Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sexism in the music industry

One of the main reasons that women in the music industry have such a hard time being accepted on equal terms, is that as Ani DiFranco points out in her song 'Make them apologise', 'the music industry is still run by men'. A&R has always been dominated by men, and this has a large impact on which artists are selected for record companies. For example, any group that consists mostly or entirely of women will be considered either a novelty or a cult act. Agents, promoters and managers are typically male, and so it is very likely that they have often discriminated against female artists in general, possibly more so if they resist being marketed as sex objects. Photographers are also typically male, and often when photographing bands with a female performer, she will be asked to step forward in front of the rest of the band, regardless of whether she is the frontwoman or not. Her physical attractiveness will be used to market the product to the public, much more than her talent.

Fortunately, there are women artists who refuse to be hypersexualised in this way. Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco, Tracy Chapman, L7 and PJ Harvey have all stuck two fingers up to the music industry machine and did whatever the hell they liked instead. And they still managed to sell millions of records - in PJ Harvey's case, even going on to become the only artist of any gender to win the Mercury Music prize twice.

Obviously we need more of these kinds of artists to be empowering role models for young girls (and boys). But it is hard for female artists to be accepted as equals to their male counterparts, and it is almost impossible to get anywhere in the first place unless you're prepared, as Fiona Watt of Vatican Shotgun Scare has pointed out, to 'dance around in your pants'.

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