FEATURE: A Change in the Wind? Why We Need to See More Equality and Tougher Intervention in 2019




A Change in the Wind?


IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images 

Why We Need to See More Equality and Tougher Intervention in 2019


HARDLY a day goes by without...

some form of sexism or misogyny making its way into the news! The story below caught my eye and worried me. Although it does not involve music directly; it is another case of a woman being embarrassed, objectified or exposed to sexism. Here are the details:

French DJ and musician Martin Solveig apologized on Monday after asking Norwegian soccer star Ada Hegerberg if she knew how to twerk, just minutes after she won the inaugural Ballon d'Or award as the world's best women's player.

After accepting her trophy, Hegerberg interacted with Solveig as part of the awards ceremony in Paris and promptly responded "no" when asked in French about the suggestive dance.

The two shared a brief dance as the ceremony moved forward, but Solveig's question led to widespread criticism online and he said after the show that he was sorry for causing offense”.

One would hope that we’d see an end to this sort of thing but, worryingly, many men feel it is natural to do something so stupid and ill-advised. Maybe it was a misjudged attempt at comedy and celebration but, given the gravity and seriousness of the setting, it has gone down like a led balloon. It seems that the music industry is no stranger to sexism and a glaring lack of equality.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Foo Fighters (who have been confirmed as headliners for next year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Many might clam this year has seen big albums by female artists emerge. From Robyn to Cardi B and Anna Calvi; it has been a great year for female artists – not only solo artists but bands. That is nothing to do with the industry but the talent out there. It is the women responsible for these records that have done the hard lifting and it makes me wonder whether this excellence will be rewarded with festival headline spots? More and more, it seems festivals are being set up for men. Although I know there will be ample female artists stocking next year’s festivals; headliners announced for Glastonbury and the Reading and Leeds Festivals have all been men! I am trying to think whether any corner of the industry has changed and improved in the last few years. In terms of festivals and who they are booking, there is that desire for blokes with guitars. I was looking at Maggie Rogers’ Twitter feed and, as a musician, she was aghast at the line-up announced for next year’s Mad Cool Festival. NME have given us the details:

 “Mad Cool Festival have announced a stellar line-up for their 2019 edition, as well as various improvements to the site and organisation.

After winning the NME Festival Award for Best Line-up, last year’s acclaimed event featured the likes of Arctic Monkeys, Queens Of The Stone Age, Jack White, Nine Inch Nails, Dua Lipa, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and many more...

Now, the 2019 edition of the Madrid bash is set to welcome the likes of The Cure, Bon Iver, Noel  Gallagher, Smashing Pumpkins, Vampire Weekend,  The National, Wolfmother, Greta Van Fleet, Mogwai, Teenage Fanclub, The Twilight Sad and The 1975 – with plenty more acts to be announced in the months ahead.


IN THIS PHOTO: The National/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

After coming under fire from a number of acts last year, Mad Cool 2019 will be getting rid of the VIP areas in front of all stages. Other improvements include reducing the number of stages from seven to six, and decreasing the capacity by 5,000 per day. They also plan to have more toilets on site, as well as increasing the size and staffing of all bars.

“Mad cool is working closely with a prestigious and renowned company in order to ensure the adequate functioning of the technical network,” a spokesman said. “In addition to this, wristbands bought online will be delivered anywhere in the world”.

A lot of people will not be shocked by the line-up and the fact that it is male-dominated. I have spoken a lot about gender inequality and why, given the huge locker of female talent, we are still seeing men headline festivals – the same, boring ones that always seem to make the bill. It is not only the inequality in festivals that worries me - but a general sexism and misogyny that has been coming in lately!

Not only do we have to take to task those who book festival headliners but there have been a few musicians accused of sexual assault. One band, Hookworms, have split because of an allegation and other male artists have been accused. It is not just musicians we need to punish if they are subject to these types of allegations but festivals need to be policed more. There is a growing number of women harassed at festivals and, as festivities and alcohol takes effect, more and more are finding themselves inappropriately touched and bothered by men. It is another aspect of the industry that shocks and makes me wonder whether more needs to be done. This article shows that

Nearly half of female festival goers (43%) under 40 say they have faced unwanted sexual behaviour at a music festival, a new survey suggests.

