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 Post subject: The role of women in popular music today
PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2006 6:20 pm 
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Hey, I'm studying music at the moment at Salford University and i've been particularly interested in gender in popular music. I know a woman called Shiela Whiteley who is a professor here and she's wrote several books concerning gender in popular music and age/gender in popular music.

I was just wondering, as now for instance, KT is one of the new forerunners in the singer songwriter occurance of late, well everyone classes it as ' singer songwriter' anyways. She seems to be one of the only one's in the category that is female, fresh ( refering to the Brits), very successful and talented. I was quite dissapointed by the brits nominations actually, there should be more women as equilly talented as Kate Bush and Kt Tunstall. But there's something about KT that is masculine yet she has a strong femininty about her. I just find it very interesting to see how well KT has done in a predominantly patriarchal industry, so fast. Getting back to it, if KT were a man, would she of had the struggle to get noticed; thank god it did happen, but would it have been so hard?

I've been looking at women such a Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, Tracey Chapman...arguably have more masculine sounds/ features yet exube femininty and are successfull. Also there are artists like Tori Amos and Kate Bush who have ' the little girl' image, who are sucessfull . It's interesting to see how women have to be one or the other to ' survive' in the industry.

Another example of industry dicrimination: Sheila gave a lecture last week where she told us about an ex student of hers, who's got a voice that record labels were after..unfortunatly they told her to loose FIVE stone to get a deal.

I find that so disgusting, so it just doesn't come into female discrimination, but the way you are, weight wise aswell.

What i'm basically saying: Has the industry finally accepted the fact that women are just as good musicians as men or is there still the stigma that if a man approached a label who was 30, a bit overweight and had a great voice, would he get signed over a woman who was 30, a bit overwieght and had a better talent and ability?

I thought it'd be interesting to discuss.

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Last edited by Dan.J on Fri Nov 10, 2006 12:13 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2006 6:50 pm 
Very good topic to raise Dan.

Personally I don't think it's the gender issue which is so vital, as the 90's broke through so many barriers with artists such as Dot Allison, Shirley Manson, and even Sophie Ellis-Bextor all coming to the forefront of predominantly-male bands, whilst artists such as (god help us) The Spice Girls, Madonna, and Courtney Love were leading the female charge.

I actually believe it's more of an age issue.

Why on earth it appears that after the age of 25, you're past it, I'll never know. However, with artists such as KT, PJ Harvey, Beth Orton, and the dearly-departed Eva Cassidy, the presence of the "more experienced" female continues to raise public awareness from a minority position.

I think that with this being a predominantly-female message board, it is likely that there will certainly be a few views that it is sex-discrimination, but personally I believe that age-discrimination is the issue which has to be acknowledged by record companies now.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 10, 2006 6:25 pm 
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Hmmm.. Interesting topic.... I would have to say that I agree that there is an age discrimination... but I think that it goes hand in hand with "IMAGE" discrimination...

It seems to me that there is a high standard held to women to look the part... I don't think the standard is set so high for men....I hardly think that a record label would tell a man that he needs to loose a few pounds before they will consider a contract... and it is unlikely that that man will be looked upon as unsexy or boring if he didn't bare all in his music video...he will be able to appear fully clothed surrounded by scantily clad women and it will be considered sexy....that doesn't seem to work in reverse for the women artists.

Unfortunately, I fear that this trend will continue because "sexy" sells.... and when an "artist" isn't highly talented... they rely on their image and a lot of work in the production department to help push their career along... this in turn affects the industry as a whole.

The bright side to all of this is, I think, that genuinely talented artists like KT are beginning to make an impact and change the industry! I am hoping that is the case.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 12:36 am 
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Great question, Dan....

Agree with a lot of what Steve said (yes, it's actually possible I've discovered :shock: :lol: :wink: ). Ageism is the single most depressing development within the music business in recent years, and we're not talking about discrimination towards over 50s or whatever. A whole generation of promising artists were sidelined and tossed away during the 90s; the ones that survived did so by becoming background figures through songwriting and production or even management. The obsession with youth and finding the "next big thing" has been to the detriment of modern pop and rock music.

Anyway, back to gender issue :lol:

There has always been a dual-attitude towards women's place in the business, and as a consquence an equally dual presence with the bimbo-girly acts offset by the serious female singer-songwriter types/strong female lead singers of bands. Whether it's Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry going toe-to-toe in the charts with the disco dolly acts and bubblegum pop like Bananarama or whoever in the 70s and 80s through to KT, Shirley Manson et al doing battle with your Girls Alouds and Sugababes.

The belief used to be that women were presented and marketed as sex objects because the industry was run by men, but in recent times the media and the labels have a significant female contingent yet this endless sexualisation of women in pop and rock still continues.

Strangely, despite the advances of so many quality female acts in the last decade, things seem worse than ever. Mainstream music videos play to the lowest sexual denominator, not even bothering to separate themselves from soft porn anymore, and women suffer from this far more than men (in terms of perception at least; it's actually not much fun for some of us guys to keep seeing this junk either!).

