On the 18th of February, the glamourous ceremony went live from the O2 Arena. With artists flooding the red carpet, Lizzo and Billie Eilish were among the big stand out acts. Starting the night off was rising pop singer Mabel and her hit “Don’t Call Me Up”, giving a happy and smiley performance. Out of the nine artists set to feature across the event, Mabel was one of four female performers. You would never think of the huge gender imbalance that the music industry abides by in this situation. If anything, you would think it was pretty neutral. When starting to look deeper into the awards and nominations, only one woman (Mabel) was nominated across all gender-neutral categories such as Song of the Year and Best New Artist. Critical acclaim doesn’t matter when looking at artists but instead their stream and sales statistics which is why the UK top 40 has hardly any female UK talent in it. However, in America, the top four albums of 2019 were all lead by women. I’m sure you can think of who… Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga. With the UK constantly bringing out new talent you would expect a similar distinction.
As of the last few weeks I am sure you will see the amount of disappointing and blunt festival lineups with Reading and Leeds sparking up all the fuss with names like Annie Mac and the 1975 voicing their frustration. Across the 18-artist announcement, only two were female. With hope of new campaigns such as KeyChange, surely the next years to come won’t be as disappointing as they are here to tell the story of it’s not the women needing to step up but instead the music industry’s inherent favour of men. KeyChange gives staggering statistics in their manifesto highlighting this favorability. 16% of songwriters are women, there is a 30% gender divide in the music industry workforce and the gender pay gap at major music companies is still under a 30% difference pay gap. It truly is like something from another century. The gender pay gap is just one obstacle out of multiple women in music careers face. From the historical context, sexism and harassment, technophobia to the most important; the lack of female role models and confidence. The industry isn’t purposefully discriminating against women, when the industry is like sheep, it is hard to shift.
Watching the Brits, the stereotypes contributing to the “gender of music” show how music subconsciously identifies as masculine and feminine. In terms of what instrument someone should play to the aggressiveness of the style and to of course the dress code. It was clear to see that Lizzo and Mabel are stuck in this stereotype. Although Lizzo is a huge advocate for body positivity and self-love it still kept up with the happy pop, dance and smile. Billie Eilish sets this a part with her statement of not letting herself be sexualized by her cool aesthetic of huge unfitted clothing. It is known that female artists need to have “the look” and although we find new talent challenging this stereotype, it is still something A&R across the country use as a defining feature Now not that I wouldn’t want to see Lewis Capaldi come on stage in figure hugging corset, it is clear the same level of expectations isn’t held as tight with the other gender. Women are not given the same respect in these jobs from their coworkers, bosses and obviously the media. Being picked a part for their weight, relationships and life is something you would need an extreme thick skin to survive. And when women can give just as much creative input, you have to ask yourself why?
The market decides because does an audience really care? Crowds at festivals aren’t raging about the lack of diversity but more that it’s too long of a walk from the toilets to their tent. Women and girls stood watch the headline acts at Reading and Leeds won’t be sobbing at their lack of role models but instead the beauty of Harry Styles. No major labels are going to be changing the industry just yet but with snarky little comments from host Jack Whitehall about their “coverup” a little can go a long way. Think of grime, it has been in the UK for around 20 years now and no major label has wanted a peep. But the community kept thriving for themselves until all of a sudden, a big A&R man is interested. Women are across the industry, you just don’t see them as much, this does not mean that there is not talent there. The industry needs to take more risks with women and nurture their careers to create the next big stars. If not, we will never know how good it could be.