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Women in Music

What it means to be a woman in music right now

It’s time again to celebrate International Women’s Day with our annual review of what it means to identify as a woman within the music industry right now.

In 2015, we invited influentials within music to talk about their work, what changes they have seen in the industry regarding the attitudes of and towards women, and also addressed the issues yet to be solved that consider to hinder greater equality across the business. In 2016, we celebrated a year of activism and progression, a year that saw many mainstream musicians taking full ownership of their womanhood, but not without a reminder that giant leaps for some might only translate into small steps for others, especially when we consider the demographic of the top tiers. Here we find ourselves in 2017, and well, there’s a tendency to feel a tad dubious. We’ve entered into a new year where presidential candidates openly degrade women and yet still end up in office, where the only obstacle between an actor charged with sexual harassment and an Oscar is settlement fees, where there is still an unfair discrepancy between wages for men and women in the same or similar job roles.

As already conveyed, the potential undervaluation of human rights across the political and cultural spectrum is a real threat to everyone, especially women. In Ireland, there’s protests to repeal the ban on abortion; in Jakarta, women join together to raise key gender equality issues; around the world, people continue to march in a show of solidarity in the global phenomenon of Women’s Marches. 2017 has been a truly special year for feminism in action and the music world is an essential part of the movement. Let’s take the example of MILCK’s self-named one woman riot, the single “Quiet”, which was transformed into a defiant group anthem thanks to two choirs and surrounding individuals at the Women’s March on Washington D.C.. Speaking with Billboard, the 30-year-old songwriter Connie Lim passionately asserts that “once the [US presidential] election happened nobody could keep quiet. The words of violence towards women… We need to step up and protect people and make them feel safe and loved again.”

We’ve certainly seen the resurgence of protest music touting various social justice causes recently, and yet it’s a trend that goes beyond the marches. One artist synonymous with creating music with purpose is Sevdaliza, whose 2015 single “That Other Girl” tackled the ways that consumerist culture affects personal relationships. Later came “That Damaged Girl”, featuring A$AP Ferg, which displayed strength in womanhood and independent musicianship. Most recently, the songwriter spoke out against Trump’s immigration ban with “Bebin”. The legislation directly affected the Dutch-Iranian artist who no longer was able to enter the US, but this song was not to be taken as a personal affront. Sevdaliza released this statement: “In protest of the inhumane political climate, I could not rest my head in privilege. I wrote “Bebin” in Farsi, to solidify. I stand strong with love. In this case I choose to avoid mainstream media, because I have no interest in part taking in a victimized concept. As I will not be able to travel to the United States for indefinite duration, take this message without lights, camera, action. I am solely a messenger. In the act of love, there is no place for racism nor bigotry.” To further the impact beyond a listening experience, all sales of the song will be donated to victims of racial exclusion. Further examples of artists working outside of mainstream media come via the recommendation of Noisey and Paste Magazine music journalist Emily Reiley who passionately told us about two of her contemporary heroes - Grindmother and Saltland. Both of these Canadian musicians utilise their art to bring awareness to issues close to their hearts. For Grindmother, the 67-year-old grindcore singer decided that her extreme vocal talents would be used to call attention to the environmental and political discourse of her home country. Similarly, the classically-trained cellist and post-punk experimentalist Saltland, aka Rebecca Foon, “seeks to bring awareness to the fight against climate change with her moody, strings-driven album,” as Reily explains.

I think that we're at a really exciting time in music where women have a platform to talk about more than what has traditionally been acceptable for us. It's important that we take that space now and use it to turn things around.
Ayelle

