FEATURE: The Kick Inside: A Radio Documentary Highlighting Gender Divides in Music and Celebrating Female Artists




The Kick Inside


ALL PHOTOS (unless credited otherwise): Unsplash 

A Radio Documentary Highlighting Gender Divides in Music and Celebrating Female Artists


MY ambition to get a music T.V. show on air…


continues (and is taking some time to crack!) but I have been thinking about radio and an area I have not ventured into yet. I have not been on T.V., either, but there is something accessible and alluring about radio. Over the weekend, I am exploring the podcast and how one can get their own launched and to the people. I am pitching an idea – to a couple of radio production companies – that revolves around gender divides in music and how/whether there is sexism. It is not a preachy and angry piece but it would look at the current state of the industry and the changes coming in. I have written about sexism in music quite a lot – and will continue to do so – and feel it is something that is not going anywhere at all. The title, something I should address, is not 100% confirmed but seems like an appropriate thing. The name, of course, comes from Kate Bush’s debut of the same name – my favourite record and one I cannot get enough of. The Kick Inside looked at topics such as love, lust and nature; connection to nature and literature…a mature and strong effort from a new artist. In my mind; I want to use the title as a metaphor for the sense of fight and strength that is coming from the ‘womb’ of music. I dabbled with another title, XYZ, but it needs quite a bit of explanation.


IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush (photographed in 1978)/PHOTO CREDIT: Chris Moorhouse/Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It is a reference to the way a lot of promoters and musical figures reduce women to rather simplistic and anonymous terms – “X, Y and Z is playing at…”, for instance. The ‘XY’ is a reference to the male chromosome and how it tends to take prominence. It might take favour but I feel it is a little bit Byzantine and unconnected. In any case; whatever the title is, I am determined to get something made that collates names from new music. Half of the documentary – or a three-parter if I can stretch it that far – would look at the situation in music and how gender issues have changed in music. I will look at the problems that still exist and what more can be done. Themes would include festivals, sexual assault; jobs in studios and the imbalance regards pay of male and female D.J.s. I have been listening a lot to Woman’s Hour and becoming a lot more informed regards the pay gap and a lot of other issues that are affecting the gender debate. The latest BBC findings regarding their highest-paid talent raise questions and have sparked new debate. Big festivals are unfolding and occurring and, once more, the argument regarding all-male headliners and a gulf between male and female names have provoked some feedback and negative remark. There is a lot to digest but, above all, is a comparison between where we are now and where we started many decades ago.


I want to bring together a selection of new artists – from unsigned and fresh to those in the mainstream – and some bigger, established artists who have been in the industry for a long time. It would not only be women involved in the documentary. It would be good to get views from male artists, D.J.s and figures that can share their experiences and (perhaps) offer some explanation as to why there are gaps. It is vital to cover as much ground as possible in the opening half of The Kick inside - making me wonder whether a multi-part piece might provide more room to breathe and explore. The other side of the coin, as it were, would be the great music and work of female artists present and past. It is not only musicians that would be involved regarding input and work: I will speak with journalists, D.J.s and public figures (from acting and other areas) who want to add their voice to the debate. The music would explore the decades and a chance for contributors to choose tracks – I would get a say regarding a few of my favourite female-made songs. I am thinking more about a three-part feature so I can have a proper look, in thirty-minute, at great music and a lively debate. It is an interesting subject, sexism and gender in music, that has been explored before.


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

What I have noticed is the lack of male artists and figures who have broached the subject themselves. Most male musicians and D.J.s want equality and changes but how many of them go out of their way to tackle things and get their voices heard?! Maybe there is reluctance regarding stepping into a rather complicated area and making sure what you/they say is authoritative and adds value. Many/most of those who talk about gender in music are women, and so, many feel unsure whether they will be taken seriously and if it is ‘their fight’. That might be the biggest problem we have: an apathy and assumption that women will take care of the problem. It is complex to launch into the sexism debate but I feel more male figures should be taken a stand and making some noise. Although there are developments right across music; I still think there are challenges ahead and needless stumbling blocks. The reason I wanted to launch a documentary and get the views of women (and men) in music is to unite all the voices I am hearing on social media. There are so many different angles and observations from all area of the industry. Rather than try and take it all in and get different interpretations: bringing it all into a single format with music backing up the discussions, I feel, is a good way to get the messages to the masses.

There are documentaries regarding sexism and feminism available alongside interesting articles that explore sexism in certain parts of the music industry. You can look at the classic documentaries that opened our eyes and more modern examples. In fact, looking at Play Your Gender – a documentary that looked at sexism and the male-female ratio in areas of music – there are some snippets from this review that I will build on. The first explores women supporting women in music and whether many men are willing to support women:

“Clearly much hard work is being done by women to support other women in music production and in the promotion of each others’ music. Although the conclusion of Play Your Gender encourages us to think realistically about how much of a structural shift these initiatives will encourage beyond visibility for performers. For example, male promoters still have a bias towards booking other men, as ”Helena Hauff discusses in an interview with Dazed. So it looks like for a diverse range of women to be promoted in music, there needs to be more to combat men’s preconceptions of the artists that they are booking, or better still find ways of getting women into promotion and tour management roles themselves. Even though women artists may be taken more seriously on stage and by fans, the music production and promotion aspect of their career is still plagued by masculine creative and logistical control”.

Another part of the review reflects on the core of my idea: interviewing women from all corners of the industry – including black and L.G.B.T.Q.I.A. – and seeing whether there is a common perspective:

Utilising a Q&A format with numerous musicians, fans, neuroscientists, producers and artist managers, Play Your Gender allows a diverse range of women to speak informatively about the gender-specific issues that face them collectively but also differently. The film portrays many standpoints from the female experience; with perspectives included from WOC musicians and lesbian musicians in America. Brooklyn-based musician Xenia Rubinos asserts that diversity or its lack can have a real impact on who feels welcomed into the industry, by stating that “Having examples of people that look like you plays a part in whether you feel inspired… Or not.” But Sara Quin of Teagan & Sara thinks - although not contrastively - that women should toughen up and get used to rejection from the industry. Women are not going to agree on everything, it seems - after all, there is no collective feminist hive-mind as some may like to think”.

There have been some revealing documentaries, on radio and film, that explore sexism and the subject of gender imbalance – whether it is producers (as with Play Your Gender) or festivals and the way they book artists. There is a long way to go but, for me, it is important to add my voice to the discussion and add a new dimension. I hope The Kick Inside sees the light of day and can make its way to BBC Radio 4. If not, I will find a way of making a more low-key version that, I hope, encourages other male journalists to…


IN THIS PHOTO: Florence Welch (Florence + the Machine)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

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