Bud Light makes a doc about inequality among DJs

When past music marketing revealed women didn't have a voice in the industry, the brand adapted its strategy to address the issue.


All the world’s a stage, but in the EDM world, the players are mostly men – a fact Bud Light wants to change.

The beer brand has co-produced a doc called Underplayed, directed by Stacey Lee, that shines a strobe light on gender inequality among DJs, and it is coming to the Toronto International Film Festival. The original premiere was set to be at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, but when it was cancelled due to COVID-19, the debut was pushed to TIFF.

Despite being birthed in queer and diverse subcultures, the biggest stars in dance music are hardly representative of the population: 95 of the world’s 100 top-earning DJs are men.

Natalie Lucas, director of marketing of light beer brands portfolio at Labatt, says music has always been a passion point for the brand, and that it wasn’t until it got up close and personal with EDM artists that it realized there was a big issue in terms of under representation.

“Here we are as a major music sponsor, where it’s our job to raise awareness,” Lucas says, adding that these important stories need to be fleshed out beyond a typical storytelling format, and into a feature documentary. “We felt just creating some short form cut down spots would not make the impact we feel we needed to make.”

Underplayed has been in the work for nearly three years, and has its genesis in conversations with prominent female DJs such as DJ Duffey and Alison Wonderland. Bud Light’s AOR Anomaly was a major part of those conversations and developing the documentary. Veritas is handling PR for its premiere, with media agency Vizeum and experiential Salt also providing support.

In 2018, as an extension of its music platform, Bud Light Canada launched the “Bud Light House Party Tour,” bringing top tier artists back to where they first started playing and partying, in house parties across Canada. According to Lucas, Bud Light’s House Party has aimed to be inclusive platform, with artists from EDM, hip hop and country music, but it was during the tour that the issue of representation in EDM came to light.

Lucas says that from a brand strategy standpoint, Bud Light’s music platform has been about giving diverse artists with credibility in their genre a platform to share their music and stories to a wide audience (it has an appeal across demographics, but skews slightly younger). But to help artists who might be facing systemic barriers to being seen as “credible,” the brand needed to “walk the walk,” Lucas says.

While the documentary was in development, Bud Light partnered with Toronto-based Intersessions, which hosts workshops for women interested in entering EDM. At music-centric events like Bud Light Dreams in Toronto, Escapade in Montreal and Chasing Summer Festival, it has hosted classes on things that help women be successful in the industry, from technical skills to business savvy. The brand has also facilitated educational programming and panels with Women in Music Canada, to bring a focus to more women on stage, but also back of house and production, where women make up less than 3% of these roles.

The world premiere of the documentary will be on Sept. 19th as part of TIFF, where it will be streamed online and screened at a drive-in theatre at Ontario Place.