Using music as a platform for change is something that singer-songwriter Ayelle also demonstrates with single “Machine”. Featured in our Best Music Video Debuts of 2016, the song is an exploration of “women's role as sex objects within the patriarchy and our institutionalised servitude to the male gaze.” Through writing the song, Ayelle realised traits in herself that subconsciously pandered to others desires and expectations. Left unaddressed, this cycle of approval-seeking behaviour is bound to continue, which is why it’s vital to keep “creating art that inspires those important conversations.” Now, simply because art and music strives to destroy societal misconceptions of women as sexual objects, it doesn’t mean that their bodies should be left outside of the discussion. As actress Emma Watson recently expressed in an reaction to the criticism of her Vanity Fair cover photo, “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality,” and so those who suggested that one “couldn’t be a feminist and have boobs” are ignoring basic biology. Voicing her opinion on the matter, Louise Pétrouchka (a producer, radio presenter and webzine curator) uses the example of the unfair criticism of artist Ariana Grande, arguing that “Being sexy, sexual even, is her choice, and because she's sexy in a video clip doesn't mean that she is an object and that you shouldn't treat her as a person who deserves respect.” One such artist whose forthcoming EP, The Body, fearlessly celebrates the female physicality is Starling. Her music, videos and even an online photo collection explore the relationship between outer beauty and inner darkness. In EP tracks “No Rest For The Wicked” and “Large It”, Starling is a woman of the city with all the human complexity, desires and physical awareness that historical propaganda of her home country Britain has wrongly painted as simply not existing in the female gender. When we questioned Starling about the expression of identity through her music, she responded that true ownership is “genderless,” because “Art is the thing not image.”

I would love to encourage women to believe in their voice - metaphorical and literal - on their output of creation and to focus less on image.
Starling

While for some countries, women have reached a level of equality, others are yet to see such a correction, and once again music proves to be an inexhaustible tool in raising awareness. What we’re talking about here is the viral sensation, Majed Alesa-directed “Hwages”. The incredible arabian-pop music video sees women wearing full niqab and subverting all societal expectations with colourful clothes, scooters, skateboards, basketball games, awesome dance routines and trips to the carnival. The video has gained huge popularity across the Middle East and beyond, with praise for the fun choreography and tongue-in-cheek lyrics that calls out the insanity of the deeply entrenched patriarchal legal and rights systems in Saudi Arabia. The use of skateboards and breaking stereotypes are themes we also see in the video for Wild Beasts’ Sasha Rainbow. Through this visual, the director pulls apart the song title to find out what ‘alpha female’ really means. Through her work, she emphasises the importance of women within the creative industries to make their own platform

... to celebrate women boldly going against the grain through affirmative, inspiring action, by following their passions.
Sasha Rainbow

The rising wave of conferences centered on women in the music industry is also a clear signifier of the inspiring action happening at all levels of the business, not purely as a final product in songs and music videos. At the end of last year, nonprofit organization Women in Music held their 31st annual party at New York’s famous Webster Hall, to celebrate success and host an all inclusive conversation surrounding women’s rights and the movement for greater equality. In January, the Association of Independent Music gathered in London’s City Hall to hear key figures discuss the next generation of women in music. At the end of this month, the inaugural Sound Industry event will be held in Bristol to showcase unique journeys of survival in the creative industries, questioning gender roles in music, examining mental resilience in the all too often cut-throat music world and wondering how much weight privilege carries these days. This year will also see the first International Conference on Women’s Work in Music over a weekend in September at Bangor University. This is merely a snapshot of the recognition that women in music quite rightly deserve, but of course, the future ideal is that we won’t need separate female-focussed conferences to celebrate women in music, because we should all be able to share that stage of credit where due, whatever a person’s gender may be. It’s a feeling perfectly summed up by previously introduced contributor Emily Reily:

Women have been there for decades; it’s just that sometimes, they were behind the scenes, or simply not common enough to raise nationwide attention. It’s time to put that “girl” designation aside and focus strictly on the talent and creative goals of a band, regardless of their genders.
Emily Reily

