14th February 2023
Well, It appears that the Brit Awards have once again found themselves in hot water. They made the bold move to switch to gender-neutral categories, only to fall short in their recent nominations for Artist of the Year. Shockingly, there were no women artists included in the category.
You might be thinking, "What's the big deal? Isn't this just 'woke culture' gone mad?" But let me tell you, this is not just a matter of political correctness. It's a longstanding institutional bias against women in the creative industries.
As a PR consultant working in the arts, as well as a musician and former director of a music festival, I have personally had my fair share of dealing with the damaging problem of sexism and misogyny in the music industry. I've been talked down to and undermined by male members of my own team, and even male (former) bandmates who showed little regard for my talent and experience. This really knocked my confidence, and when I was younger it really held me back in pursuing my aspirations. As the Director of Hope Fest, a large, 3 day music festival in Liverpool, I was the sole person with ultimate authority and responsibility for managing 15 venues, thousands of visitors, and the programming of a mind-boggling 800 performers.
Sounds pretty badass, right?
Well, it would be if not for the constant undermining and talking down by male colleagues, performers and even volunteers, in my own team, who I was offering mentorship to.
Looking back, now - I wish I had done better to make sure there were more female artists and production staff on my team. That's on me. But the real kicker came when I was fronting my own band Erasing Grace
Despite writing, performing and co-producing four releases before my male bandmates joined, they showed little regard for my talent or experience. My ideas were dismissed, as was my previous success and knowledge of production, I was constantly talked over, and they even planned secret meetings, behind my back, to talk about 'techy things' that I was experienced and competent in... I could have showed them the ropes.
It's like they thought they were in the band and I was just their PA. Even though it was my band and they were my songs.
In the end, I had to get rid of them all; they showed no respect for my talent contributions or authority as the front-woman and leader.
It's time for the music industry to wake up. The rampant sexism and misogyny that holds back talented and dedicated female musicians is not just a problem, it's an epidemic.
Hey, I'm certainly not criticising all men - its a systematic problem - in the same way I did not make an effort to book more female artists for Hope Fest, men - and women - are simply conditioned to this kind of behaviour - and many women are conditioned to accept it. There is a growing body of evidence to back this up - not just anecdotal - hard statistics, as proven by the Cabinet Offices Misogyny in Music Inquiry which aims to uncover, how misogynistic attitudes filter through to society, impacting attitudes towards and treatment of women and girls, contributing to violence towards women. The inquiry is part of the committee’s work into Preventing Violence Against Women and Girls. Something that I am personally extremely passionate about as a survivor of sexual violence, and is why founded non-profit organisation Fierce Futures CIC
Further evidence, gathered locally by Scrapyard Studios who surveyed over 100 women, with shocking results.
Working in the music industry, as a woman, is like trying to navigate a maze blindfolded, while someone yanks your hair and whispers insults in your ear.
It's an uphill battle that never seems to end, and it's high time we shone a light on the rampant sexism and misogyny that plagues this industry.
To put it simply, we need a fundamental shift in the way the industry operates, one that values diversity and inclusivity. It's not just a matter of changing award categories, but rather a systemic change that promotes equality for all musicians, regardless of their gender.
Now, let's talk about some more familiar examples of misogyny in the music industry.
Kesha's legal battle with her former producer, Dr. Luke, who she claimed sexually assaulted and emotionally abused her.
Taylor Swift's experience with sexual assault and harassment, which she detailed in her trial against a radio DJ who groped her during a photo shoot.
Madonna has been criticised and ridiculed for her age and appearance, with many suggesting that she should retire from music because of her age. This is an example of ageism and sexism.
Madonna has also faced criticism for her sexuality, with many suggesting that she is a "whore" or "slut" because of her provocative image and lyrics. This is an example of slut-shaming and sexism.
Other female artists, such as Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande, have faced criticism and objectification for their appearance and relationships, with many suggesting that their success is due to their looks or who they are dating rather than their talent. This is an example of objectification and sexism
The pervasive "casting couch" mentality, where women are expected to trade sexual favours for career advancement.
The lack of representation and recognition for female producers and engineers in the industry.
The sexist comments and objectification of female artists in the media.
The pressure for female artists to conform to narrow beauty standards, often at the expense of their artistry.
The pay gap between male and female musicians, technicians and executives.
The prevalence of sexual harassment and assault at concerts and festivals.
The dismissal and belittlement of female musicians' talent and contributions.
The double standard for male and female artists' behaviour and persona.
But it's not just the big, headline-grabbing incidents that are the problem. It's the insidious micro-aggressions that chip away at a woman's confidence and sense of belonging.
Here are 10 microaggressions that female musicians face all too often:
Being asked if they're a fan, a male musicians girlfriend, or "the merch girl" instead of assuming they're a musician or sound tech
Being talked over or interrupted in meetings or rehearsals.
Having their musical knowledge or technical abilities doubted or dismissed.
Being talked over
Being told to "smile more" or adjust their appearance to be more appealing.
Being excluded from networking opportunities or collaborations.
Being subjected to inappropriate or uninvited physical contact.
Being asked invasive or irrelevant questions about their personal life or relationship status.
Being expected to handle the emotional labor of managing the band's relationships and communication.
Being given a lower fee or less favourable performance slot than male counterparts
Recognise any of these?
It's time for the industry as a whole to wake up and acknowledge the pervasive issue of misogyny in music. At Fierce PR, we are committed to doing our part to make a difference, and we urge others to do the same. Together, we can work towards a more inclusive and diverse future for the music industry.
My organisation, Fierce PR, specialises in the arts and non-profit sector, and have had the privilege of working with a diverse range of clients, including many female musicians and cultural event organisers. It is disheartening to see that so many talented and dedicated women in the music industry are being held back by persistent issues of sexism and misogyny.
As part of my Fierce Futures and Fierce PR commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity in the arts, I am passionate about working towards changing the status quo for women, and levelling the playing field for women who want to enter the creative industries and have been held back life experiences that have damaged their self-esteem and sense of self worth.
t's unacceptable that in this day and age, women are still facing obstacles and barriers to success in the music industry simply because of their gender. We want to use our platform and expertise to amplify the voices of marginalised women in the industry and help them succeed. I would love to hear from other women who have been impacted by misogyny in the music industry, the arts or in the workplace in general
Your experiences matter, and we need to work together to ensure that the music industry is a safe and equitable space for all.
SHARE YOUR STORY
Share your story with me (anonymously, if you prefer). Let's have a chat.
_______________________________ Resources for Women in Music
The Women in Music UK (WIMUK) is a membership organization dedicated to advancing gender equality in the music industry. Their website, womeninmusic.org.uk, offers resources such as industry events, job listings, and mentorship programs.
PRS Foundation is a UK-based funding organization that supports new music creators, particularly women and other underrepresented groups. Their website, prsfoundation.com, offers information on funding opportunities, events, and partnerships.
She Said So is a global network of women and gender non-conforming individuals working in the music industry. Their UK branch offers networking events, mentoring, and career development resources. Their website is shesaid.so.
The F-List is a directory of UK-based female musicians, songwriters, and composers. The website, theflist.net, allows users to search for artists by genre, location, and other criteria.
Girls I Rat