So, female indie musicians, should you ‘step up’?

photo of stage
Photo of stage Indie Art South

If you read news coverage of any awards event in the entertainment sector, you may wonder if  Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow was right. Portnow drew crits for saying, women need to “step up.”

Portnow used that term after media pointed out the scarcity of female performers among winners in 2018.

Whiplash ensued, and Portnow clarified his remarks, but what you see and what you hear are in conflict. 

It’s not just pop culture where women seem to be underrepresented on the trophy front.

Country and Americana have their own issues.

Remember the 2015 dustup after an influential music consultant advised radio to play fewer female songs because that would up their ratings? Miranda Lambert came out swinging in response to that, as she should have.

In December, 2017, the Americana Music Association came out with their top ten albums of the year. The list is scarce on women. AMA’s top albums list is based on “records reported to the Americana Airplay Chart during the period of Dec. 6, 2016 through Dec. 4, 2017.”

At the heart of much of this phenomenon is the tendency of radio to select songs by males. What we have to determine is whether that’s because what the consultant said about country radio is true or whether the men have the wind at their backs as an effect of what the consultant said.

Bubbling around this matter are the streaming services musicians rely on online. Do they favor men too?

Consider this.

Traditionally, studies have shown women control the household purse strings.

So maybe that’s where we should start. Are we, in effect, disenfranchising ourselves?

Or is the attention to male performers simply a cultural item, possibly in some small way related to the fact women don’t marry as young or bear children as young and there’s the sexual transference when women hear a male crooning (or increasingly, shouting) through the speakers?

I don’t know the answers. I do know music is at a crossroads and soon we’ll see a new manifestation of the latest brand new thing. It’s happened in every genre. Right now rap is dominant, but that genre is maturing.

When the Beatles hit the United States long ago, music began to change in enormous ways. Social issues became woven into the fabric of our music, but not the social justice we think of when we hear that term today. Music of the late 1960s and early 1970s was rawer, less class-oriented, far less materialistic, and frankly, far more respectful of women.

Is it time for women to “step up”? If so, how exactly do you do that considering the mindset of radio and the dominance of male brands in pop? Do you fight the machine, or are you subsidizing it?

Considering the dominance of male brands, some may see this as disenfranchisement.

Ambitious women will see it as opportunity come knocking.

(Kay B. Day/Jan. 30, 2018)

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