Alternative popsters Ae Mak have spoken on the importance of tackling gender inequality in the music industry, after becoming the first group signed to a major new programme that aims to improve the diversity of acts at major music festivals.
The Irish four piece, led by singer Aoife McCann, are the first act chosen for Festival Republic’s ReBalanced programme – a new initiative that will address the gender imbalance in the music industry.
The Leeds-based project will run for three years and will provide one week’s studio recording to a female musician, solo artist or female-featuring band each month from 2018 through 2020. Studio and engineering costs will be paid for by Festival Republic and the artists selected will be given slots at a Festival Republic or Live Nation festival.
“It was quite a whirlwind. We were chosen in January and then all of a sudden we were in Leeds”, McCann explained to NME.
“We went over at the end of January and we were there for a week and the studio there. Dan [McIntyre, synths] is an engineer himself and they brought over a producer from London.
“She was deadly and the same age as us so it was nice. We already had our demo done, and the tracks were done. So we just had to record vocals and drums. It was brilliant to have the studio that week otherwise it would have cost a few grand in Ireland. So that was a massive help.”
As part of the programme, they’ll also make their UK Festival debut at Latitude this year, playing on a bill that includes headliners Alt-J.
“We’re playing the same day as Alt-J as well, so that’s very exciting”, McCann enthused.
‘I’m looking forward to going to them maybe more than our slot. Yeah, it’s fantastic, we wouldn’t have got it without this and it’s great to just be given that opportunity for our name to be out there.
“It’s hard when you’re an up and coming band in Ireland to get out of this industry and get your foot in the door in the UK because there’s so many bands.
So especially as an Irish band it’s just brilliant that we’re on the Latitude line up and we’re not a known band in the UK, so it’s definitely for people to get to know our name and just to see it play.”
But while a host of festivals recently pledged to achieve equal line-ups by 2022, McCann instead maintains that artists should be judged on their own individual merits.
“I don’t think festivals should be 50/50 because it should be based on quality of music and merit, you know? So I think the fact that it’s being addressed is brilliant, and the culture change, and the fact that for women in the music industry who want to make a professional career out of it. The culture has changed completely and it’s so much more accessible now and it’s brilliant that they’re welcoming it and they’re putting this programme in place. But I’d just be afraid that it could go the opposite way.
“I’d just rather be picked on for something on my own merit and not as a woman.”