Facing male-dominated field, Iowa City music artists connect for support

Creating welcoming culture 'is super important'

Rachel Kellogg (from left), Angelia Mahaney and Josue Lopez are photographed Tuesday at Gabe's in Iowa City. (Rebecca F.
Rachel Kellogg (from left), Angelia Mahaney and Josue Lopez are photographed Tuesday at Gabe’s in Iowa City. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

The roar of a crowd and feeling of accomplishment after a good performance at a venue — all things Iowa City music artists thrive on.

As conversations of racial and social justice rise to the surface, Eastern Iowa music artists identifying as female or individuals of color are banding together to support each another in the industry.

Angelia Mahaney, a local DJ and founder of the music collective called Femme Decks, said that although a strong connection remains through many local artists within Iowa City, she recently created a Facebook group to have a more established way of connecting.

Mahaney, a University of Iowa graduate with a bachelor’s degree, said she had been searching for other outlets and forms of expression for her work after she had graduated. Looking to expand on a genre of house and techno music, she now DJs at Gabe’s, an Iowa City bar.

Searching for people who similarly wanted to create an impact on the music scene, Mahaney worked to meet more within the industry in Iowa City. More specifically, Mahaney has spent time connecting with more women within the male-dominated DJ field.

“If there was more encouragement for women to DJ and to have those opportunities to DJ, I might have started DJing 10 years ago,” Mahaney said. “Like a lot of men in the field do ... women don’t feel like it is a possibility. So that’s when I said, ‘I am going to break those gender stereotypes.’”

According to Rolling Stone, research done by the University of Southern California Annenberg finds that a pattern remains with both gender and minority musical artists not achieving nominations or other achievements as their male counterparts.


For Rachel Kellogg, also known as the local performer Purcha$e, has worked to capture a futuristic sound with her work. As a transgender person, Kellogg said she has used music to express herself and learn more about her own identity. Noting a very “masculine-driven” industry, there never seems to be many diverse artists to look to, she said.

“For the trans community, there just aren’t those voices out there,” Kellogg said.

By creating the community of artists of marginalized identities, Kellogg said, and maintaining that community, she hopes to not only connect but also inspire her fellow colleagues.

“Creating a welcoming atmosphere for females and other identities to be involved in is super important,” Kellogg said.

Josue Lopez, otherwise known as “L,” has been a resident DJ at KRUI-FM 89.7 for the last five years. He has invited many of the DJs on his radio show and would collaborate with one another. Through his work, he has developed a network of colleagues, he said.

A resident of Iowa City for nearly 10 years, Lopez is working on his Ph.D. at the UI. He is originally from Arizona, but his family came from Mexico.

“Although (the music scene) is really hard to get into,” Lopez said, “I think I have shown that you can really get successful. I encourage all female and people of color DJs ... you can do it.”

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