How the Women of Live Entertainment Are
Transforming the Music Industry Beat by Beat
Happy…Monday… bitches?!? Leave it to my favorite Detroit radio morning show Dave & Chuck The Freak, (happily streaming on iheartradio) to remind me that last Friday, a.k.a., their “Friday Bitches” broadcast was also International Women’s Day.This year’s campaign: fostering a more gender-balanced world.
While Dave & Chuck didn’t dwell on it long – the team was too busy making fun of the new Star Wars theme park: Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, slated to open later this year in Disney World, and if the Millennium Falcon will serve gin and tonics for show DJ Lisa Way – the Friday a.m. banter reminded me to write a quick post paying tribute, albeit a little after the fact, to the talented women in the music industry. And also to update Dry N Wet fans on how women stack up to their male music counterparts.
After spending a little time hunting for positive facts and figures I came away with the general impression that despite massive gains, there is much work to be done.
No doubt names like: Taylor Swift, Ariana Grandé, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Selena Gomez, Carrie Underwood, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj make global headlines and their music is loved by millions. But when you dig a little deeper, there remain massive gender imbalances in terms of record label ownership, male versus female artist ratios, income, and festival lineups. For International Women’s Day to focus on gender balance seems appropriate.
Out of Tune, Out of Sync: Singing the Gender Balance Blues
Last year, a major study on this topic underscored just how much work needs to be done. “Inspired” (if that’s the right word) by the discovery of the lack of women representation in Hollywood, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, a global think tank that researches inclusion across the entertainment industry, trained its attention on music.
By the numbers the 2017 imbalance was stark. Here’s the breakdown:
- 83.2 percent of artists were men and only 16.8 percent were women
- 2017 was a six-year low for female artists in popular music
- Of 2,767 songwriters credited, 87.7 percent were male and 12.3 percent were female
- 73.8 percent of female songwriters only worked once in 6 years, 7.9 percent worked twice, and 4.3 percent worked three times.
- Nine male songwriters were responsible for 1/5 of the songs in the sample
- Of the study’s 651 music producers, 98 percent were male and 2 percent were female
- 899 individuals were nominated for a Grammy Award between 2013 and 2018 – 90.7 percent were male and 9.3 percent were female
Based on how far apart these numbers are, I doubt 2018’s numbers were any better. All this research was not putting me in the Girl Power mood I expected. Even Dave & Chuck’s humor at the expense of Lisa for not caring much about Star Wars (the implicit suggestion being that it’s a boys/guys genre) was starting to annoy. There had to be something positive to report to our fans. Frustrated, I switched back to NPR, then my audiobook.
Music Festivals and Electronic Music: Flickers of Female Hope
Relative good news came when I began researching music festival attendance. Here, too, gender imbalances were massive. In 2018 70 percent of artists across festival lineups were male. But in a 2017 to 2018 comparison a clear trend was emerging: the degree of male-female lopsidedness was narrowing. There was also a growing uptick in the number of acts that included mixed gender artists.
So here’s the positive spin. In 2018 19 percent of all festival acts featured women, an increase of 5 percent from the year before. And of the hottest 23 festivals last summer, 25 percent included a female artist or was known as a female performing group. Likewise, 2018 was also the year where a group of 45 mostly non-US festival backers pledged to book gender equal lineups by 2022. Better still, in 2018 three music festivals achieved a 50-50 male-female artist balance: FYF, Pitchfork and Panorama. In 2017, there were none.
Beyond festivals, women are also getting involved in the music scene in other ways too. Women are starting record labels. They are launching party brands. And perhaps most importantly, they are surrounding themselves with all-women teams. Doing so has a positive ripple effect. Just as in Hollywood, movies that feature women directors, women writers, and women actors, tend to hire more women in an upwardly mobile way. In other words, like begets like. This barrier breakdown is especially evident in electronic music, which has historically been a music subgenre kinder to women entry. Examples include: Nina Las Vegas, Ellen Allien, Annie Mac, Little Boots, Nina Kraviz, Paula Temple, Madam X, Nightwave and Timanti.
Women also run Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird Records, a San Francisco-based electronic music company, which specializes in a type of house music described as “tech funk.” There’s also female-run booking agencies like Poly Artists, and Odd Fantastic. Meanwhile music PR agencies Tailored Communicationand Media Nannyare founded and run by women.
"Bitches be Trippin"
So as I finish this blog Sunday night after a busy weekend hosting several live entertainment events, my thoughts returned to Dave & Chuck. “Bitches be Trippin’” is the title of a Friday segment where, you guessed it, women are highlighted for the “crazy” things they do.
Certainly I find myself laughing at what is often absurd. That’s the point. But in light of International Women’s Day I have to be honest I’ve given the whole bit a rethink. There is no statistical evidence to suggest women are any more or less stable than men. And segment titles like Bitches Be Trippin’ play to centuries-old tropes about half the human race – the “hysterical woman.” Don’t get me wrong. I love Dave & Chuck. And I’m glad I can tune in thousands of miles away.
But maybe we can all do a little better raising awareness that across a host of industries, the music industry very much included, that men and women are still not treated equally. The imbalance is no laughing matter. At Dry N Wet, the leaders in event planning and live entertainment solutions, we are committed to ensuring that women DJs, women bands, and female-inclusive acts of all varieties, are well represented on our artist roster.
You can see some of those artists here. And if you know of an up-and-comer in the tri-county area, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Only by hiring the best female talent will we be able to create the gender-balanced world the organizers of the 44thInternational Women’s Day hope to achieve.
Dry N Wet is pleased to be doing our part. Now it’s time for you to do yours!