Music industry ‘unregulated’ for young female DJs, Annie Mac tells inquiry

The Dublin-born DJ worked for the BBC for 17 years (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)
The Dublin-born DJ worked for the BBC for 17 years (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

Irish DJ Annie Macmanus has said women have to “constantly fight” for their right to safety in the music industry.

The former BBC Radio 1 star, known by her stage name Annie Mac, was giving evidence at the Misogyny in Music inquiry at the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee in London on Tuesday.

The Dublin-born DJ, broadcaster and writer, who bid farewell to the BBC after 17 years in July 2021, told of her experience in the industry, beginning with a disclaimer.

“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 said.

“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,” the 45-year-old said.

She continued: “(In the) early days when I was a DJ, and trying to start out, I would tour America on my own, you would come out into Philadelphia airport praying that the promoter would come out, getting paid bundles of cash, 10 dollar notes at the end of a night.

“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.

Annie Mac
Annie Mac left BBC Radio 1 in 2021 (Ian West/PA)

“There is a huge surge of young DJs coming through, female DJs which is amazing … (but) it is really unregulated at the moment for young female DJs.

“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.

“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.

Macmanus said: “I think there needs to be some sort of a shift in women feeling like they are able to speak out without their careers being compromised.

“I feel like there is 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.”

She later added that she felt a lot of the time women had become “trapped” in various scenarios within the industry.

“So many of the stories that I’ve heard have been men who are unable to maintain a professional relationship … and then the woman suffers because she either loses her job for rebuffing the man or loses her job for being unprofessional doing anything with the man,” she said.

Macmanus appeared at the select committee on Tuesday alongside singer Rebecca Ferguson, 37, who found fame on The X Factor in 2010.