The Most Pressing Issues Facing Modern Musicians

Many music fans do not know of the sexism and misogyny that is prominent throughout its culture. This article explores examples of sexism and misogyny in the industry and its affects on upcoming stars.

Misogyny and sexism are attributes of the music industry across the globe that are often unknown by music fans. Male dominance and hegemony make it difficult for women to assert their opinions as they are often outspoken by their male managers. So what is misogyny? It can be defined as dislike or contempt towards females, and it is a way of keeping women subordinate and of a lower status than men.

Misogyny is still a defining element of the music industry in the 21st century

The hashtag me too campaign highlighted that it is a ubiquitous concern and defining element of music’s culture as well as film. 67.8% of jobs in the industry are held by men who are also in the majority of positions of power, so it is not surprising that male hegemony and dominance are rife in the industry.  

Female artists speak of degrading male scrutiny of their appearance during filming for music videos by their bosses. Many women are treated as subordinate sex objects as their bodies are exploited for maximum profit. There are frequent attempts to make women more commercially valuable by controlling their image, with many artists being pressured to lose weight.

This happened to Lauren Aquillina, who while working for a fashion company was told to lose weight or she would have to stop working for them. An extreme example of sexism and misogyny in the industry is Kesha’s legal allegations of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse perpetrated by her former mentor.

Her legal struggle came about in 2014 because she sued Luke Gotwald with the aim of breaking the contract which bound them together to give her the freedom to work with other record labels. She wanted to expose his wrongdoings that nearly drove her to suicide.  

Kesha’s case gained widespread support from other female musicians suggesting that many women experienced the affects of sexism and misogyny as this served to highlight their empathy. The fact that drinking and late nights are common in the music business facilitates the sexual misconduct of producers.

A sense of embarrassment and shame means that many women in the music industry and elsewhere do not report sexual harassment to the police, so the true extent of the problem may be far greater than we know. Despite the success of female musicians like Taylor Swift, many are patronised and not taken seriously when songwriting, forcing many to quit their attempts to gain support.
London Grammar’s lead singer Hannah Read has many anecdotes of when sexism in the music industry has made it difficult for her to do her job. She spoke candidly of her experiences after being on stage, when men would comment on what she was wearing and how those above her would tell her exactly how she should look.

Read contends that it is highly doubtful that a male artist, such as Coldplay’s Chris Martin, would have such things said to them so she questions why she should have to deal with it when they do not. Hannah Read’s experiences of a sexist music industry feature multiple times in the lyrics of London Grammar’s new album Californian Soil as she explains that after discussing sexism with her friends it ended up featuring prominently on the new album.

Read also states that have been quite naïve when she entered the industry, the white male dominant nature of it took her by surprise, and her opinions were often overlooked by producers in favour of her male band members.

She argues for an entire cultural change within music, as there is a need for women to be in more powerful positions to enable others to believe they can achieve the same.

Few money-making opportunities for the majority of musicians

Another major problem in the music industry is that the majority of musicians do not profit from pursuing a career as an artist. The fact that today music is everywhere due to its popularity and that everything grows at a rapid pace in the industry with new opportunities arising each day makes it hard to understand why it does not pay off for most.

A recent report revealed that in 2017 musicians only got 12% of $43 billion made in the industry. This shows that although the industry is a profitable enterprise the musicians, the protagonists of the industry who actively create that profit, are starved of benefitting from the industry’s richness.

This is reinforced by the high number of streams rights holders need to gain on Spotify to earn a decent income per month. It is estimated that artists require 120000 streams per month and that is considering they are the only rights holders of the track which is rarely the case.

This amount of streams for a song is possible by getting on the right Spotify playlist, however, this requires a lot of hard work by the artist which can often feel like a waste of time as there is no guarantee of success. In order to get onto popular playlists, musicians have to research and develop a relationship with the curators, or else they can attempt to satisfy the algorithm or direct their existing fans to their Spotify profile.

The frustration of Technology

A significant challenge faced by many musicians, particularly those of older age, is technology. Artists are expected to be competent in using various digital platforms. An important ability expected of many musicians is file sharing – musicians need to be able to use dropbox to share files and folders with band members, reviewers, and collaborators as a bare minimum.

In addition, for someone who isn’t adept at using technology, operating social media can be a huge struggle. They would have many questions such as why should I use this, who is on here and why would it be beneficial for me?  Artists will also face the challenge of web and graphic design, as it is hard for someone who is new to this to set something up.

Apathy of Listeners

Another major challenge facing musicians is the apathy of those who listen to their music. It is difficult for artists to get people to attend their shows, interact with social media and listen to their new releases. Musicians have to make sure they get things rights to gain attention and gain a fan base, but when the right actions are taken success will inevitably come.

Artists often suffer the disappointment of very small turnouts for local events which can be a knock to their confidence. All this can lead to a sense for the musician that they are fighting apathy. It is considerably harder for artists to get people to engage with what they are doing over the long term as well as the difficulty of gaining short-term attention to the music they produce.

 All of these challenges can be overcome by musicians by having a strong mindset. Succeeding in the music industry is more about determination, commitment, and resilience than tactics. Developing a strong mindset to b successful in the music industry is something that will take time, but it is essential, otherwise, the harshness of the industry will be too much for musicians to deal with.

challenges of the modern musicians
image source: staticflickr
I am studying Social Policy at the University of Birmingham. I am a keen runner and am interested in politics and the Middle East.

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