Looking for fresh, new musical horizons? Tired of the “same-old, same-old” your local radio stations play?
Here’s an idea. Go out of your way to find women-led bands. There are boatloads of excellent music acts led by women, many yet undiscovered.
Not to say there isn’t an abundance of ace all-male bands. Trouble is, the music industry just hasn’t been very kind, or fair, to women artists.
This music writer has noted the disparities over the years. A higher ratio of male-to-female musicians played by most radio stations. Concert bills featuring all-male band lineups. Fewer women-led bands on Saturday Night Live.
And, even at the smaller venues, fewer appearances by women artists and women-led bands.
To learn more, I visited with established musicians on the topic.
Ashleigh Flynn & The Riveters
“Ashleigh’s new record is KILLER! She is in top form with one hell of a band.” – Oliver Wood / The Wood Brothers
I first came to know the music of talented Americana artist Ashleigh Flynn at the popular Eugene watering hole Sam Bond’s Garage. A prolific songwriter and engaging performer, she was on tour to promote her “American Dream” CD, so we’ll say it was somewhere around 2008.
Recently, Flynn made time to discuss her views on the music industry and gender.
PRP: “Any women musicians you think get shortchanged within the music industry?”
Flynn: “Yes, most who aren’t peddling tits and ass, although gender parity has become a thing of late, thank goodness!”
PRP: “As a woman and as a professional musician, has working with male musicians ever been problematic for you? In what ways?”
Flynn: “I have been very lucky..although at times, the privileged white male has contributed to major frustration in the studio and in the live setting.”
PRP: “Can you talk about ways you yourself have experienced setbacks within your career that seemed related to gender bias?”
Flynn: “This is a systemic issue…an awareness of the lack of gender parity is growing, and promoters are working to change their rosters.”
Continues Flynn: “In terms of the commercial industry….that is a beast I cannot speak to. I could say that we’ve been left off the roster of many festivals that I know my band/music would play extremely well to… but it may just be that the promoter wasn’t into us.”
“In general, many are less into female acts according to their rosters.”
More on Ashleigh Flynn
When I saw her at Sam Bond’s, Flynn delighted the packed house with great storytelling, good humor, and most importantly, an energetic and spotless setlist.
She’s since released two albums: “A Million Stars (2013)” and EP “The Low Arc of the Sun (2016).”
And the stellar artist has a new band – Ashleigh Flynn & the Riveters – boasting a new album by the same name.
Recorded in Portland and released last year, Flynn’s newest release was produced by Chris Funk (The Decemberists).
Here’s “This Love” from the new album:
Currently on tour, Flynn has live shows scheduled in Ashland, Santa Cruz, Missoula.
On her independent label “Home Perm Records,” you can find music by Ashleigh Flynn here.
“The group knows what it wants to accomplish and has explored that here to fabulous effect.” – Spill Magazine
Cincinnati’s polished Indie rock-pop quartet The Ophelias released “Almost” to favorable reviews last year.
From the band’s bio: “The group first met at a time when each were independently serving as the “token girl” in various male-fronted bands from their hometown.” At rehearsal, band members found “their chemistry wasn’t rooted in a shared musical reference point, but in the creative relief from the expected censorship of being a sideperson.”
Ophelias’ lead singer Spencer Peppet regards gender discrimination in the music industry as “a general trend.”
PRP: “Have you heard about women musicians you think got shortchanged by the music industry?
Peppet: “Women have to work four times as hard as any man just to get their music _heard_.”
“Women have to be at the top of their game, compared to men,” continues Peppet. “Women just have to work harder, and, be smarter about getting scammed.”
PRP: “Has working with male musicians been problematic for you?”
Peppet: “We’ve worked with a lot of really lovely male musicians. But there have also been people who seemed to disregard us. (And) we’ve had some issues with venues not paying us, saying “we have to talk to the guys in the other band,” etc.
About band members past experiences, she adds: “Each of us have been in these projects, asked to play these parts with no creative input or trust in our abilities.”
Peppet says on nights she’s worked the band’s merch table, rather than discussing the band’s music with fans, she finds herself addressing inappropriate, unwanted behaviors from men. One example? An older man, recalls Peppet, repeatedly tried to pat her on the head.
More on The Ophelias
The band toured with Rhode Island’s esteemed Low Anthem last year.
They just finished up at a recording studio in Bellevue, Kentucky, and are currently working on a new album.
Check out ace track “General Electric“:
The Ophelias are signed with the record label Joyful Noise.
You can buy their music at Joyful Noise and on their bandcamp page.
Equal treatment, equal pay still elusive
Within the music industry, there’s no shortage of stories about women artists and women-led bands receiving poor-to-miserable treatment – especially since the #MeToo movement began.
In their continuing coverage of the topic this past December, Pitchfork had this to say:
“As listeners and critics rang in 2018, hopes flickered that the music industry might follow Hollywood in beginning to reckon with its long history of abusive behavior toward women by male hitmakers and executives.”
“But,” continues Marc Hogan’s article, “when it came to a number of the most well-documented allegations this year, the major labels kept the music playing, the checks cashing, and their lips all but sealed.”
About unequal treatment, Consequence of Sound (June 2018) reports: “At Sony and Warner labels in the UK, women were paid an average of 33.8 percent less than men; on the Billboard charts only about 20 percent of festival headliners were female.”
According to the article, top-notch HAIM had to fire their booking agent “after learning they’d been paid only a fraction of what a male counterpart (was paid) for the same festival appearance.”
HAIM has played the Glastonbury Festival and were nominated in the Best New Artist category at The 57th Annual Grammy Awards.
Speaking of the Grammys, how about this one. In 2017, the extraordinary artist Lorde – the lone female Grammy nominee for Album of the Year – “didn’t perform because she wasn’t offered a solo slot,” according to Pitchfork.
“A study by University of Southern California professor Stacy L. Smith broke down the numbers behind the industry’s vast gender gap. Only about 22 percent of performers on the 600 most popular songs from 2012 to 2017 were female, according to the report. Over the same period, less than 10 percent of Grammy nominees were women.” – Pitchfork
To better insure “proper behavior and general decency” within the music industry, several prominent lawyers now recommend anti-harassment provisions for artists, managers, agents and others.
What changes would The Ophelias’ Peppet make if she could?
“There’s a lot. There’s a disconnect between fair financial compensation for touring bands. Just treat musicians like human beings, especially when musicians are on tour.”
“And,” adds Peppet, “no creepy comments to any band member, ever!”
Asked what changes and remedies she thinks could help, Flynn responds: “each band (should) get a fair show based on merits.”
In the meantime? “For us,” says Flynn, “keep on making music and playing it for the good people of the world.”
Here’s another thought. There’s a multitude of women-centric bands deserving of a wider audience. We play lots of them here at the station!
If everyone examined their own biases about music, that’d be a great place to start. Begin by asking the question: “which artists am I actively supporting with purchases?.”
Support women artists and women-led bands. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter, see their shows, and buy their music.