Overall, 22% of all festival goers have faced assault or harassment, rising to 30% of women overall.

The most common forms were unwelcome and forceful dancing and verbal sexualised harassment.

YouGov surveyed 1,188 festival goers. The poll also suggested only 2% of such incidents were reported to police.

Earlier this year, separate data released in the Crime Survey for England and Wales in February showed more than 80% of victims of sexual assault did not report it to police.

Those statistics also revealed that one in five women had experienced some form of sexual assault since they turned 16...


PHOTO CREDIT: @aranxa_esteve/Unsplash 

The festivals YouGov survey, which was commissioned by the Press Association, also found that only 1% of women reported sexual assault or harassment to a member of festival staff, either before or after the event, although 19% of men did report their experience to staff.

Tracey Wise, founder of campaign group Safe Gigs For Women (SGFW), said: "We have struggled to find anyone with any definite statistics on this before now.

"It gives us something to show to festival organisers so we can say 'you need to take this on board'." 

Jen Calleja, a co-director of the Good Night Out Campaign, called the research "shocking but not surprising", saying it "helps prove what we already know through anecdotal evidence".

She added: "We know that the vast amount of harassment and sexual assault is not reported and we know this comes down to stigma, fear of not being believed and a minimisation of what harassment is.

"The idea we want to put forward is that harassment is everybody's problem, it's not just the person who is being assaulted," Calleja said.

The poll also found that 70% of those who experienced sexual assault or harassment at a festival said the perpetrator was a stranger.


IN THIS PHOTO: Jen Calleja 

It seems like some of the festivals are willing to make changes and firm up their security – an alarming amount of festivals are not taking action and responding appropriately:

The Press Association contacted 21 of the UK's biggest festivals to discuss the new research on sexual assault and harassment at UK music festivals and ask about provisions and policy at their events.

Only five responded - Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, Creamfields, Latitude, RiZE and Wireless were among those that declined to comment.

Somerset Police recorded two incidents of sexual assault, two incidents of rape and one incident of indecent exposure at last year's Glastonbury Festival.

A spokesperson for The Green Man festival said: "Stewards are positioned throughout the festival and are trained to report any harassment, or violence, to security to be investigated. Crew and service staff are also trained or advised on ways to report minor harassment, or violent behaviour or violence".

I cannot think of any aspect of music – that was prone to sexism – that has improved lately. Maybe radio D.J.s and shows is one exception. Big broadcasters like the BBC have promoted female talent and are making steps but it is still not going far enough. Most D.J.s on the big stations are men and this statistics goes into studios, record labels and festivals.


 PHOTO CREDIT: @andrewtneel/Unsplash

I think there are some improvements in smaller areas of music. I am seeing a lot of female journalists getting noticed and the fact digital journalism is growing means the female voice is being exposed and there are few limitations. There are always problems in journalism but I am seeing some growth and changes there. Perhaps there are steps being taken elsewhere but I cannot help monitor the music news and wonder whether anything positive is occurring. It seems sexual assault, festival sexism and issues regarding women being played on radio – there is a sense of ageism that precludes some established artists making playlists – are still rife and there is no end to be seen. Are listeners and those who are responsible for augmenting the profile of certain male artists to blame? We are the ones who make them popular and share their music so, if there are cases of men being called out regarding sexual assault then should we, as consumers, take action?! The same can be applied to festivals and whether we need to protest more. This article asks the same sort of questions and whether more can be done: 

Cardi B, rapper and sole savior of "Finesse," starred on the cover of Cosmopolitan's March Issue. Instead of using every precious second of her feature to discuss her blossoming career or the small things that make her one of the most lovable musicians on the scene, Cardi took time to address sexism in the industry.

When asked about #MeToo, she said she was excited about the strides being made against sexual assault in Hollywood. But she also expressed doubt that the movement would translate to music. Why? Women have been speaking out about harassment and assault in hip-hop for years and no one has listened to them.

She told Cosmo, "A lot of video vixens have spoke about this and nobody gives a fuck. When I was trying to be a vixen, people were like, ‘You want to be on the cover of this magazine?’ Then they pull their dicks out"...