Awards nights provide one such arena where we’re able to praise achievements in music through a medium that’s directly in the public gaze. Recently, it’s become an optimum forum to set the record straight as to what being a woman in the music industry means today. Our contributor Starling singled out “Titled” songwriter Christine and the Queens for setting the example of “owning your weirdness regardless of gender or sexuality.” That’s the exact sentiment that Heloise Letissier was keen to share at this year’s NME Awards, where she took home four awards in total. In her first acceptance speech of the night, the French artist put forward this moving declaration: “All the females that are nominated with me are amazing and present a really strong way to exist as a woman in today’s world and my way is a bit twisted and a bit awkward.” Then there was the powerful challenge to the male dominated top tier from Head of Global Consumer Marketing at iTunes and Apple, Bozoma Saint John, who picked up the award for Executive of the Year at Billboard's Women in Music 2016, with this girl-power punch: “People might tell you that you have to wait your turn, but I'm here to tell you to say no. We're knocking these dudes out of the way to make room for you.” Another feature of that event was of course, Madonna, who candidly portrayed herself as a “bad feminist” for refusing to deny her sexuality, her age, her body, even at the chagrin of acclaimed feminist writer Camille Paglia. She also aligned herself to Ann Friedman’s Shine Theory, calling out the female viewers “to start appreciating our own worth and each other’s worth, seek out strong women to befriend, to align yourself with, to learn from, to be inspired by, to collaborate with, to support, to be enlightened by.” Reclaiming one’s identity and empowerment of women is also the driving force behind Zohra, Afghanistan’s first and only all-female orchestra and now winner of this year’s Freemuse Award in recognition of their determination to become the first women in their families, their community, their country to openly learn and play music in over thirty years.

We are all witnesses to to the increasing appraisal of women’s contributions and influence in music. In many areas, you could argue that equality has been found. Yet, there still exists many failings to truly represent women within the music world. Let’s look to a returning topic of our Women in Music articles - festival line-ups. In 2015, Crack in the Road editor Josh Dalton released an edited version of the Reading & Leeds Festival poster that revealed of the one hundred acts booked to play over weekend, there were only nine with at least one female member. Despite widespread criticism for the blatant gender bias, Republic boss Melvin Benn dismissed the need for change, telling The Guardian that “We put on bands that people want to buy tickets to watch,” and therefore implying that the public don’t want to see female musicians perform. Over the past two years, this ridiculous and frankly prehistoric attitude has not wavered, and this year’s first announcement consists of fifty-seven men and one woman. The line-up editor Dalton explains that this isn’t a vendetta against Reading & Leeds Festival, but as a way to highlight “the underlying and often unspoken issues regarding representation and visibility within the music industry,” which he explains further:

This is still at times an industry that still has a certain level of exploitation of women at it's core when it suits, be it in music videos, artwork, or even just being the focal point of songs - yet when women rightfully want to take part in these spaces, they aren't given the same opportunities or respect.
Josh Dalton

A dismal lack of equal representation also extends to the easily-digestible, widely popularized article format of the list. This year’s Billboard Power 100 was brought to our attention by industry commentator and blogger Mike Schreder, aka Oblivious Pop, as a list which only recognised seven women as being “powerful” enough. If you’re yet to be convinced that this list is biased towards men, then take a look at their Billboard News round-up video, introduced by a clip from Kanye West’s “Power”, where you’ll clearly pick out the line “no one man should have all that power.” Perhaps, they were being ironic. It’s a similar story over at DJ Magazine with their Top 100, the most recent published in April last year, which listed just two female DJ acts, Nervo at #45 and Miss K8 at #88. While lists like Red Bull’s 25 Best Producers Under 25, with a 16% female presence as opposed to Billboard’s 7% and DJ Mag’s 2%, and Forbes’ Hip-Hop Cash Princes, which despite it’s name featured Young M.A. and Noname in an exclusive crew of twelve, there’s still an obvious gender gap in play here. As Schreder quite rightly suggests “The music industry is filled with powerful women that are entrepreneurs, executives, and leaders of stellar teams that succeed to the highest degree, but these women rarely receive the acknowledgement they deserve. There needs to be calls for equality among lists like The Billboard Power 100 to include more women in this male dominated list.”

This call to action is already in steady progression, as we have seen throughout this article with musicians and industry leaders speaking up, stepping out and encouraging others to do the same. Returning to Shine Theory, we shouldn’t be intimidated by these strong figureheads or feel that our efforts will fail to match up to their example, an issue raised by Microcultures producer Louise Pétrouchka with what she refers to as the “imposter syndrome.”

