The DJ responded by emphasising the need for a “shift in women feeling like they are able to speak out without their careers being compromised”.

She added: “I feel like there [are] a lot of revelations that have not been exposed, it is infuriating the amount of women who have stories of sexual assault who have buried them and carried them.

“It is unbelievable. If one person were to speak that had enough of a profile where it got media attention, I think there could be a kind of a tidal wave, definitely.”

Additional reporting from PA