I’ve been using Last.fm to track my listening habits for almost a year. I love a few stats on my life. My most listened to person is Tim Timebomb, he of Rancid fame. They are number 2. I like my music mostly loud and shouty, but also quite poppy, and a bit indie. Never really dancey, in a dance music way, though I love music you can dance to. And it turns out I like it really male too – well if you look at the stats I do, but this isn’t the full story. I love plenty of female artists, but on a shuffled playlist they lose out to the men on quantity of artists and output volume.
It really hit home when Tweekly.fm started making a visual, of your 16 most listened to tracks over the last seven days, available to any user. When I looked at this last week, it was unsurprising, but also a bit shocking at how male the visual was. There was the Distillers, and Britney Spears just nudging in at number 16 (I love Britney. Get over it quickly!).
Now, I’m quite sure this sort of statistic reflects the music industry more widely. Most artists and bands are male. Male voices dominate. I’d be happy to be shown this is wrong, but I’m going to take a guess that the music industry isn’t held up as the feminist ideal, with male and female voices getting equal amounts of record deals, and gigs, and support. Am I wrong? I’ve had a look at this years Glastonbury line up as an example. I count 4 women in bands or as solo artists in the first four lines. 4 out of 16. If I counted how many women there were here versus men it would look a lot worse. In fact, the BBC just had an article about this very thing.
So as a good feminist I would like to support more female musicians and singers. As a first step, I’m only listening to female fronted band or female singers for a week to see how it shakes up my statistics.
This isn’t a perfect approach. It’s clear a female solo artist is a female solo artist, but bands are more than a singer. Some are just female fronted, with several other male musicians, others are more balanced, or even entirely female. There are also bands where there are women in the band who are not the singer. For simplicity, I’m restricting this test to female singers – solo or in bands. Just for ease, hope you don’t mind 🙂
I listen to a spotify playlist on the way to work called ‘Super Favs’. I line up a few tracks before setting off. Excellent. Then the prepared part of the playlist comes to an end and I have to skip tracks. I’m finding sometimes I’m skipping 20 tracks at a time! Ridiculous. So for the journey home I make sure I’ve a much longer prepared playlist.
When I get home I create a new playlist and I chuck a copy of all the female fronted bands from the Super Favs list into it. The original playlist is 1236 songs long, the new one is 146 songs long. 11.8% female voices. Ouch.
Using my Women playlist. Better. I’m listening to it at home and no one has even noticed there’s anything unusual about it. This is great, and expected, because there’s still my usual mix of angry shouting, poppy dance worthy singalongs, and indie tunes.
I should have known that the Distillers would extremely quickly become my number 1 listened to female fronted band. Because they are awesome and I already have lots of their music! Raarrrr!
I’m going to have to expand the playlist because I’m getting too many repeat tracks. This is fine, I have other playlists with more songs I can filter into the Women playlist. Playlist is now at 345 tracks.
I need to investigate some new people to listen to. Today is all about listening to artists I’ve been meaning to find out more about. Kate Tempest and Patti Smith are first on my list.
Why have I never listened to The Lovely Eggs before?!?
Why have I never listened to Patti Smith before?!?
Why have I never listened to Kate Tempest before?!?
Today I’m asking my friends to recommend me their favourite female solo artists or female fronted bands. It’s all gone a bit mad. 100+ responses. Mostly sensible.
I have had a marvellous week of listening to a lot of new to me music. I have listened to artists who will be some of my favourite artists now. It’s been great. There are artists I have been meaning to listen to who, for some reason I never got around to. Honestly, I think I have to put it down to internalised misogyny.
After my week of only listening to female singers or female fronted bands, I have a lot more balance in my main play list. I’ve discovering amazing artists I should have listened to a long time ago. I still have a lot of people to listen to.
I feel great for supporting more female artists and singers. There’s still a big problem though. It has to be clear to anyone looking at these pictures that I have an even bigger problem than the one I’ve tried to address here. I have a ridiculous BAME problem. I’m embarrassed by how white these photos are. I can do better than this and there is a whole world of BAME singers and artists that I’m currently missing out on by virtue of most of the bands and exposure being given to white artists. Next mission set!
Also, the BBC Glastonbury website lets you make your own Glasto poster! Here’s mine! Looking forward to watching from my sofa this weekend.