We tend to feel less secure, even if we have experiences, even if we “want to”, it's always fighting our impostor syndrome to push through.
Louise Pétrouchka

However, we’re not without a remedy to this mindset, what we need is encouragement from all parties, from all areas of the music industry to become even just “one link in the chain that could help starring women in music.” Pigeons & Planes recently published the article Music Industry Advice For Women, By Women, in which it called on veterans of the music world to share their indispensable wisdom resulting in six key strategies: do your research, find mentors, demand respect, speak up, work harder than the rest, and trust your instincts. It’s advice that a person of any gender could follow in their attempts to access the business, but for writer Adrienne Black, this is essential to combat a world where “women have a harder time earning the success or respect they deserve without being subjected to gender stereotypes or consistently being objectified for their image.” We have another four-point plan system from Sarah Thompson, the owner of Charmfactory PR, whose own career began in 1996 as an early adopter of online music promotion and over that time she’s seen major moves towards equality in the industry. As she tells us, “I think it could always be better but compared to when I started back in the mid ‘90s we have come along way!” Her experienced outlook proves that straightforward steps to “be smart and choose your friends carefully,” “always respond to help,” get involved in social media groups and be active in the real world to, for example by attending gigs, can lead to dramatic change, on a personal and career level, but can also lead to a ripple effect throughout the industry. Further sage also comes from our contributor Lisa Murgatroyd, leader of Sofar Sounds Manchester, who advocates a community mentality, with a reminder than we can learn from our peers’ failures as much as from their successes.

We need to collaborate and share our experiences, best practice and tips to help each other across all types of roles.
Lisa Murgatroyd

What’s become clear throughout this article is that we all possess the ability to have an impact on the established system, to mold it in our own image and to delineate the idea of separation between different genders, and by extension between all various forms of identity. We need to collaborate, congratulate, challenge and inform. As Ayelle conveys, “There are still so many things about the music industry that remain largely unchallenged because we've internalised this environment and adapted to it in order to survive in it, but more and more women are starting to break that pattern and I hope it continues in 2017.” It’s also an optimistic viewpoint shared by the Head of Music at The Most Radicalist Black Sheep Music, the music division of BBH, who notes that sexism exists within many industries, not as a vacuum in the music world, but it’s a trend on the decline. “If the music business is indeed a mirror to societal trends at large, then I have more hope for the eradication of misogyny and sexism now than ever before.” As with many of our contributors whose ultimate goal is to disband with this conversation of gender altogether, because Owen envisions

... a world for young women looking to enter the music business where it’s no longer necessary to talk about being a ‘female leader’. We are simply leaders.
Ayla Owen

Whether it’s through songwriting, directing a music video, optimizing each and every platform, pointing out social, political and cultural injustices or by simply being more conscious of our own attitudes towards gender. As MILCK’s protest song shows, we can’t keep quiet, and it's why music (and art) for that matter can help to solve this issue. It allows us to understand and celebrate one another: which is beautifully portrayed in the Rupi Kaur's debut collection, Milk and Honey:

our struggle to
celebrate each other is
what’s proven most difficult
in being human
Rupi Kaur

Contributions

Sasha Rainbow

Filmmaker and director

Who are you?

I am a New Zealand born filmmaker based in Europe.

Can you tell me about the inspiration and/or message behind the music video for “Alpha Female”?

For the Wild Beasts music video I directed I tried to pull apart the song title 'Alpha Female' and think about what it really meant. I wanted to use the video as a platform to celebrate women boldly going against the grain through affirmative, inspiring action, by following their passions, in this case, through skateboarding. The core message for me is 'big change can start with just one person.' I know I've been inspired to get a skateboard, and even in London people stare when the sound of the wheels against pavement break their thoughts.

What are your thoughts on the overall media representation of women in music, particularly in music videos?

I think media representation of women is still very narrow. I think things are changing with TV embracing female leads in a variety of roles like never before, and their success is proving there's a market for a different kind of female representation. Music videos have always been a great way for people to express themselves, men and women alike. With music artists I believe they have a big say in how they represent themselves, so my questions would be more raised towards the artists themselves - I think there's an incredible platform for women to be role models of self empowerment, and I'd love to see more of that happening.

