The ‘Dangerous Women’ of the Music Industry and Why They Matter

 

We recently had an article published on The Equality Hub.  Here’s a taste:

Similarly, it can be much more difficult to work as a female record producer or live sound engineer than a female bass player or social media marketer. One sound engineer wrote in the Huffington Post: “We [women in the music industry] all felt marginalized, ignored, disregarded and disrespected in instances where, if the shoe were on the foot of a man with our credentials, it would never have happened”, whilst one woman working in A&R complains of having male peers promoted above her and her opinions ignored or ridiculed, to the point where she wanted to leave what had been a ‘dream job’.

In case you were in any doubt that this matters, a wealth of articles has been published in recent days declaring the appalling attack on Manchester Arena an attack on girls, women and female sexuality. Ariana Grande’s progressive politics – her outspoken, sex-positive feminism; her support for the LGBT community and for refugees –spilled into the lives of her young fans. In this case, they were punished brutally for their ‘decadence’; for daring to be young, female and carefree.

Are young female artists better off being unsigned?

Are young female artists better off being unsigned?

The question occurred to me at a Musicians’ Union event last week – as (the rather fabulous) Imogen Heap explained the importance of building a good team around an artist – and has been playing on my mind ever since.

Unsigned acts have been making waves recently, reaching levels of success previously considered unattainable without record label backing.  As is the usual way, more of these acts have been male than female but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong impetus on young female artists to ride the unsigned wave.

The reasons are these:

  1. The business of record labels is becoming increasingly confined to providing funding to already-zeitgeisty young artists – rather than developing the sound and the brands of new artists, they’re merely providing a marketing and manufacturing budget to existing, successful brands. It’s fair to say they’re getting rather risk-averse in their old age. Oh, speaking of old age…
  2. The big labels are old school! And the old school music biz is… a bit macho. It’s still readjusting to new millennia from the 80s and 90s. Yes, this means there are people in the music industry who are actively sexist (as there is in every industry). It also means that it’s not exactly the most comfortable place for all young female artists – aside from the mega rich and famous, the industry squeezes out a lot of its older women, leaving younger women without the female mentors they might crave in such a masculine environment.
  3. Major labels are looking for a return on investment. If that means a young woman getting (most of) her kit off, they won’t be afraid to suggest it. If that suggestion is met with a flat NO, you’re now in a rather uncomfortable position. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
  4. Seriously, just the mansplaining. Just all of the mansplaining. Get far, far away from the mansplaining.

But let’s not get silly, because the music industry has been changed but not transformed in recent years.  Yes, loath as we all are to admit it, if you want to make it big then a major record deal is going to take a considerable weight off your shoulders.

So perhaps the solution – if ‘making it big’ is your goal – is to resist the major label route until you’ve got enough followers (yes, of the twitter variety), likes, track listens on soundcloud, etc., to prove that doing it your way works.  Then again, perhaps that’s just playing into their hands; doing all the hard work and ‘establishing a brand’ so that they don’t have to.

What a conundrum.

GUTTFULL’s message to Trump, King of the Arseholes

You didn’t think we were going to let the Trumpocalypse just apocalypse all over us without saying anything, did you?  GUTTFULL has written us a little something about Trump and their first single, Arsehole.

We’re GUTTFULL and we formed at the end of 2016: a bunch of big-mouthed feminist musicians with just so much rage to let out.

Our first single is ‘Arsehole’, and it’s dedicated to Donald Trump, King of the Arseholes.

With a bigoted, sexist, racist, right-wing meglomanic given the top job in the world, there’s a lot of people feeling powerless; especially if you’re not a man, not white, not straight, and/or not rich. But there’s far more of us than there is of him and his cronies, and our voices are powerful.

Every little action of dissent helps in fighting back. We just feel like we’ve all just got to do what we can. Whether that’s making a song and a video showing your town’s reaction to Trump, marching with your sisters, writing blogs, whatever you’re able to do. Trump wants to divide and rule – so just pulling together with your wider communities spreads a message of equality and love for all.

There are loads of awesome DIY/feminist/queer bands around at the moment, and more forming all the time. That’s the only upside to times of oppression – artists turn that anger into energy and the music gets a lot more passionate. Our track ‘Arsehole’ is going on the LOUD WOMEN compilation album, out in March, alongside some incredible DIY bands, like Petrol Girls, The Ethical Debating Society, Fight Rosa Fight!, Lilith Ai, Bratakus and deux furieuses.

We’re quite a new band so we’re just building up our set at the moment, working up to recording an album hopefully in the summer. Our songs are mostly about beating the patriarchy at its own game: calling out catcallers, shaming internet trolls, and reminding disrespectful men of their manners. Our singer Momoe, and our guitarist and songwriter Cassie are both mothers of two children each – we’re quite used to telling off misbehaving little boys.

We have 3 songs up on our Bandcamp now – Arsehole, Keyboard Warrior and Mafu. Check them out here.

And come and see us live!

