Hiya, me again.
In all honesty I was really struggling with what to write about as a blog post. Not just in terms of what would be interesting for you to read but also for me to write. This was until I went to an event a couple of weeks ago organised by 'Girls I Rate.' Founded by Carla Marie Williams, (she co-wrote Beyonce’s ’Freedom,’ which may give you an idea of just how cool this woman is,) the organisation champions women in the creative industries and ‘aims to create a new platform for the next generation of girls and women coming through.’ The event was a #GETHEARD weekender in which artists were asked to submit their songs for a panel - made up of industry heavyweights like singer/songwriters Lily Allen and Tanya Lacey, Alec Boateng from Atlantic Records, Anne Christensen from Island Records and Jade Richardson from ATM Artists - to listen to and review. I sent in my song ‘Midnight Car Ride’ and was consequently asked to go to the event.
Held at the PRS HQ in London, I arrived and got in line to sign up. I feel I should say that while this could have been a competitive and intimidating atmosphere, the reality it was the opposite. Every girl was so supportive and genuinely wanted the best everyone. This environment was one in which women weren’t there to tear each other down in order to make themselves feel better, it felt like a community wanting to encourage one another.
We then all filed into a room where we each took a seat. The panel then announced the names of the girls whose tracks they had decided to play. One by one the chosen girl would go and sit with the panel. We’d hear about 2 minutes of their track and then the panel would review it.
A fact that I still cannot quite comprehend, my song ‘Midnight Car Ride’ was selected and I was called up to sit with the panel. Truth be told I was nervous, sweating and I could hear my heartbeat louder than my actual song being played on the speakers, I have also never tried so hard to play it cool in all my existence.
Despite my anxieties, the panel was lovely, they were encouraging and it seemed they genuinely liked my song. Lily told me I had a really sweet voice, Alec told me it was wicked and Carla told me that I had a very international sound. I’m still in shock and can assure you I will never stop dropping the names I met from this event. Thank you again to the panel, thank you, thank you.
However, what I really want to get across is just how important events and organisations like Girls I Rate are. I have only just begun my career in the music industry and already I cannot ignore the fact that my gender is desperately outnumbered and that being a girl has already affected my career.
For example, when I was younger and playing open mics. I was so scared to go home on the train alone late at night that I would force my dad to come with me. He would pretend to be a punter at the bar and then make sure I got home okay. This fear is widespread amongst women but as a gigging musician, I experience this fear more often than other women. I am much more likely to be walking home alone at night and this is where being a girl puts you at a disadvantage in the music industry. I feel I cannot stay until the end of a gig and watch the other acts perform because I’m so scared of the journey returning home, yes this is rude and disrespectful towards the other musicians. However, the risk of those musicians thinking ill of me is desperately outweighed by the risk of walking home any later. Gigging is not just a question of security, because at the gig itself, the ratio of men to women is staggeringly out of proportion. I am usually one of two girls or more likely the only girl on the bill at a gig. Also, nearly all of my music/musician friends are male.
I have only ever come across one female producer and sound engineer (this is the producer I work with, Indi Brodley from IndiB Productions,) until the #GETHEARD weekender. Indi is a veteran in being the only woman in the room and she more than held her own as one of five women out of the 25 on her music production course at university. Even now at a gig, she finds musicians are truly shocked or simply don’t believe that she is their sound engineer.
The realities of the gender inequality in the music industry was furthered after a conversation with my dad (who used to be a songwriter for a record label, back in the 80s) he stunned me by saying that when the label went out looking for female artists, they were only interested in what they looked like. By contrast, for male artists, the focus was on what they sounded like. I guess I have experienced my own version of this. As a young girl who sings, this makes me a horrifically easy target. Especially when you’re in a environment such as a pub or a club. I am always a target for older men to chat up and in all honesty completely creep me out. The amount of times I have had men pretend they work for record labels or a management company just to chat me up and get my number is ridiculous. It’s not flattering. It’s just creepy. My most memorable experience of this was when I was 17, I was playing a festival and had a relatively young guy come up to me and say he was a scout for new talent for a really big record label (that I won’t name.) I got so excited, rung my parents thinking I was going to get signed and that I had managed to open a door for my music career. I was wrong. He wasn’t. He just wanted was my number. I don’t think I need to explain the rest.
From my very first demos to when I was signed to my first record label, the environment that I’ve worked in has been completely male. Now, if anyone presents an opportunity (… and it’s always men) such as working in a studio together. I automatically assume that his intentions are not that of working together to make music. For example, I am currently working with a fantastic producer, but when he first invited me to his studio, I made sure that friends and family nearby knew his address in case I wanted to escape and was uncomfortable. Now don’t get me wrong this producer is amazing and a truly lovely guy but still, I prepared for the worst.
This is why we need more women in the music industry. Girls I Rate is essential because women are so outnumbered, we absolutely must support each other and work together to make this industry more equal. We are just as talented. We are just as hard working. This is not a post to hate on men in the industry, absolutely not. This is a post purely to shed light on an issue that needs more attention. Men can be taken seriously in the industry without trying and I’m sick of it.
This is why we need more women in the industry. This is why Girls I Rate is so important.
Dear Lily Allen and Carla Marie Williams, sorry if I seemed distant and perhaps a bit rude when you were speaking to me. I was simply trying to play it cool and do my best not to hyperventilate.