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Women in Music

Happy Friday ! I started writing this post last Friday and I'm finishing it today finally! This is the start of something new for me - regular blog posts. I hope to keep this going bi-weekly and getting some feedback and interaction from those who read it.

September always feels like a time for new beginnings, the end of Summer, a change of season, a new school term. Even when you're not a student anymore it still feels like a time of rebirth, similar to the feeling you get in January. So this is my little re-birth, I'm feeling inspired and I hope you are too.

Last Friday, September the 15th is a fairly important date for me, as it is the day my big sister, Feena got married, 11 years ago. It was also the first time she sang infront of an audience, and the first time myself and Kevin performed at a wedding ceremony. It was also around the time I moved to Dublin for my Masters and when I joined Discovery Gospel Choir.

I feel like my singing career really started to elevate when I moved to Dublin, and the choir had a big part to play in it. New songs, new gigs, new experiences, including my first TV experience, singing bvs for Gemma Hayes on Sky TV, "The People's Rainforest".

Being in Dublin and the choir opened up a new social and musical circle, and myself and Kevin started to put a band around our music for the first time.

A lot has happened in 11 years, but I have very fond memories of September 2012.

Last Friday, I started my morning with an invigorating yoga class in Strandhill, a practice I've just got back into. When I got home I read an article on RTE where Annie Mac (Irish DJ) discusses music industry's "boys club". She was giving evidence at the misogyny in music inquiry at the House of Commons' Women and Equalities Committee in London. Props to her.

Misogyny in the music industry is something I have noted before so it wasn't a suprising read, but it was refreshing to see it highlighted online. I think most people can agree that equality in the workplace has improved dramatically but at the same time most women would say there is still a lot of work to do.

Discrimination / misogyny can be really subtle or it can be strikingly obvious.

On an individual basis I think it tends to be more subtle for the most part.

We notice little things here and there, like an opinion being dismissed, being overlooked, not getting a response from a co-worker/potential employer. This is something we often tell ourselves to just disregard or forget about.

Globally we can see some discrimination quite clearly if we look for it. Annie Mac correctly stated there just aren't as many women on festival line-ups and described it as "quite depressing".

I attended and performed with Discovery Gospel Choir at Electric Picnic this year and across the weekend on the main stage only 5 out of 18 acts were female-led. Looking at 9 of the primary music stages across the weekend the percentage of female acts was only 35 percent.

One fellow gospel choir member commented on the lack of women in the line-up over the weekend, she was bored of hearing the same kind of male singer songwriter act at every corner and was delighted to see "Women in Harmony" on the main stage on Sunday.

I personally love to see an all female line up of powerful women, most of which have their own music and was looking forward to seeing them.

The only flaw that I noted was that they don't have an original song in their repertoire. So, in my opinion, they were an easy act to like and to give a stage to, as they would "please all". They played big hits by mostly Irish female artists. A good promo for other artists but not necessarily for themselves.

This was a bit disappointing for me, knowing that they all write and have their own stories, it's a shame they didn't use the platform to share them. I still admire what they did and they performed well with some nice tributes to The Cranberries and Sinéad O'Connor. Hopefully in the future they will produce some original material and come back better and braver.

I managed to see a few other great female acts across the weekend mainly on smaller stages, including Melina Malone, Winnie Ama, Billie Eilish and, HamSandwich, who never disappoint in their performance and energy. Niamh is such a strong front woman, I love seeing them perform at festivals ! However, I feel like they should be bigger than they are considering how long they've been together and how good they are.

Is this an example of discrimination in the business? Or have they just been unlucky? Or maybe they are content with the success they have had?

Billie Eilish headlined the main stage on the Friday and I have to admit I was a little disappointed, mainly due to sound issues. Both myself and Kevin felt the gig was way too quiet for main stage. We just couldn't hear her or the music well enough. I know that she was a bit under the weather for the gig, which I'm sure made it difficult for her but in general the sound should have been stronger. I think she would have suited an indoor, more intimiate stage, not because she isn't talented enough but because I think we would get to see the best of her in a more intimiate setting.

Anyway I'm not going to rate the entire festival but it just got me thinking again, why is the industry so male dominated? I know there are plenty of female acts around dying to play festivals and gigs around the country, why aren't they being booked?

It can't be lack of availability and it certainly isn't about lack of talent. For example I noticed quite a few male acts playing multiple sets across the weekend instead of giving the stage to someone who wasn't already on the line-up. A female act perhaps?

It makes wonder, are we all a little bit biased towards male acts? If so, why?

Is it just the past culture influencing us?

The industry is so competitive as it is, but for a woman it feels almost impossible. Unless you have brilliant contacts and a great PR team you won't be heard.

Festivals aren't the only place we can see this discrimination.

Just looking at the line-up of gigs in Sligo over the last month the percentage of women performing as a solo act or as part of a group is around 5%.

In Sligo town and Strandhill alone there are roughly 125 live gigs per week, so it's quite alarming to see so few women. Where are they?

I know we have more female talent than that. I know several amazing women in music, from being in the scene and from being part of the Kieran Quinn Theme Nights. Unfortunately it's rare to see women playing or singing live in Sligo.

Is it because women feel scared of the live scene?

I admit it can be intimidating at times. I feel very lucky that I met Kevin, who introduced me to the scene which he was already part of. If I had to naviagate it solo from the beginning I'm not sure I would have had the confidence. Maybe this is part of the issue? Confidence. Or perhaps the lack of confidence comes from the lack of support ?

I will be exploring this topic in a little more detail over the coming weeks and talking to other female musicians and artists to get their perspective.

In the meantime if you are a female act, what are your experiences in the music industry? Do you find it more difficult to get gigs?

If you run a festival or a live music venue, how do you book your acts?

Do you feel any pressure to try and make it an even distribution of men and women?

Here's a playlist I've started to get you listening to Irish female talent


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