Women deserve recognition in the music industry

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We as a species have accomplished so much. We’ve sent people to the moon, we’ve split the atom, we’ve seen the depths of our oceans, we’ve watched ourselves grow. We’ve watched the rights of people being taken away, and we’ve fought for them back. This has been a constant struggle.  We’re 2015 years into the Common Era, yet women in the music industry who are household names still aren’t given the credit that their male peers receive. This applies to women spanning time, genre, age, race, and sexuality.

Key figures in the industry often don’t speak out directly against their female peers because it’s seen as bad business. It’s also difficult to have a view against someone personally when there are so many women in the music industry that aren’t musicians.

The head of Artists and Repertoire at Universal Music Publishing said in response to being asked by Helienne Lindvall of The Guardian about the alarming lack of women behind the scenes in music,  “Some days I think I need pages and pages on this subject … and then other days I think a sad face and a question mark just about covers it. There’s no doubt that the music business is under-populated by women. More than any other business.” Later, Lindvall writes, “I asked a male manager, who has also worked on record labels, for his thoughts. He said: ‘How many female music anoraks do you know? Girls tend to be more interested in what the band looks like on the record sleeve than how it was recorded and how it was put together.’” (Lindvall, Behind the Music)

Taylor Swift, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Bjork, Grimes, Kathleen Hanna, Solange Knowles, Sinead O’Connor, and many others have spoken out publicly about the lack of credit given to women in the music industry, often feeling belittled and invalidated by others in the business, critics, and fans. Many of these women have spoken out directly against the music business. In an open letter to Miley Cyrus from Sinead O’Connor, O’Connor  said “The music business doesn’t give a shit about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted,”. In response to the letter, many have criticized O’Connor for how harsh it was, but we can’t ignore the sheer number of female artists that are the result of blatant sexism.

According to a study by Creative and Cultural Skills, 68% of jobs related to the music industry are occupied by men, and only the remaining 32% of jobs are occupied by women. (Huffington Post, Mind the Gender Gap) There is a large number of fairly well liked artists that are household names who are being questioned if they really write their own music. Often, and not strictly applying to the music industry, women do the same things that men do and are not heard.

In a television documentary Nicki Minaj has said that, “When you’re a girl, you have to be everything. You have to be dope at what you do but you have to be super sweet and you have to be sexy and you have to be this, you have to be that, and you have to be nice,” she says. “It’s like, ’I can’t be all those things at once. I’m a human being…When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. He bossed up. No negative connotation behind ’bossed up.’ But lots of negative connotation behind being a bitch.”

Recently in an interview with Pitchfork about the release of her new album Vulnicura, Bjork touched on this same idea, “I want to support young girls who are in their 20s now and tell them: You’re not just imagining things. It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times. Girls now are also faced with different problems.”

We aren’t facing a music industry problem, we’re facing a society problem. Women in music aren’t facing an exaggerated version of sexism, they’re facing sexism in the world, and in business. We need to reprogram the way we’re thinking, especially with career women. We need to destroy the idea that women aren’t doctors, CEOs, scientists, etc. We need women to be in these jobs, and we need for women in television and in movies to be filling these positions.

People with influence are the role models, as Sinead O’Connor said. This isn’t an easy problem to face, and easy is the last thing that it is to fix it. We all need to reprogram our thought process to ignore the institutionalized sexism we face everyday for this issue to be resolved.
These women, that have the love and respect of millions, cannot get the respect of their peers and critics. This is a huge issue, not because the lack of respect is due to them being untalented or disrespectful. It’s because of the sexism in the world, and especially the sexism that is backed up by everyone else in the business. I ask of you, name as many female producers that aren’t also a popular musicians as you can. I ask of you now, do the same thing with men. There is the issue. As Bjork says, “Women are the glue. It’s invisible, what women do. It’s not rewarded as much.”

 

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