Where are all of the women in music?

By Bethany Madden

To some of you, this may sound like a stupid question. I can tell you exactly where they are, you might say. It was only a few weeks ago that Adele stood cradling her many Grammys. We barely go a few months without hear­ing some new Beyoncé news and RiRi and Swifty get constant attention. But don’t let this mere exposure fool you. Because, in reality, the numbers speak very differently.

Let’s take, for example, that Adele Grammys mo­ment I just mentioned. When she won the much coveted Record of the Year, yes, she was the focus, but watch that winning moment again. Listen more carefully as she takes to the stage accompanied by a soundtrack of men’s names who were involved with the creation of the record; not a single other woman. In fact, of the five tracks nominated in that category, there were 36 people involved in their production. Only four of them were women.

In one analysis of the producers involved in the creation of Top 40 singles for the whole of 2016, it was found that only 23 out of the total 463 producers were women. Just under five per cent. So why might this be? Are the opportunities simply not there? One thing is for sure; that the few women who do make it are treat­ed very differently to their male counter parts. Lizzy Plapinger, MS MR front woman and co-owner of Neon Gold Records, talks in one interview of her frus­tration in business meetings. She states how men in the meetings (of whom there are a majority) often talk exclusively to her male business partner and refuse to take her seriously.

One theory about the lack of female performers (only 22.3% of 2016’s Top 40 were sung by women) suggests that tabloid pressure may be to blame. We have all seen the constant scrutiny about anything from clothing choices to love interests, not to mention women being constantly pitted against one another. Men in the industry experience this to a much lesser extent, being left to create and perform without so much added pressure.

Another thing to be sure about, though, is that the women who can make a change are working hard to do so. Take Charli XCX, for example. In her docu­mentary for the BBC titled ‘The F Word and me’ she states how she’s doing what she can to show people that you can be whoever you like and still be valid and still be a feminist. The documentary includes a range of successful women talking about their experience in the industry including Marina and the Diamonds and Ryn Weaver. Notably, Charli and her band discuss that the fact they’re all females is often commented upon, highlighting it’s rarity within the industry.

This set up is reminiscent of Grimes and her all girl band, who put on a mesmerising performance at Glastonbury last year. She is another great example of a successful woman in the industry who is doing all she can to help her fellow females. Not to mention art­ists like FKA Twigs, Lorde, M.I.A and Janelle Monae. This is a great time for women and girls in music, with role models like these to look up to at a time where women are really banding together.

Pop isn’t the only type of music where this is an issue. In a recent documentary that grime artist and broadcaster A.Dot did for the BBC about grime, there are hardly any other women to be seen. At one point, she speaks to MC NoLay about the division of males and females on the scene and how the boys like to keep themselves separate. Stormzy went against this rhetoric in his latest video for ‘Big for your Boots’ which features an array of important women from the scene, such as Ray BLK, Sian Anderson and Julie Adenuga. As grime becomes more and more success­ful, it’s important that the opportunities this brings aren’t only available to the men.

In a podcast about female music writers, it is high­lighted that since the birth of Beatle Mania, women in the music industry have been overlooked. Even now, the kind of music magazines you see in W H Smith are primarily aimed at men. There has been much dis­pute lately about the recent Reading and Leeds Festi­val line ups which are dominated by male acts. How­ever, while the work that women are doing may not be apparent yet, it doesn’t seem unrealistic to believe that change is coming. Since the rise of Girl Power that was brought about by things like the Riot Grrrl movement and the Spice Girls, it’s becoming harder and harder to squash down the women of the music world. Hopefully, in the coming years, all of this hard work will pay off and start to become more evident in the statistics of the charts and award shows.

Photograph: Rock Creek via Wikimedia Commons

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