My Love/Hate Relationship With The Music Industry

This post is all about my love/hate relationship with the music industry. Most of what I am going to talk about I have seen many other womxn in the industry touch upon but things are not improving. I ask if you are a man reading this who thinks they understand the struggles that womxn face in the industry then please not only read but learn and help your peers going forward. We are all in this together.

©Wendy Wei

Wanting to be part of the music industry is not something that has been a goal of mine forever. I started to really get that buzz and love for it since being eighteen but it is now the path I am on and I am glad of it.

Not only do I run this blog and write for other publications but I also study Music Technology at university and I am about to start my second year. My first year went really well, far better than I thought it would and I finished the year with a first but also received the course prize for Excellence and Engagement. This was a shock to me but I was and am thrilled. 

I work for a ticketing agent based at the arenas in Birmingham and have just worked a stint as an artist scout for MAS Records. Essentially what I am trying to show is I have many different areas that I am a part of and it gives me numerous options for the future – although right now I am unsure where exactly my future is heading.

I am fairly self-deprecating and unless others spell out my hardworking and achievements I feel as if I have done nothing. Most of the time I feel useless and it has been put to me that my future path is a glorified hobby but I do love the industry however it does have its flaws.

During this troubling time, for many not just the arts, it has been great seeing people pulling together to try and save an industry which is so loved and relied on. It is also sad that this is the position we are in.

I have lost count the amount of fundraisers I have donated to and shared during lockdown to save the venues we all love dearly. This has been fronted by the brilliant Music Venue Trust who have been there to voice concerns and to raise money for hundreds of grassroots venues around the UK. They have not only been informative during this difficult time but incredibly compassionate.

In addition, in the past month we’ve seen the launch of Fightback Lager whose tagline is “this beer saves music venues”. They have created and are selling a selection of booze (lager, IPA, cider) to help raise funds for Music Venue Trust. I was very pleased when I received and tasted my sampling pack – definitely worth checking out for sure.

Relief did come however from the Governments’ Emergency Grassroots Music Venue Fund when 135 music venues received a share of £3.36million last month. This is a start but we must continue to support these venues to keep them open for when we can gig again. The support from the public and government is definitely worth celebrating though!

However during lockdown a not so nice topic has been highlighted to me as being a problem in the industry and that is sexual abuse. I know that I have been put into some horrid and worrying situations in the past but over the last few months I have seen countless allegations against bands, artists and crew members that have all been denied and/or covered up. I won’t mention particular artists in this because these are allegations and none of this has been dealt with in a court of law.

It is a tough topic to get into because everyone wants proof and sometimes there just isn’t any. The victim shaming is unbelievable in this day and age and I don’t blame people who then post stuff anonymously. The one thing that makes me feel sick to the stomach is when band members or fans of the accused then express their support for them by essentially belittling the victim. These people for sure have not had anything of this nature happen to them or else they would not be defending these actions especially in this way.

Here is a link to an anonymous post by a music journalist posted about a month ago. The post details her experiences as a female music journalist and really is a must read.
It is worry I have though for the future. Putting aside the bad experiences I have already had making me feel endangered not just by random gig-goers but people in bands that I know; it is something that will be sure to sway my future decisions working in the industry.

©Kat Jayne

Now, what triggered me to write this rant-y post in the first place? It was – of course – the Reading & Leeds Festival 2021 line-up announcement. And oh dear.

Let’s talk about the lack of equality when it comes to festival line-ups, more specifically the lack of female representation when there is SO MUCH FEMALE TALENT OUT THERE OH MY GOD. Before I go further, there are other issues when it comes to diversity in festival lineups but it isn’t my place to comment on most of them. This does not mean those issues are not important.

For this reason I am going to focus on misogyny.

Reading & Leeds Fest 2021 Lineup

I think the images above speak for themselves. R&L were excited to announce that their festival next year would consist of two main stages with six headline acts across them with no clashes. Wow! What an opportunity for the festival!

