Florence Welch is just one of the female performers making their mark in a male dominated music industry. Source: billboard.com
Gender discrimination and segregation has posed considerable barriers to women in music, with much talent left unnoticed due to the challenges of being a woman in the industry. Unless you want to make headlines with raunchy videos, provocative stage costuming or social media controversy, it is hard for women’s music talents to get noticed. And its not just music talents we are talking. Photographers, journalists, presenters and behind the scenes producers are predominantly male. But why?
The music industry has long been an industry for outsiders or minorities, turning outcasts like Nirvana and Freddie Mercury into heroes. Yet, the industry can still be aggressive and sexist in its views towards women.
Popular music critic Jessica Hopper talked to MTV, reflecting on her experience in the music industry:
“I talk sometimes about how when I was a teenager growing up, there were only two different accepted archetypes for female musicians — and that is quiet folky and maybe a tiny bit political and a tiny bit feminist, and then there was like girl rocker. You were either Joan Jett or you were Joni Mitchell — and it was a pretty slim space in that pie to get noticed.”
While we have improved dramatically since the 1980s and 90s in regards to acceptance of women in music, there is a noticeable problem still apparent within an industry dominated by males. Coachella’s 2016 lineup included 168 male artists but just 60 female artists– this figure included both all female acts and mixed gender acts. At UK’s leading music weekly Kerrang! in 2011, roughly half of the 12 editors were men, but of their writers, 16 out of 20 were men, and 10 of 14 of their photographers were men.
Truth is, we all (even feminists) are guilty of slamming women in the music industry. We care more about Beyonce‘s high profile marriage, Taylor Swift‘s breakups and criticising Miley Cyrus for flying naked on a wrecking ball. We should ask ourselves, why there aren’t many women on the Splendour lineup, or in Triple J’s Hottest 100? See for yourself these shocking statistics from Australia:
While there have been popstars breaking the barriers in music, the ‘sausage fest’ still exists. The guitar shop, the music magazine, the record store, behind the drum-kit: when it comes to popular and underground music, these places are the stages to display the male prowess. Female expertise, where available, is dismissed and considered fraudulent.
The talent of women in the music industry needs to be brought to the spotlight. Women are not just groupies. They can play percussion, rock out on a guitar, write about music, capture music, book music and produce music. We need to stop the criticism of female artists, of those who want to make a name in the industry. Forget about Taylor Swift’s breakups, focus on how she actually writes her own music. Focus on what women can bring to the art form.
What do you think? Is there a problem with women in the music industry? Comment below.