IN THIS PHOTO: Rapper Cardi B onstage during the 2018 Global Citizen Concert at Central Park, Great Lawn on 29th September, 2018 in New York City/PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Kovac/FilmMagic

But assault and harassment aren't just an issue in hip-hop or among girls trying to make it into a music video. It's a systemic issue that hasn't been answered with it's own Time's Up-type movement. It affects even recognizable women — women with multiple record deals, millions of dollars, and world tours.

There's such a lack of accountability for abusive producers, directors, executives, and other men at the top that they're willing and able to abuse a bright young woman with fan clubs and world tours. What are they doing to girls you'll never hear of, who will never be able to become a Cardi B or a Kesha?

We can't be shocked that this is happening. And we can't pretend it isn't our fault. We’re constantly celebrating abusive artists. We choose to love absolutely horrible people. Why would an unnamed producer be too nervous to hurt someone when Chris Brown punched one of our most beloved pop stars in the face and still has a successful career?

It is hard to take action and get angry; there is that sense of denial and, if the problem does not face and impact us directly, then what is the personal gain in taking such a risk? I feel, if we are ignorant and passive, it will see the rise in sexism and sexual harassment/assault continue unabated! Are we making the problem worse by putting our heads in the sand?

But if we aren't willing to do something about the abusers we know and understand as abusers, why should faceless higher-ups at record labels be scared of us? They won't be. They'll pretend to be woke, like Cardi B says they do, for love. But they know when push comes to shove, we won't believe the women they hurt. And if we do believe them, we don't do shit about it. No one takes action. No one stops listening. No one tells people on Twitter tweeting about Lil Dicky and Chris Brown to shut the fuck up. And no one demands change from people who make such an influential part of our culture. That's how systemic sexism persists in the industry”.


 IMAGE CREDIT: @OfficialRandL

We have focused a lot on all the positives and great music that has come out this year. It has been a fantastic 2018 in many ways but, running alongside all of this, there is a clear divide and ill that has not been eradicated. It would be naïve to think we could stamp everything out by this time next year but 2019 needs to be a year where those higher-ups take proper action and those with power and influence need to make it count. From festivals tightening security and banning those who are lewd and sexually provocative to the way headliners are booked – and why women are constantly overlooked. I know there are many men in music who are determined to help bring out improvement but I can see very little difference between what music was like last year and how it is now. Perhaps there have been some evolutions here and there but, considering the proliferation of sexism and sexual assault rearing its ugly head; have we really got anywhere at all?! Maybe a more structured and governmental style of leadership needs to come into music – a point I shall explore later this week – but it is clear stricter messages and punishments need to be dished out. I have not even mentioned songwriting credits and award ceremonies – again, we are seeing these gaps and divides.


 PHOTO CREDIT: @foulsterr/Unsplash

The New York Times, earlier this year, looked at the statistics:

In an analysis of the top 600 songs from 2012 to 2017 — defined by Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart for each of those six years — the study found that of 1,239 performing artists, 22.4 percent of them were women.

The numbers are much lower among people behind the scenes. Of the 2,767 songwriters credited on those songs, 12.3 percent were women. Female producers — the people most responsible for the sound of pop music — are even rarer, at just 2 percent in a subset of 300 songs across this same period, the study found.

While women’s difficulties breaking into the music business are well documented, the starkness of the study’s findings is surprising. At the Grammy Awards, for example, the success of stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Adele may grab headlines. But a vast majority of awards go to men.

Of the 899 individuals who have been nominated for the last six Grammy ceremonies, 90.7 percent were men and 9.3 percent were women. The study found that women were most likely to appear in the best new artist category. (This year, three of the five best new artist nominees are women: Alessia Cara, Julia Michaels and SZA. The only woman up for album of the year is Lorde)”.

We can all see what is happening and how bad it is...the first change is accepting the fact that change needs to happen. We are seeing too many all-male festival headliners and a desired ‘type’ being celebrated and romanticised at every turn. Minor festivals are headlining women but none of the biggest festivals. The fact smaller festivals around Europe are booking female headliners should act as guidance to the bigger festivals – proving how there are great female artists who are equipped to handle a headline slot. These small movements are promising but, if we want to see a richer and more equal industry next year, these minor (yet positive) movements need to translate into...


PHOTO CREDIT: @rossf/Unsplash 

SOMETHING consistent and large.