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31st January 2020

Opinion: women are still overlooked in the music industry

Head Music Editor Bella discusses recent gigs from Dido, Julia Jacklin and Amyl and The Sniffers and looks at the current gender inequality in the industry
Opinion: women are still overlooked in the music industry
Photo: Krists Luhaers @ Commons

The music industry has always seemed to favour men.

Whether this be the generic all-white male guitar band or the industry shirts formulating the next number one single, women have traditionally played a background role within the industry.

Male success in music is not a bad thing. Many male musicians are incredibly talented, and although gender may ease the rise to fame, they still have to work tirelessly to achieve what they want.

However, men being dominant in the music industry becomes an issue when women’s capabilities are undermined and overlooked. Recently, for example, TRNSMT Festival’s founder Geoff Ellis stated, upon the release of their very male-heavy line up, that a 50/50 gender split of festival line ups is “a while away.” He went on to claim that “we need more females picking up guitars, forming bands, playing in bands.”

This statement arrived after Billie Eilish was crowned with the most streams of 2019, her debut being one of the most sold albums of the year, alongside fellow pop icon Ariana Grande.

But music is not all about the number ones. The indie and alternative genres have never seen women do so well. An amazing number of outstanding albums released last year came from the likes of Weyes Blood, Angel Olsen, and Marika Hackman. Whether it was the quirky chair-maker Cate Le Bon or the soft RnB tunes from Little Simz, 2019 definitely showed how diverse women in music have become in the last few years.

To prove just how well women are really doing in music, and why there is absolutely no excuse to not achieve a 50/50 gender split line up in music, I went to three gigs in Manchester across three consecutive nights in December. From unruly punk to melancholic indie music, the gigs varied broadly and the crowds attracted at each were wildly different from each other. However, this had no impact on the quality and atmosphere of the gigs.

The first gig was the Australian female-fronted punk band Amyl and The Sniffers, who had sold out Gorilla. Their self-title album released earlier this year turned heads all across the world and led to front woman Amy Taylor being declared as one of the most riotous women currently in punk.

From the opening chords of ‘Starfire 500’ the crowd were ready to mosh. But it was later track ‘I’m Not A Loser’ that truly saw both the band and the crowd come into their own. The thrashing guitars and wailing vocals resonated throughout the venue, with frontwoman Amy captivating the adorning crowd.

What was perhaps most impressive about their unruly gig was how most of the people clambering up on the stage and jumping off into the sweaty mosh pit were women. It was extremely refreshing to see women go so wild in a room still mostly filled with men, and it was even better to see the chaos in the room be orchestrated by the wild braless Amy Taylor.

Perhaps a riotous Australian punk band may not be the ideal candidate for a festival such as TRNSMT, but being able to sell out one of Manchester’s most iconic venues, some 17,000 km away from their home turf, must count for something.

The second gig came from noughties pop star Dido. After taking a 15 year hiatus to raise her son, Dido returned to Manchester’s O2 Apollo to celebrate her debut album No Angel turning 20 years old. Although the gig had not sold out, there were barely any seats left in the 3,500 capacity venue.

Kicking off the show to the husky dance music of new single ‘Hurricanes’, Dido’s extremely simple attire of black jeans and a white shirt seemed the perfect elegant backdrop for her impressive vocal talent. Originally being a 2000s pop star, her subtle shift to a more electronic dance music style has been seemingly effortless.

The response from the crowds were definitely at their peak during her old classics such as ‘White Flag’, ‘Life for Rent’ and ‘Thank You’. Although being released 15 years prior, these songs have definitely stood the test of time and kept her fanbase dedicated and loyal to her even throughout her extended absence in the public eye.

The melancholic indie singer Julia Jacklin was the final act to prove her worth in front of a sold-out crowd. Having toured the UK twice this year, on top of a large handful of dates on the European festival circuit, the transition from her relatively busy gig at YES at the start of the year couldn’t be more different from the packed gig at Gorilla at the end of the year.

Her recent album Crushing is probably one of the most sophisticated break-up albums recently released. After finally ending a disastrous relationship, the album details the process of realisation she had when she knew it was time to leave. What makes this album so unique though is how respectful she always remains of her ex. Hearing her amazingly sweet and vibrato vocals live adds a much richer emotion to songs such as ‘Comfort’. Lyrics such as “He’ll be just fine, hurt for a while, cured with time” show how her deep-rooted love for him is something she’ll never disdain.

Julia Jacklin and her subtle yet extremely emotive approach to songwriting and lyricism is what makes her such an outstanding artist. I truly believe that despite selling out Gorilla, she has not received enough attention in music.

Throughout the three nights in Manchester it was clear that away from mainstream charts women are thriving. What was even more refreshing to see was how all three women rejected the traditional overly-sexual marketing of women in music. Amy Taylor, Dido and Julia Jacklin didn’t need to use their bodies to sell their music. All they needed was their passion and drive for music, and to not be overlooked.

If these three gigs in Manchester don’t at least hint at how well women are doing in music at the moment, then I don’t know what will. I think plenty of women have “picked up guitars” and are more than proving their worth in this male-heavy industry.

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