Sarah Thompson

Owner of Charmfactory PR

Who are you?

Owner of Charmfactory, Digital Marketing Agency. Champion of new artists and one of the earlier adopters of music online, having started my career back in 1996 by setting up a web designer agency for artists & labels, then moved into Digital PR & Marketing.

What ways do you think women in the music industry can support one another?

I met a few amazing women when I first started working in music and they have been my guardians for many years so I would definitely seek out women with experience to support your early career.

- Be smart and choose your friends carefully, there are sadly alot of women who feel threatened and jealous which is very destructive.
- Always respond to help.
- Intro yourself to Facebook groups, there’s so many great ones out there who are supportive and often put on events.
- Gigs, gigs, gigs! This is where I meet most of the women I work with, it’s obviously more social.

What are your thoughts on the overall media representation of women in music? Do you see PRs (regardless of gender) as having a role in that?

I think it could always be better but compared to when I started back in the mid ‘90s we have come along way! There are sites, social platforms and strong voices representing us in 2017 and I believe it will continue to grow. Yes, I do see PR as having a role, but I think the wise PR will look to offer Digital Marketing advice/strategy around a campaign, particularly for artists at the beginning of their career, which is generally when we come on board.

Starling

Recording artist

Who are you?

My name is Starling. I am a recording artist.

As a female artist, how important do you think it is to have ownership over your identity and to express that through your music?

I think regardless of gender, ownership is paramount. If you are a true artist owning your every word and melody will mean it's authentic. I think people know when they hear an authentic voice. You can't fake that. The industry is run by men mainly, but I have an all women record label and PR so it's not impossible. Rather than talking about gender specifics though, I think the main thing is image - I have found that to be too much a focus. Art is the thing not image. I mean I love dressing up, I love it, but when your whole artistry is to do with the acquisition of men and to be sexualised I'm not sure that's really the way. The more I grow up and develop my own opinion before the noise of others and their opinions I am able to be in the driving seat. That is genderless. That's just power coming from a deep sense of knowing. Not arrogant or anything like that, but I know what I want and this is how I'm going to go about my creations. I would love to encourage women to believe in their voice - metaphorical and literal - on their output of creation and to focus less on image. Sex and image is great, it can be, but when it's the whole focus it's a down grade from what you wholly are.

What are your thoughts on the overall media representation of women in music?

The overall media representation? Great question. I'm inspired by artists like Christine and the Queens because it's about owning your weirdness regardless of gender or sexuality. She stands for so much of the silenced LGBT community. I think more artists like her will change the face of music. Focus on the message and not the visual. Your age and your body weight can become obsessive in music and the arts in general, but more like her will shift the way women are viewed and hopefully then shift the young fan girl thinking she has to look a certain way to be able to be successful in music.

Louise Pétrouchka

Producer for record label Microcultures, radio presenter & curator

Who are you?

I'm Louise, I'm 24 and working for a French webzine for young adult women. I've just launched a webradio for them. Also I volunteer as a curator for a newsletter called MailTape who sends music discover playlist every Sunday. I also worked for a French label as a producer and CM named Microcultures.

What are your thoughts on the overall media representation of women in music?

I feel like women in music are more and more exposed thanks to women in the industry doing some amazing work and saying that it's not okay that women are less represented.

I remember one time, someone unsuscribed from the MailTape saying it wasn’t "diverse enough" and I thought, "Who I am listening day to day?" Well, the answer was mostly men, because the media exposes us to loads of men in the industry (as in any other industry, I think). This meant I needed to do the job and go look for more women in the industry. It made me feel like I was one link in the chain that could help starring women in music. Even if MailTape isn't Pitchfork and we don't have the same audience, I tend to choose women to feature in my tapes, because I think it's my part to play in this whole world. It's not "positive discrimination", it's just thinking about all the girls that I discover in music nowadays and saying "I want you, because you are freaking amazing". I have to say, and this is not to be a boot-licker, HumanHuman has helped me a lot discovering new amazing women artists, so I'm really grateful for that.

