The idea of an entirely female lineup at and Ottawa EDM show used to sound completely hypothetical. With shows like Bass Babes now a reality, and the largest success Visix has had to date, companies like Visix Entertainment are doing what they can to showcase talents that often don’t get the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
In April 2018, with a small event of all local artists and just 12 guests, Visix started their journey towards creating a unique and positive experience for Ottawa EDM fans. Since that first event, they’ve been able to provide events that are unlike anything the city has seen before. They hit their peak in December 2021 with the aforementioned Bass Babes show, an entirely female lineup and charity event to raise money for breast cancer research.
The EDM industry is largely male-run. With men making up 91% of EDM producers, they also get bookings about 20 times more often than women do. Some of the leading EDM festivals, like EDC, Ultra or Electric Zoo, only book female artists for 2.6 – 5.9% of their lineups, according to Nina Ulloa for Digital Music News. Despite making up nearly half the listeners of EDM, women are largely overshadowed and under booked when it comes to events.
This lack of representation is what inspired myself and my two best friends, André Benhamou and Jamie Pearce, to start our company Visix Entertainment. We are the only event hosting company in the Ottawa area that is both female led, and has multi-cultural representation within our leading team. Our goal is to create a safe, inclusive space where everyone can feel respected and welcomed.
“The Bass Babes show meant a lot to me,” said Benhamou, a Jewish-Moroccan first generation Canadian. Their culture and perspective on providing safe spaces for all races and religions has been vital tot he growth of Visix and the venues we work with.
“While I was in high school I had to go through my Mom going through treatment for breast cancer, my Aunt going through treatment for breast cancer, my neighbour, who we were very close with, going through treatment for breast cancer… All in a very short period of time. So the fact that now I get to host events while also raising money for a cause like this that means so much to me is just so amazing.”
Besides having the representation of multiple cultures, religions, and gender identities on our team, we also pride ourselves on our LGBTQ+ representation. Both myself and Benhamou are proud to be part of the LGBTQ+ community, and try to use our experiences struggling to find safe, inclusive spaces to benefit others.
Visix was built on the foundation of PLUR, which stands for peace, love, unity and respect. It’s the atmosphere we strive to provide in every single event we host, and we make sure that every staff member and attendee knows that a safe, welcoming, and respecting environment is expected from all of them as much as it is from ourselves.
In my own experiences, when I started listening to EDM and attending events, I noticed pretty quickly that spaces were being run by men, for men. I didn’t see any women on stage, in organization for these events, and the safety of these events weren’t being taken seriously. One of the best examples I can think of is that most, if not all, of the events I would attend at City at Night would leave the women’s bathroom door propped open all night – but the men’s room would always be closed. It always left me feeling unsafe, like I was being watched, and like the safety of women at these events was an afterthought.
It inspired me to create that safe space for others. If I was feeling this way at events, surely other attendees were as well. I wanted to be able to give women a space where they could see themselves represented and feel a level of security that wasn’t being provided anywhere else in Ottawa.
“I hope that our company continues to bring peace, love, unity, and respect. Everyone is a family, we love the same thing, we’re here to do the same thing, and we wish to keep bringing that and making it bigger and bigger as we go,” said Pearce, looking at what the future will hold for our team and what we can bring to the community.
Our goal has always been to provide something that Ottawa’s never seen before. We aim to include EDM genres that don’t always get the same stage opportunities which limits the artists who specialize in those genres, to give chances to up and coming artists who haven’t had any stage time yet, and focus on making sure that we’re featuring artists from all backgrounds, gender identities, races, religions and genres.
“It means a lot to me that we’re one of the only people in this city that are going out of their way to make our events as inclusive as possible,” said Benhamou. “It was frustrating to see other people not do that, so the fact that we have the opportunity meant the world to me.”