31 Jan at the Alleycat, London
18 March at the Sound Lounge, Tooting
31 March at the Fighting Cocks, Kingston
30 April at the Rose Hill, Brighton

Veni Vidi Vici

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We sent Kes to Brighton to interview Veni Vidi Vici – local and up-and-coming all-girl (yeah, we said it) rock band. Except she never got that far, because Southern Rail.  So here’s a podcast of their video call instead.

 

 

 

Tell us a bit about the band. First of all, how do we say it? 

VVV:  Veni Vidi Vici [Venny Veedee Veechee] – yeah, no one really gets that; we get all sorts of names.

 

So have you got something coming out soon then?

VVV: We’ve got our single release on Friday [4th Nov] for our new single ‘Spotlight that’s coming out – that we’re bringing out!

 

You guys have been gigging around Brighton for a while?

VVV: Yeah, we play a lot around Brighton. We’ve had, like, one show in London, but it’s difficult to kind of get everyone free at the same time. But we’re trying! But we have a car now, so we might get somewhere!

 

 

Obviously [JUST A GRRRL’s] focus is on Feminism, so what kind of challenges have you faced, being women in music and being in an ‘all-girl’ band? Have you faced any?

VVV:  Well, there’s two sides you could go for really. One is that it’s… we don’t really find it hard because we feel that we shouldn’t be separated male and female, because that’s what’s making it slightly harder – that everyone thinks ‘so we’ll have a girls night and then we’ll have a normal night’, like we shouldn’t really separate it like that.

 

Like men are the default?

VVV:  Yeah, kind of. It’s just that it shouldn’t be separated – that’s our main view.
It’s so much that we’re separated and we’re not considered to be equal musicians. It has to be the different female nights… which is awesome, because it’s great to play with them – it’s great to have that big group of people together – but at the same time it would be nice just to be considered as just a band!

 

Do you think interviews like this – where we say you’re an ‘all girl’ band or asking ‘what is it like to be a woman in this industry?!’ – is that harmful to everyone else and to yourselves?

VVV:   I don’t think it’s harmful… You’re stating a fact, in a sense – like ‘boy bands’ – you’re stating a fact; we are an all-girl band, but it’s when people shove us just to the girls’ side of things…

 

Do you ever get [hear], ‘they’re good for a girl’?

VVV: Yeah, a lot!

 

Because that’s really [blatant]!

VVV: There’ve been times where we we’re at gigs and we’re setting up and we know what we’re doing – we might mess up occasionally but we know what we’re doing – but every guy in there feels like he has to come on stage and help you. And be like, ‘do you know what to do with your pedals?’. Like, yeah, I’ve been doing it for f–king ages!
And they never let us carry anything! For me [as a drummer], they’re always like ‘can you put the cymbals on?’. I carried them here; I can put them on a stand!  We carry our stuff every time, and every time we rehearse.
So it’s just the… thinking you’re less than you are and thinking you’re a little girl rather than someone who can actually look after themselves!
We’ve had some promoters who didn’t treat us like that – of course – we’ve had some.

 

Do you get the low-level stuff – always being called ‘love’ or ‘sweetheart’?

VVV: I think it’s just ingrained into society, that’s the worst bit about it. I hate it if someone calls me that but then everyone is like ‘why? they’re being nice to you’, but why do they have to do it in that way? Like, I’d be happy if they just hit me on the shoulder, saying ‘alright mate?’, but it has be to be a sweet way of saying it.
Or like, ‘you guys were good’ instead of ‘good for girls’!

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Have you guys worked with any female promoters and other [female] musicians in Brighton? Has there been any kind of sisterhood?

VVV: Yeah, we worked with Femrock and O’ Sister Promotions – they were really good.  That was quite a good gig actually. And ARXX we always used to play with them, and Pussyliquor, they’re quite fun to play with. What’s the one in London? Who Run the World. There is a lot of sisterly love and I quite enjoy that. It’s nice to have that support background – other people who know how it feels!

 

Do you find that as you get more established, you get less of the [sexism]?

VVV: I think it was worse when – like, when I just sang, I think it was a lot more… before, we had another guitarist and she left last year and then I took over the guitar parts and I feel like we look more like a band now and people aren’t saying as much as before.
But the bigger the gig, the more it’ll come. It tends to be the bigger gigs that are all boybands and we’ll be the only girls at all and you’re just under the radar.
You get to see, during the soundcheck sometimes, people looking at you like ‘I want to see what you’re going to do!’.
The soundcheck is the worst!
It makes us a lot more nervous as well, especially if it’s like loads of guys there. Like, we’re getting ready to soundcheck and there’ll always be a point where something will mess up and then it looks like we don’t know what we’re doing and we do!

 

You get scrutinised a lot more. We find that with female singers as well – like you have to be Beyonce or leave.

VVV:  Yeah, being a singer as well, like, I’m not always perfect and I quite like that, I like the whole kind of not being completely on-point, it kind of gives a bit more of a real feel to it. I mess up… quite a bit sometimes, but there’s part of me that, because I quite like the grungy side of things, I don’t want it to be like Beyonce and my vocals to be perfect and on-point the whole time. I’d quite like to be alright, but… [laughter] not like I’m being recorded the whole time; I don’t want it to sound like a recording.