I also think that women, in every industry and job, have this impostor syndrome. We tend to feel less secure, even if we have experiences, even if we "want to", it's always fighting our impostor syndrome to push through. Being anyone exposed in the music industry is hard. But as a woman, if you come up as just a bit feminist, you can be SURE that people will detract what you're saying, what you're doing. Feminist is still a gross word for loads of people and it's definition tends to be blurry for many.

When Ariana Grande, who has a huuuge fan base tells on Twitter her story of being objectfied by a guy speaking to her boyfriend Mac Miller, part of it (her fan base) applause and the other is yelling that she objectifies herself in her video clip. Well, let her do whatever she wants in her job. Being sexy, sexual even, is her choice and because she's sexy in a video clip doesn't mean that she is an object and that you shouldn't treat her as a person who deserves respect. Telling people that feminism is, as Emma Watson says, about equality, giving women a choice doing what they feel like doing, this is a work of education that you have to do every day, because no one goes at the same learning pace.

Josh Dalton

Crack in the Road

Why did you decided to edit the Readin & Leeds festival line-ups to show only the female arists and bands with female members?

I guess my reasoning and my issue is much the same as the first time - not to point the finger solely at Reading & Leeds Festivals, it just so happens that in this instance their line-up(s) are perfect examples of the underlying and often unspoken issues regarding representation and visibility within the music industry. However, what is disappointing with R&L is their (or at least Melvin Benn's) insistence on denying that a problem even exists here. I'm not suggesting quotas, or that every festival or event should have equal representation, but I am disappointed that businesses with cultural relevance and influence don't take it upon themselves to be more progressive with the way they operate. This is still at times an industry that still has a certain level of exploitation of women at it's core when it suits, be it in music videos, artwork, or even just being the focal point of songs - yet when women rightfully want to take part in these spaces, they aren't given the same opportunities or respect.

Mike Schreder

Oblivious Pop

Why did you decide to call out The Billboard Power 100 for only selecting seven women in the music business?

The music industry is filled with powerful women that are entrepreneurs, executives, and leaders of stellar teams that succeed to the highest degree, but these women rarely receive the acknowledgement they deserve. There needs to be calls for equality among lists like the Billboard 100 to include more women in this male dominated list.

Emily Reily

Music journalist at Noisey & Paste Magazine

Who are you?

I’m a freelance journalist and copy editor. I started a personal music blog several years ago, then started writing album reviews for online sites and regularly wrote features on music artists for a statewide newspaper. I currently write occasionally for Noisey, Paste, and a few other sites.

I see from your articles at Noisey that you're clued into the rock music world, a historically male dominated genre. How much do women play a role in the rock scene these days?

Since I began to focus full time on music journalism, I’ve noticed an increase of women in music who are stepping into traditional male roles. For instance, Grindmother (who is 67 by the way) is a grindcore singer from Canada. Grindcore, an extreme genre that mixes thrash, hardcore and crustpunk with grinding, distorted vocals, is almost exclusively male-dominated. Grindmother just decided to blast out some lyrics with her son’s band, and the band was cool with that. But how many other guys would welcome a female singer to such an abrasive type of music? As far as her message, Grindmother decided her music would call attention to the environment and political discourse in Canada. I’ve noticed other female musicians who are using music to communicate their concerns about the world. Saltlands is a project by another Canadian woman, Rebecca Foon -- a classical cellist and post-punk experimental artist who seeks to bring awareness to the fight against climate change with her moody, strings-driven album. Then there’s the Swedish electropop musician Vanbot recorded an album entirely on the Trans-Siberian Railway, as an alternative to creating songs in a traditional studio. Women are making serious headway, but it doesn’t mean things are going to balance out any time soon.

As a music journalist, what are your thoughts on the overall media representation of women in music?

The editors I write for say they still get pitches from writers starting with “as an all-girl band...” Those stories have been way overdone, but they keep popping up. We can’t even get past the “wow, look, it’s girls” phase of creativity. We’re still stuck in the ‘90s. We should be far beyond that “shock factor” stage of hearing about women in rock music. Women have been there for decades; it’s just that sometimes, they were behind the scenes, or simply not common enough to raise nationwide attention. It’s time to put that “girl” designation aside and focus strictly on the talent and creative goals of a band, regardless of their genders.

