BBC 1Xtra recently hosted a debate at London’s Women Of The World festival for International Women’s Day. It asked whether women can ever be as successful as men in the music industry and, this week (March 22), DJ Annie Mac and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell dissected some of what was said to hold their own discussion on the subject. It’s an interesting chat that’ll make you think a bit harder about things. Listen to it in full here and get a taste of some of the pair’s best points below.
It’s important to be whoever you want to be, even when other people try to change you
“I have had an experience where someone tried to tell me what kind of woman I’m going to be in the music industry,” Ellie said when discussing how young artists can feel compromised. “Am I going to be like a Patti Smith or a Florence + The Machine? If you can avoid it, don’t work with people who tell you that. You are your own artist.”
She also raised the point that you should be who you want to be, whoever that is. Recounting experiences where people have told her how great it is that she doesn’t “feel the need to wear short skirts or have loads of tattoos”, Ellie said that she doesn’t want to feel like she can’t do what she wants, like suddenly get loads of tattoos, because people have singled things about her out for praise in the past.
Talking about the sexualisation of women in music, Ellie also said if you want to be sexy, then you should be. “I would hate to think that a woman, if she wanted to, couldn’t wear a bikini in her music video without people saying ‘look how sexualised she is now’ or ‘her label must be telling her to do this’.
Women need to be encouraged to join the music industry and especially in more technical roles
During the WOW festival, some shocking statistics were read out about women’s involvement in the music industry. For instance, did you know that men account for 61% of the industry and, out of 100,000 artists who are registered for PRS, only 16% are women?
Ellie and Annie’s consensus was that not only should women be encouraged more to take part in music, but there should be an emphasis on getting them into the more technical side of the business. “I remember I studied music technology at school and there was one other girl in the class. That can be quite intimidating,” said Ellie, before talking about when Wolf Alice worked with a female producer, Catherine Marks, and how exciting that was.
The singer also pointed out there are no “female touring crews – roadies, sound engineers, tour managers”. It’s not as if women are physically incapable of doing those jobs, yet they’re so stereotypically male roles, it’s no wonder girls are put off from pursuing them.
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We need to break the mould in terms of race as well as gender
“I feel like there’s a mould in the music industry, which is a slightly older, white man,” said BBC 1Xtra DJ and A&R exec A Dot in a clip from the WOW festival. “If you don’t fit that mould in any way – which is not just women, it’s any other variety – I think you have to work a little bit harder.”
Ellie raised the point that that mould isn’t just limited to the music industry, but is a “structural inequality” that’s present in things like “politics, the film industry” too. Diversity has been a hot topic recently with criticism over things like the Oscars and the Brits, and it’s important that we try and break the mould from every angle, not just gender, so everyone is represented, encouraged and empowered in and by pop culture.