Guest blog/open letter by Gail Something-Else
Hello organisers, bookers and promoters… (male musicians, I’ll come to you further down…)
I can’t help but notice that we’ve spiralled back several years regarding gender balance in line-ups (if you don’t currently have somewhere around 30%+ predominantly female/female fronted acts on your stages, you’re not addressing the balance), so I just thought I’d throw a little reminder out there that it’s ok to actively seek women to play at your events.
I’ve researched this a LOT, and they tend to not apply in representative numbers due to the inherent sexism still rife on many of our scenes that so many have encountered.
It has also been pointed out that what used to be considered as ‘women’s roles’ in the bad old days took a front seat again during all this lockdown shit, so some of those who usually push their music have had to prioritise family and work over live streams and recording, which I’ve since seen wielded as an excuse for virtually all male line-ups.
I’m in the very privileged position of getting to hear and see a phenomenal amount of music. Time and again, I hear women – seasoned, new to it all and everything in between – explain the reasons they don’t tout their incredible work to certain promoters, venues or festivals…and these are just a few examples, all of which broadly cover SO many issues.
‘They never book women’
‘I was groped there’
‘My appearance was more important than my performance’ (this from all sides of the coin)
‘When I answered questions, I was ignored and my male bandmates were asked the same..and gave the same answers.’
‘I was consistently patronised’
‘They wanted to pay me a lesser fee than the men on the line-up’
‘They’ve already got their ‘token girl’ sorted’
If you don’t want to be lumped in with the fucking disgusting behaviour above, then I suggest you start giving it some thought, and start applying some balance to what is nothing less than sexism in action. Details of experiences, where it’s safe to play, who it’s safe to play with/for, along with massive lists of fem artists, are growing.
‘It’s what the crowd want.’
That’s because it’s what you’re feeding them. Such consumerist bullshit, and not what the grassroots is about. We’re here to promote creativity and equality, not pedestals and wannabe rich cunts.
To my male musician friends, it’s about time you started asking how gender balanced the line-ups you say yes to are. (If you have done this already, I’d like to hear from you.) If you hold fear that if there are more tits on stage then you’ll get less gigs then you are not only ridiculous and rather self-absorbed, but you’re thought process is also sexist. (To some of those I’ve booked, I’m aware of some of your comments re Sistafest. I look forward to those conversations at some point.)
If you’re in a band with women, then I’m sure you already have their backs in any of the above situations, but if you don’t, it really is time to start working on it. Personally, I think you should all refrain from singing songs about equality until you are part of addressing this huge issue.
Music, gig and festival lovers – you have a massive role, too. You can ask gender balance questions before you buy tickets, and in an ideal world, support for all male/male dominated line-ups will diminish and force a significant change.
It wasn’t that long ago that creative women had to use a male nom de plume, or work under their husband’s names to have their work seen and heard. Even the UK charts had been going for 21 years before a female artist got to #1, despite the popularity of so many women singers..but the industry is manufactured. With a few exceptions, greedy men in suits run that shit and musicians are nothing but a commodity. That is not something to strive to be if you place any value on grassroots music and the arts in general. Capitalism sucks.
As a woman who is thought of by many as ‘scary’, and often disliked for very daring to take spaces and fulfil a role considered to be ‘man’s work’, which includes removing those from those spaces that cause damage and rot (you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if I was a bloke), as an event organiser, a female musician, and as the little sister of a once pop star, I’ve got a pretty clear view of the ins, outs and up the arsehole of how inherent sexism in music works from the beautiful bottom to the ugly echelons, and it really needs to change, and I’m gonna do everything I can to help that change. Are you?