Ayla Owen

The Most Radicalist

Who are you?

My name is Ayla Owen and I’m the Head of Music & Partner at The Most Radicalist Black Sheep Music, Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s (BBH) internal music division. I also co-founded and run themostradicalist.com, one of the UK’s leading tastemaker blogs for emerging artists/bands.

What are your thoughts on the connection or disconnection between the ways that women in music are represented as artists and objects?

I’d like to say that the hypersexualised, image-obsessed world of female pop stardom has improved somewhat over the past 20 years, but for the vast majority of women seeking a career as a performer, producer or songwriter, the traditional tropes of sexism are alive and well. Although the past 10 years has seen formidable, unconventional artists such as Adele and Amy Winehouse enjoy critical and commercial success, the bulk of current female acts are subjected to conscious, as well as subconscious, gender bias; from the size of their tits to the size of their paycheques, women are still getting whacked with the same old double-standards. To be clear, gender discrimination in the music business does not exist in a vacuum - one can draw pretty much the same parallel to every other industry, from music to investment banking to tennis. Nevertheless, indie labels do a much better job at signing and developing non-stereotypical female talent (e.g. Adele at XL) in comparison to their major label counterparts, who are under much more pressure to commoditise (and thereby objectify) their female talent, frequently without the luxury of the time needed to fully develop their potential. It’s unfortunate and sad to note that male groups eg Take That (who started out as topless, titillating eye candy for teenage girls) are afforded the opportunity to graduate into a mature ‘man band’, but the same would hardly apply for female pop acts - somehow I just don’t see Little Mix doing their thing into their ‘40s and being allowed to mature gracefully. Despite the fact that sexism is still a hot topic in 2017, I remain positive and upbeat about my daughter’s (and sons’) future. Current global shifts to the far right are energising entire generations of women and men who wouldn’t have dreamed of dabbling in politics a couple of years ago; today it’s just as likely to see Katy Perry advocating Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally as spotting her at a glitzy A-list party. If the music business is indeed a mirror to societal trends at large, then I have more hope for the eradication of misogyny and sexism now than ever before. I aspire to building a world for young women looking to enter the music business where it’s no longer necessary to talk about being a ‘female leader’. We are simply leaders.

Ayelle

Musician

Could you tell us about the inspiration behind your song “Machine”?

‘Machine' is about women's role as sex objects within the patriarchy and our institutionalised servitude to the male gaze. I wrote it while questioning internalised behaviours that I'd noticed in myself that weren't necessarily representative of what I wanted, but of other peoples desires and expectations.

What are your thoughts about the presence of women in music in 2017?

I think that we're at a really exciting time in music where women have a platform to talk about more than what has traditionally been acceptable for us. It's important that we take that space now and use it to turn things around. Just talking is a great place to start, and creating art that inspires those important conversations that we all need to have. There are still so many things about the music industry that remain largely unchallenged because we've internalised this environment and adapted to it in order to survive in it, but more and more women are starting to break that pattern and I hope it continues in 2017.

Lisa Murgatroyd

Sofar Sounds Manchester & Oxjam Music Festival

Who are you?

Lisa Murgatroyd, Leader of Sofar Sounds Manchester and Regional Coordinator for Oxjam in the North West and Yorkshire.

What ways do you think women in the music industry can support one another?

We need to collaborate and share our experiences, best practice and tips to help each other across all types of roles. I enjoy learning from my peers, both from successes and from failures! I would love to see more community networks and support across the industry.

What are your thoughts on the overall media representation of women in music?

There isn't enough representation in my humble opinion, and what is discussed can often be in very negative or polarising frames. The media should always be mindful about how they portray women in music, and not to fall into habits of stereotyping and feeding negative phrases to their audience which further entrenches opinions. As for represenation of women at music festivals, it's not good enough! There needs to be more effort to provide a platform to grass roots bands and develop them to festival standard.

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