Kitkat Anderson questions why, in a society which claims equality, female representation in live music is still not normal.
50% of Fender guitar sales in US and UK were to woman. Great! (Esther Addley, the Guardian)
Under 1/3 of music acts in the UK contain a female member. Not so great. (Naomi Larsson, the Guardian)
According to Ents24’s listings, 69% of ticket sales were to all-male acts, and only 9% to all-female. Where are the women? We know they exist; the Guardian’s Fender survey proves that. Where did they go? Did they drop off the face of the earth like David Cameron after Brexit? Do they perform to cobwebs and pet cats, equally as disinterested in the performance?
I’ve often heard this statistic: Men go for jobs when they meet 60% of requirements, but women try to fulfil 100% before they apply. And although HBR’s article on the topic proved this isn’t due to a lack of confidence but about preserving time and energy, the point still stands that women predominantly apply less than men. (Tara Sophia Mohr, HBR) It seems logical that all-female acts might not put themselves forward, or at least not enough to drastically change figures. Not to mention the hostility and abuse they would likely face if they tried; just look at the #metoo movement or Kim Gordon’s ‘Girl in a Band’ for examples.
My question, however, isn’t to all girl groups but mixed bands. Yes, okay. Society isn’t perfect. Perhaps the only thing the entire planet agrees on. But it’s better, isn’t it? Mostly, we accept minorities exist and should have a voice. Social media gives everyone a platform to make that voice heard, no matter who it belongs to. Young men tend to be as feminist as young women, even at contemporary music universities where the entire industry is male-dominated and male-led. So why are smaller acts still predominantly male only?
I’ve pondered on this for a while and can see only one conclusion: middle-aged men with ancient ideology. For some reason, men in the music industry often believe that women don’t understand how to be a musician. Take ACM artist Luna.
“All the gigs I played at, where I was the only one who didn’t get paid… Why aren’t there female acts on the posters, the promotions? People say it’s because there aren’t any. But here we are.”
Luna remembers derogatory names and sound-techs not letting her plug in her microphone. Maybe this is why women don’t perform live. It’s not that they lack confidence, it certainly isn’t that they don’t exist. They simply spend so much time fighting to be respected in places that already claim equality, they don’t want to waste more fighting harder in places that don’t see the need to try. (Emily Jupp, Independent)
The answer to this is not to force misogynistic men to bow down and praise women, as pleasing as that image seems in my head. In amongst the controversy, I hope to normalise females in the music industry. If it weren’t unusual to see women in high profile positions of agents, promoters, producers; (click here for women in music’s detailed statistics), then female musicians would begin to creep onto our stages, and festival line-ups would see some equality. Some, not a lot. I may be an optimist but I’m still realistic.