I was 12 years old when I first discovered music. I mean really discovered music.
The kind of discovery that had me madly devouring everything I could listen to with passion. The catalyst was getting my first radio. It had been my brothers and when it came to me I discovered top 40 radio. Then I started pestering mum and dad to buy me CDs for presents. Can you imagine my excitement when I unwrapped Fearless for my birthday that year? I took over the family stereo each afternoon when I got home from school and sang along with Taylor until I knew every note. At night I would listen to the radio with it hidden under my doona so mum wouldn’t know. There was just so much exciting music out there – Rihanna, Amy Winehouse, Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry! The list goes on.
But then I gradually began to realise something more. I felt like for each one of my favourite female singers there was at least a dozen songs by men. Sometimes I would listen for an entire hour and not hear any female singers. This just felt so wrong to my young ears.
In 2008 the top 100 Billboard hits in the United States featured 37 female performers. In 2017 there were only 26!! What has happened that the number of female performers releasing hit songs has actually declined over the past 10 years?
A google search on ‘sexism in the music industry’ brought up 1.32 million results. The top search results were mainly magazine articles. GQ, Glamour, Marie Claire along with other media outlets have all run articles talking about sexism in the music industry.
Despite all this talk, it is still the consumers of music that are contributing to the overt sexism in the industry. It is about the music we seek to listen to, the songs we buy, the performers we vote for in Triple J’s Hottest 100 each year.
In January 2018, 51 songs in the Hottest 100 were from male artists or groups, 25 from female solo artists and all female groups, and 24 were from acts including both male and female artists. What distorts this last figure is that many of these combined acts were actually male artists ‘featuring’ a female singer. In other words, all the royalties and most of the accolades goes to the male performer.
How can you do your bit? It’s up to you what music you listen to but maybe it is a time to broaden your tastes. We become so conditioned to listen to a particular style that we don’t open our ears and minds to new music. So my challenge to you is try having all-female performer days. Demand the radio plays more women, listen to more women, hear more women. How else will we see any change?
Have a great feminist week!