When artists like Nelly Furtado abandon being different and unusual, and Sugababes completely forget the anti-bimbo stance they brought to their original idea of what they wanted to do, it can't help but hamper the basic rights that female acts have to be treated equally, with respect and as any male act would be. Trouble is, boneheaded media and industry people have peddled the idea that skimpy clothes and lapdance routines with dirty lyrics are the very essence of sexiness, and anything else is redundant. So, as time has progressed, the public starts to believe it too. When in fact there is very little genuinely sexy about any of that, and your KT Tunstalls and unsung talents like Gemma Hayes and Cara Dillon are more sensual and down-to-earth and, to use these idiots' lingo, more "real".

So, to answer your closing question....although there has obviously been some progress in how women are viewed in some genres, it seems that in general the same old hoary nonsense about being judged on looks and marketed on cheap sexuality just won't go away. Men are still treated differently to women. But in society as a whole the demands and expectations on women and their appearance is higher than ever, so that's something to do with it as well.

EG.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 5:44 am 
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I recall, many years ago, the buzz was that for the 1st time, female artistes were at 1 and 2 in the charts and what a great step forward this was for feminism, etc.,etc.

I then looked at the charts and found out that the songs were by Tammy Wynette and Suzi Quatro. Yea womankind!

But!!! The songs were 'Stand By Your Man' and 'Can The Can' (with lyrics such as make a stand for your man, honey).

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 1:47 pm 
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This summer much was made of the UK having a run of 5 or 6 consecutive #1s by female acts - unfortunately they were the likes of Shakira, Nelly Furtado, Lilly Allen and Sandi Thom. The latter two may reasonably be excused from the "peddling themselves as sex objects" school of pop, but I'm not sure if advocating physical violence against your boyfriend (see: Smile video) or writing nonsensical twaddle about punks with flowers in their hair is any better :roll: :? :lol:

EG.

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 1:54 pm 
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whow!! I think the posts I saw (I said saw, not read..it's too much for me, sorry!^^) are the longer ones that I had ever seen!

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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 10:26 pm 
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 11, 2006 10:27 pm 
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 Post subject: seX Factor
PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2006 4:54 pm 
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Hi guys, I'd like to bring the debate down a notch or two from the likes of Shakira and speak from experience.

My partner - who is very male - is a solo performer, acoustic guitar and vocals. We do the local pub/club circuit where we live. I go along to gigs with him as roadie, but occasionally we play together and sometimes I'll do a set on my own. I'm a girl, by the way, and play guitar, tambourine, bodhrán etc. KT is a girl after my own heart.

During the summer we were at a regular gig when a local agent approached my partner with a deal. Good news, its always good to have someone out there finding work for you. During the conversation I asked him what the scope was for gigs for girls. "Wet tshirt competitions are always popular!" he replied, followed by "I could do with a good roadie though, and my girlfriend is afraid she'll break her nails!"

What could I say?

At a gig a few weeks later we all met up again. It was a long gig with a few different performers. They were all happy for me to set up the gear and use my guitars, but I had to fight for my 20 minute set which they all muscled in on. I managed to break a plectrum - a bit unusual - and afterwards was patted on the head and shooshed away like a puppy. Frustrated I was! But I don't have a chip on my shoulder, in case you think I'm bitter, I'm quite fulfilled career-wise.

I just don't believe in traditional male/ female roles. I believe that there are certain things that each gender is genetically suited to perform well. But a lot of the rest is down to individual ability. I lean towards the mechanical and technological aspects of life, though I have long hair and like to wear feminine clothes. I prefer to be treated as a human being, rather than as a female. Sometimes people have a go at us because I carry the gear around and set it up, and its "not a job for a girl". But it works for us, there are reasons why we do it this way and if I wasn't physically able do it then I wouldn't. I'm not dumb or a martyr.

However....

Its a man's world. The music business has always been that way and always will. When we go to gigs we find that there's a novelty factor in having a girl get up and play guitar. Even if i was Bonnie Raitt (oh how I wish) it wouldn't make any difference. I recognised an element of this when KT did the Hootenanny gig last year. As a performer, she blew everyone away with sheer talent and inventiveness. As a musician, she's not the world's greatest guitar player but she's very creative and the result is so clever and fresh that it is captivating.

But the question hangs in the air... would the "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" have made it without the novelty factor of a wee girl with a big attitude playing with boys toys?

Would it have worked if the Kaiser Chiefs had performed it?

Female singer-songwriters have a strong message and a lot to offer but they have a lot of competition. Not from other musicians but from convention and attitude. The music industry is a business. Its about making money and music marketing revolves around this. Sex and karaoke are probably their greatest weapons and the wannabees are buying it up.

We can't change it, no matter how much we stomp our feet, slap our guitars and lilt who-hoo. Its all about the Sex Factor. :roll:


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PostPosted: Wed Dec 06, 2006 5:17 pm 
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The role of women in the music industry is to put up with me asking them to pose for pictures for my sig.... :lol:

Seriously though, record companies are guilty of one thing. Deciding what will sell before the public have a chance to choose.

There is sexism and ageism to a point, but that goes out of the window when a certain act becomes successful. As much as some people on here don't like Dido, her success left some record companies more open to female artists than they probably would have been otherwise.

And as for the Black Horse & CHerry Tree/Kaiser Cheifs thing the answer is no, it would not have worked. But then again, the Kaiser Chiefs could have come up with the entire Beatles and Rolling Stones catalgoue combined and that wouldn't have worked either :wink: (apologies to Biro-Queen if she ever reads that :lol: )

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