 

How long have you [Veni Vidi Vici] been around?

VVV: Two years! We started in 2014, in October/November time. Me and Christina used to live together, and we used to just sit in her attic like ‘we really want a girl band!’, then we met Laura and auditioned Clara – we pretended we’d auditioned loads of people! Like, ‘you got the part!!’. We also had Tash at the time… I feel like, in the last year – nothing against Tash, I love her to bits – but we’ve progressed in a different direction because her songwriting is so different to what my songwriting is when I write guitar parts and… the band’s direction has changed a lot in the last year.
Spotlight is the start of the new direction we want to go in and I think we’ve finally found our sound.

 

Have you guys got any gigs coming up?

VVV: 4th November at Brighton Electric. Doors are at 7pm and all the money is going to RSPCA – a dogs shelter in Cyprus.
We have some things coming up but we can’t give any announcements!

           

Do you find there’s a kind of lad culture, especially at gigs, or is that not so much of a problem anymore?

VVV:  It depends because at the girls gigs there’s more of a female following…
We’ve got a lot of support – the one we played with Pussyliquor, Girls do it Better, the amount of support we got from that was incredible, we got so many likes. Usually, certain gigs we play, people won’t even pay attention to who we are, so that’s why those nights do help because you kind of find your fanbase. That’s obviously what they like…
It depends what kind of show we play. If we’re the only girl band then I do think they kind of latch on to us, like…
Like they weren’t really watching us either!

We, me and Laura especially, we’ll start kicking each other, start having play fights in the middle of the gig and call each other really… rude names!
We push our way into the lad culture but they don’t really… we’re kind of on our own! No one else joins in with us!
But we’re at that stage where we don’t care. We’re just doing our thing, we’re really enjoying it, and the lads, if they want to treat us in a patronising way, it’s like ‘well we’ll show you!’.
When we wanted to play music and when we wanted to be in a band, we didn’t think ‘it’s a man’s thing’, so you don’t think about that you just like it, so you do it. So therefore we won’t separate ourselves. Whoever likes us, likes us, and whoever doesn’t – okay!

 

What’s your favourite thing right now?

VVV: I’m freaking out about uni at the moment so there’s nothing else in my brain!
I’m excited about our show!
I’m excited to get everything there. I’m a little bit scared at the same time!
We’re playing to a whole new audience who’ve never seen us play, so it’s a bit more nerve-wracking.
And because we’ve reached out to quite a few different bands, they’ll bring in their fanbases and it’ll be a whole new room of fresh faces so we’re really excited for that. It’s going to be really good.

 

Anything else you really want to tell me right now?

VVV: One thing actually! Obviously when we were all kids and we all got into music, you had like Paramore and that and they were the big faces of… who you looked up to because they’re a female in the music industry but one thing that annoys me now – like, I’ve dyed my hair red now and I love my hair those colours but whenever I do it [people are] like ‘you’re Hayley Williams!’, I’m like no, I’m not! I’ve tried to stay away from that so much in my lifetime because I used to try and be her and I regret that. So it’s that thing of being compared to people who aren’t men in the industry.
It’s typical that we’re related to clichés…
I love those people, but I don’t think my music or I sound like them.
They just see a girl band or a female frontwoman and relate it to any female band out there!
We ask people which bands [they think] we sound like and they answer with only girl bands and my influences are not girl bands!

 

When you were first taking up taking up rock instruments, did you face any push-back? Not necessarily people saying ‘you can’t do that, you’re a girl’, but was it uncomfortable at all?

VVV: I don’t know because we don’t really, like… care what people think! We’ve all been doing it since before we came to uni, before we all met each other so… and, BIMM to be honest, there’s girl instrumentalists at BIMM, so it’s quite a comfortable thing to start off there. You get people – female, male, whatever – playing all kinds of instruments.
In BIMM I’m the only girl in any of my classes, it’s me and 19 guys and it has been for 3 years, so sometimes when I get up and play I feel like I’m being super judged, like they’re thinking I can’t really do it. So I get up and I think I can’t do it. I can and the teachers are really good at encouraging you… and the guys in the class aren’t like that, but I just have it in my head that they think ‘she can’t really do it’!
Personally, I had to try a few guitar teachers back home until I landed to the guitar teacher that helped me get into BIMM and the only reason I stayed with him because he said ‘I’m not going to feel sorry for you just because you’re a girl; I’m not going to be easy with you. You have some balls, so show it. Or else give up.’.
For me, I remember the first time I played electric guitar I was in college and my tutor came into the room while we were practising and he was shocked that I was playing power chords… like I should’ve been playing open, acoustic chords. They’re not that hard! It gave me a bit more motivation because I can do it, and if you think I can’t then —
I’m going to show you!
It’s made me more determined.


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So! Make sure you go to Veni Vidi Vici’s gig on the 4th November (that’s today, guys), give them a like on Facebook, and listen to all their music on Soundcloud immediately! They’re positively smashing.