Women Dealing with Misogyny in the Music Industry

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Once upon a time, a music reporter went to a show with an all-girl band slated as the headliners. The supporting bands, meanwhile, were comprised completely of males.

The show started off magically. The venue had amazing acoustics, the bands were sounding great. Little did the unsuspecting music reporter know, she was about to experience something devastating.

The evil patriarchy had possessed the body of the man controlling the soundboard, and the headlining band (that sold-out the venue) was the villain’s target. The all female-group was attacked with howling microphones, unruly amps growling with feedback, and uneven vocal volumes.

The music reporter didn’t understand why this was happening, when just a few minutes before everything was fine. Suddenly, she realized what was going down. She turned to glare at the sound tech while others from the audience joined in; some audience members started yelling at him, and even the supporting bands tried talking to him. It was no use. The headliners could do nothing but roll their eyes at the villain and laugh with frustration.

They played their set the best they could and walked off defeated.

The end.

What an awful bedtime story, right?

Unfortunately, this is not fiction. It’s a true story experienced by one of our very own BTR-staffers. It’s a story told over and over again by not only music journalists, but also by female musicians, managers, band photographers, avid concert-goers… you name it.

If you’re female, you get underestimated and abused. The music industry is especially known for this. Even though there are countless female pop stars, rock stars, rappers, winning Grammies and making millions, men are still taking the credit in this industry.

Why is that? Well, rock and roll blossomed in the ‘50s, with musicians like Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Holly—all men. You know what else was flourishing in the ‘50s? Societal roles created for women. Women stayed at home, fulfilling the roles of perfect housewives; they made dinner and raised the kids–all in high heels. You get the picture. Women were always an after-thought when it came to being a professional musician.

Take Elvis, for example, he was called the king of rock and roll, but when he sang duets with females his songs all of a sudden became softer and slower. He also married someone that he met when she was 14 years-old and he was 24, so that happened…

Jessica Louise Dye is the lead singer and guitarist of a band called High Waisted that is making some serious waves. They’re currently on tour hitting spots all over the U.S. and even some in Canada. They’ve worked with well-known publications like Bust Magazine and recently they worked on a virtual reality music video for Refinery29.

Needless to say, they’re an awesome band and you should check them out.

Yet no matter how big they get, Dye still experiences the harsh backhand of the patriarchy. When asked to share an experience of sexism, she tells BTRtoday, “One example? How about daily examples?” Her list of day-to-day occurrences of misogyny is alarming, to say the least.

She says that men always think they know her gear better than her and will change her amp settings without her permission; she constantly gets called “honey,” “babe,” and “sweetheart” while doing her job; she’s been threatened to have her career shot down or her band slandered if she denies sexual advances; she’s even figured out that if she signs her band’s emails off with a man’s name instead of her own name they receive faster responses, higher payment deals, and just respect overall.

“Chew on that,” she says infuriated.

She admits that rock ‘n’ roll has misogyny at its core, and has for a long time.

“Remember those t-shirts by The Scorpions in the 70’s that read, ‘good girls go to heaven, but bad girls go backstage?’” Dye asks. “How about bad girls go on stage and fucking steal the show?”

Dye adds that it’s a societal norm we all had to grow up with. “As children, little girls are given dolls and little boys are given guitars,” she explains. “It’s part of our society’s learned gender roles.” However, she does shine some light on the subject, acknowledging that a shift is occurring thanks to programs and publications like Girls Rock, She Shreds, and Tom Tom Magazine.

Musicians are obviously integral to the music industry, however they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere without a good photographer– especially during this digital era. Devon Bristol Shaw is a music photographer in the New York City area. She shoots for Dojo Zine, and BTRtoday has even posted some of her photos.

You can find her at any hit NYC show, she attends one or more a night, and she’ll most likely be in the front of the crowd with her face buried in a camera. Another thing you may notice is that she’s usually the only female up there taking photos.

“I’ve worked in various fields extending from politics to the arts and feel as though misogyny still runs the most rampant in the music industry,” Shaw conveys. “The attitudes of men, especially towards women in the music industry, seem to be the most blatantly palpable.”

She says that male photographers are constantly trying to shove her out of the way, referring to her as “sweetie” or “honey” to get that shot, and when she’s contacted about her services she’s often low-balled when it comes to payment, or the employer is shocked that she even charges anything. “These men are in no way kind and often form a boys club type barrier in which a woman is unable to break through both figuratively and literally, in order to capture the shot,” Shaw explicates.

Shaw declares that if you want to make it in the music industry it’s necessary to have an excessively inflated ego, but that most of the time this trait is taught to be off-putting for women. “It seems that men are more often able to dominate the industry through their sheer dominance of hubris and ability to manipulate the industry in their favor, by simply being over-bearing in a fraternal sense,” she explains. “However, men need us and should therefore treat us as equals.”

Another position in the music industry that is difficult for women to get any credit for is management.

Lindsey Gardner, founder of Siren Sounds, is a refined band manager and event planner. She’s thrown successful live music events at notable NYC venues such as Baby’s All Right, Pianos, Audiotree, and the Bowery Ballroom. Currently, she is managing up-and-coming artist Ron Gallo, who recently played Bonnaroo, is touring all over the U.S., was recently featured on Fader, and was also on BTRtoday’s Discovery Corner.

She conveys to BTRtoday that it wasn’t easy making it to where she is now, and it’s still a continuous struggle. Specifically because she is female, her battle to conquer the music industry has been made especially difficult. Though she has had many pleasant professional encounters, she also has several stories that could have really brought her down.

“One experience was with a small time agent with a big time ego,” she begins. He asked for her help in booking bands for a show, but when she told him her rate things got messy.

“He then took to yelling at me in an increasingly aggressive tone—he was appalled that I would ask for compensation for booking bands, which is exactly what he does for his own pay,” Gardner remembers. “Also, pretending he didn’t know who I was or what I do when he was the one who reached out to me was pretty funny.”

She also reminisces about a meeting she had with a founding member of a well-known music promotion network in NYC, after having already worked awhile in music management. Throughout the entire meeting she was talked down to like a child; Gardner describes being called “sweetheart” and even being told at one point that there’s no money in the music industry for women and that she should try being a scientist instead, because “you would look so pretty in a white lab coat.”

It takes a strong willed woman to deal with such treatment in a professional setting. It goes without saying that Gardner diplomatically shut the guy down and left the conversation even more fired-up and ready to take on the roadblocks she would have to encounter in the future of her career.

It’s sad to see this as a common occurrence in the music industry and how there aren’t many publications shining light on the matter. The only thing that came close to attracting the public eye was the situation that unfolded between Kesha and her producer, Dr. Luke, earlier this year.

Kesha attempted to sue, Dr. Luke under the accusation that he sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused her. The court ruled against her, and did not allow her to back out of her contract due to lack of evidence to her claims.

This brought famous female pop stars together, like Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift, to spearhead a “Free Kesha” movement and get the court to side with her. Kesha is still working through her contract, and states on her social media that “singing” is her only therapy.

Whether it’s famous pop stars or up-and-coming artists and music industry professionals, females have a much steeper mountain to climb. One thing all these women in the field have in common is that they’re all strong and prepared to take on any obstacles—they have to be.