“When it comes down to it, it is about whether the artist creates great music” -Kaitlin Gladney
The following interview is part of a series designed to discuss issues that women face in the music industry. The goal is to empower women musicians to embrace their artistry with confidence and passion.
Why do you think there is such a large gender gap in the music industry?
“I think for the same reasons there are gender gaps in most industries. There’s an overarching lack of gender equality in our culture, especially in entertainment. There are a lot of stereotypes and double standards women regularly face that men are exempt to. Things like the idea that beauty and intelligence are mutually exclusive, the glass ceiling, the reluctance to hire women (under the assumption that they’re going to leave the work force to have children and/or become stay-at-home mothers), the “old boys’ club culture, etc. There are also less women working behind the scenes in positions like producers, engineers, and executives, which means that there are less female voices overall.”
What do you see as the biggest challenge women face in the music industry?
“Creating a culture in which true gender equality exists. Gender inequality is the source that all other obstacles/stereotypes/double standards women face in the industry stem from. Also gaining respect, because for women in the music industry (and I think this is most apparent when it comes to women musicians) there’s more criticism and skepticism than admiration sometimes.”
As a manager, do you approach managing a woman differently than you would a man?
“No. When it comes down to it, it’s about whether the artist creates great music. From there, it’s about executing our/their vision. Things like determining how to best present the artist/music to the world, what shows to play, which music outlets to work with, etc. There might be times when certain issues come up that have to do with the artist’s gender, but I would treat those the same as any other obstacle – acting in the best interests of the artist.”
How do you deal with the media’s pressure to sexualize the image of female performers? Do you feel this pressure at all?
“With the two acts I work with I don’t feel that pressure. I’m interested in challenging that stereotype and proving that female artists who write good music can succeed by presenting themselves in a way that feels sincere and true to themselves. People connect with honesty. I work with a female indie folk artist and a male-female indie electro pop duo. They write great music, which is what really makes or breaks an act. The way they choose to present themselves is based entirely on their aesthetic preferences, not what we think the media wants to see.
I think it’s also worth noting that the pressure for female performers to present a sexualized image varies between genres – while it still exists in indie folk and electro pop, it’s less prevalent than Top 40-style pop; however, working in that genre I still wouldn’t feel pressured to encourage the artist to adopt an image that they were not comfortable with.
One other point worth mentioning is that the media isn’t pressuring female performers to sexualize their images in a general way; it’s in a specific, narrow way. That’s why artists like FKA twigs stands out. She expresses sexuality in her presentation and art, but does it in a way that mainstream culture is unaccustomed to. (She also produces all her own stuff, which is super cool, and I wish that were more common.) I think the pressure on female performers to express sexuality in a very narrow manner is the real problem, as opposed to the general expression of sexuality.”
Ideally, what aspect of the industry do you think needs to change for women to be more involved in the industry?
“I think it’s critically important to encourage and educate girls to pursue engineering/production/business positions in music as well as being performing artists. By showing girls that those jobs exist as viable careers, there will be more interest in them, and eventually more women in those positions. I also think it’s important that women are aware of the stereotypes and double standards that exist in the industry. This way they are better prepared to combat the encounter. To quote a female friend in the business, “Women need to say ‘f*ck your stereotypes’ and own their sh*t and believe in it.”
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