How they managed to not announce a single headline act which includes a womxn is beyond me…

Before you even think of an excuse about lack of female talent out there really think. This couldn’t be more untrue. Lady Gaga, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Christine and the Queens, P!nk, Taylor Swift, Halsey, Marina, Clairo, Phoebe Bridgers, Pale Waves, Jade Bird, Larkin Poe, Janelle Monáe, CHVRCHES, Paramore, Charli XCX, Florence & The Machine, Wolf Alice, Lana Del Ray, Lorde, Lizzo and that is just to name a few.

Reading & Leeds Fest have made zero effort to put a leading lady on their lineup. In the last twenty-one years only one female fronted act has headlined the festival and that was Paramore – oh and it was a co-headline slot.

I know this lineup has angered many people. I recommend checking out this link to an article I’ve read chastising the famous festival.

This is an issue which is seen in festivals all around the country every single year. Here are a few more lineups below; I believe that just seeing the gender split speaks for itself.

Godiva Festival 2019 Lineup

Victorious Festival 2019 Lineup

Reading & Leeds Fest 2020 Lineup

It isn’t all down to the festivals and event bookers to do their bit however…

I’m sick of big bands also not doing their bit especially when they claim to be all for equality in the industry. In fact, it annoys me if any artist voices that they are for equality and believe that womxn should have more representation in the industry but then when they put on shows they stick with a male crew and male support acts. That’s not cool.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan of Kaiser Chiefs. Now those guys are really chill and good at speaking up when things aren’t going right in the business. They have spoken up about saving venues during this uncertain time and a few of them have tried to do their bit individually plus, they are one of the only bigger bands I know that have a few female crew members.

Their 2019 tour saw Novacub and Hollie Cook supporting which made me, not only as a female fan but a woman in the industry, incredibly pleased and happy that they had womxn supporting them. It kind of proved what I already thought of them which is I think very highly of them.

I was shocked when just after the tour had finished it was announced the full line-up to their massive hometown show at Elland Road Football Stadium in Leeds. The Vaccines, The Sherlocks, Gaz Coombes, Skinny Living and Marsicans. It was basically a sausage fest.

Kaiser Chiefs March 2017

I just want to add that it was a great show and I am not saying that any of those artists didn’t deserve to be on the bill; it is the same with the R&L line-up. Me criticising the “balance” of line-ups is not an attack on the artists picked but on the people who thought it was right and a good idea. I also want to add that I have no idea what kind of say Kaiser Chiefs had in that line-up because it was Leeds United putting on the show to mark their centenary year but I would be surprised if they had zero say. I voiced my concerns at the time which received no response from the band but fellow fans did express their agreement so that’s something.

Last year I attended and reviewed Boudica Festival at The Herbert in Coventry. The festival is one that showcases womxn in the industry and it was an event I was very much looking forward to as a woman in the industry.

It was a good event, very interesting, with this real sense of togetherness – the only blip of the night was when Virginia Wing‘s keyboard player had a strop about sound issues. It is fair enough voicing your concerns when you are having trouble when on stage but he was frankly a massive dick. Sam Pillay was shouting and standing over crew members bringing them close to tears. I remember one of them coming up to me and saying “of course it is a man who shits all over the womxn’s event”.

It very much almost ruined the night and angered me greatly. The fact that he thought it was fair to act like that was unbelievable. You can read more about it here.

©Freya Baker: Truemendous at Boudica Festival 2019

My hope is as time moves forward that these issues start to become fixed. Every single person a part of this business owes it to the industry to strive for a better future. Let’s have lineups which better represent the population. Let’s make events and working conditions safe for everyone – no one should be feeling wary when doing something they love. And let’s make sure we have venues to go back to when we can gig again.

What I am asking for isn’t impossible or too much.

I have big aspirations and I am trying not to let any issues I have with this industry get in the way of that. I may have not homed in on what area I want to end up in but I know I want to make my mark on the music industry and I will.

Thank you for reading.

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