Girls, Guitars and Sexism in the Music Industry – Alice’s reaction

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I’m sure you saw the brilliant article written by Katie Spencer; Sky News Arts and Entertainment Correspondent called Girls, Guitars and Sexism in the Music Industry. It included a comment from the MIA’s Paul McManus, and statistics from Fender. (click here if you missed it)

The article explores how the music scene tends to be skewed towards a male demographic. The MIA has contributed to this on-going discussion in the past, and as a newbie to the industry (who happens to also be a female!) I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts with you.

I want to start with advertising and marketing. It should come as no surprise to anybody that I, and many others, believe that women get a harsh deal when it comes to marketing in general. In the context of music, it has become pretty much the standard that women can be used as an item, both in music videos and as lyrical content.

Personally, these below images certainly don’t make me feel empowered – do these women even know how to play the guitar?! Not exactly socially responsible…

On the other hand, the standard rock advert depicting sweating long-haired guys riffing away on a guitar doesn’t exactly inspire me either.

I couldn’t have put it better than the quote from The Kamikaze Girls vocalist and guitarist in the article “Making things like press materials and advertising more friendly and more gender fluid would be way better. Not just having a picture of a guy with a guitar or a picture of a girl used in a sexual way to advertise music.”

One of my favourite videos on YouTube was posted back in 2013 – it’s of a lady in Africa playing guitar with some seriously impressive style and technique. I personally find it mesmerizing!

Now if one of the big brands out there was to use footage like this to present the passion and joy that music makers get from their instruments, I’m sure the advertisement would be viewed as inventive, unique and original. It would surely inspire you to pick up an instrument… Best of all, it wouldn’t matter whether the subject was male or female! (And don’t get me started on ethnicity representation in our industry!)

I sometimes question the term ‘industry’ when it comes to art and creation, but that is what it is, and with industries comes the need to group people together. It is easier for companies to sell their products when they can clarify to the consumer exactly what it is they’re selling, so segregation becomes a part of what starts as an art form.

From a marketing perspective, the concept that music projects should be geared towards only women or only men is understandable, yet I worry that this could alienate people from giving music making and song writing a go.

The danger of products and adverts that reinforce gender stereotypes is that they encourage pre-conceived notions of who you should be, or what kind of music you should create – this can certainly discourage when you find that you don’t fit into society’s box.

Music is art and creativity. Creativity is the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness. Art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. In my eyes, gender stereotypes should not have a place in the music industry in 2017.

Please let me know your thoughts on any of the above, I would value your feedback.

alice@mia.org.uk