Camp Cope members called out Falls Festival organisers over the lack of women on the bill. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica )
On the eve of Splendour in the Grass announcing its 2018 line-up, conversations about gender inequality in the Australian music industry are at fever pitch.
Camp Cope was the band that called out Falls Festival for the lack of gender diversity on its summer line-up and the women will be watching closely as Splendour’s organisers drop the 2018 line-up tomorrow.
Georgie Maq (pictured left) said lyrics were “pretty much direct quotes” of things they’ve been told. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
Camp Cope continues to fight to get booked as headliners at major festivals. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
Why? Well, for background:
- Splendour in the Grass and Falls Festival have the same owners and organisers
- Promoting giant Live Nation has a 51 per cent share; Secret Sounds owns the rest — that organisation was started by Paul Piticco and Jessica Ducrou and the duo still organise (read: book talent) at the festivals
- Live Nation is one of the biggest music promoters in Australia and has a firm grip on the industry.
So, there’s history.
For Camp Cope, the last three years has been about fighting to have their music heard and taken seriously.
“We felt our peers — men in bands — were sort of given things so quickly that we had to kick and scream and fight 10 times harder just to get what they got handed straight away,” drummer Sarah ‘Thomo’ Thompson said.
Despite being onto their second album and selling out two shows at the Sydney Opera House, the band members say they continue to fight to get booked as headliners at major festivals.
The sexism they have encountered formed part of the inspiration for their song The Opener.
The song’s lyrics include these lines:
“You worked so hard, but we were ‘just lucky'”
“All my success has got nothing to do with me/Yeah, tell me again how there just aren’t that many girls in the music scene.”
Singer Georgie Maq said: “They were pretty much direct quotes.
“It’s just everything that men have said to us. It’s a true story.
“Once we started playing it together when we first went to a rehearsal space, it was like ‘this is the most cathartic song I’ve ever played in my entire life’.”
The band is part of a new wave of female musicians taking a stand against gender inequality in the music industry.
Camp Cope led the It Takes One campaign to make festivals safer for attendees and called out Falls Festival organisers earlier this year for the lack of female acts in their line-up.
In response, Falls Festival co-director Ms Ducrou said in a statement that while there was a “conscious and strong agenda to book female talent, it isn’t always available to us at that headline level”.
She encouraged others to start their own events that promoted gender equality, saying “taking control yourself is a great way to effect change”.
It’s not just Camp Cope — it’s in the numbers
Research shows the Australian music industry continues to be dominated by men at almost every level.
The industry is talking about:
Male musicians account for the majority of the top 100 most-played songs on radio stations, despite women accounting for 54 per cent of Year 12 students studying music in Australia.
In triple j’s annual investigation into women in music, solo-female artists or all-female acts were severely underrepresented — on average, they tended to make up about 28 per cent of the most-played songs in 2017.
Tracee Hutchison said women in the music industry are bypassing traditional channels and finding an audience themselves. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
Former triple j and ABC broadcaster, author and academic Tracee Hutchison said female musicians were refusing to wait for record executives to notice them, instead, forging their own paths in the industry.
“The statistics themselves tell us that the industry hasn’t served women over many decades and the industry has had many years to respond,” she said.
“We are seeing … a shift in that thinking [and] I think it’s been driven by women who’ve actually thought ‘well there’s nothing there for me’.
“[They think] ‘I can’t see myself in that framework so I’m going to go over here and do my own thing with my own production set up in my lounge room. I’m going to make my own music and I’m going to get it out there to the audience that I know is there for me through various online delivery platforms’.”
Ms Hutchison said the rise of the #MeToo movement had galvanised a new generation of musicians.
“I think the creative industries have always been the place that social change happens and that’s actually what we’ve seen but at a rate that is phenomenal because it’s been pushed along like a juggernaut by incredible social media campaigns,” she said.
What’s actually being done?
A lot is being talked about, but there is action too.
Changes within the industry are taking place gradually, with organisations such as Girls Rock! providing targeted initiatives and training for female musicians aged between 10 and 17.
Music rights organisation APRA AMCOS also has pledged to address the gender imbalance within the industry, launching mentorship programs and initiatives aimed at reducing the gender disparity — including a pledge to double female membership numbers within three years.
Musician Kira Puru says she feels “less awkward and more accepted” as the music industry starts to shift. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
Musician Kira Puru said the industry had “spent enough time talking” about gender diversity. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
Musician Kira Puru agreed the industry was gradually becoming more welcoming of diversity.
“I feel like I have to talk less about the things that make me who I am — the fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I’m of mixed race, the way that I look — and I get more of an opportunity just to talk about my art and that’s a pleasure,” she said.
“I feel more comfortable in spaces that have often not felt like they were for me, particularly in backstage areas and walking through studios or meeting label heads or whatever.
“I feel less awkward and more accepted.”
There’s change behind the scenes too
Elly Scrine reminds us there is a lack of gender diversity behind the scene in Australia’s music industry too. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
The lack of female representation in the music industry is also being felt behind the scenes, with women underrepresented at key senior and strategic positions, away from the stage.
Grassroots organisation and music label LISTEN is working to change that, building a database of female sound technicians and audio engineers in a bid to better promote females working behind the scenes in the music industry.
Coordinator of LISTEN, musician Elly Scrine, said the Listen lists were intended to implement change across all levels.
“I think it’s really important that women within the industry are not just represented on stage, because this is where we’ve seen so much growth and movement…, but it’s also really important to address the other parts of the industry where there hasn’t been as much change,” she said.
“I think it’s really important to confront and address stereotypes around like what kinds of jobs women can do and thinking about the power that people behind the scenes have.”
Thompson agreed the growing number of women pushing for representation in the music industry was already leading to change.
“You can feel the change, but you can also equally feel the people who are digging their heels in and don’t want it,” she said.
“It’s becoming so much more obvious; it’s great because you’re being left behind, [so] move across to the right side because everybody’s trying to move along and your heels are so dug in that you’re kind of looking a bit stupid right now.
“But it’s good they getting exposed for what they are I suppose.”
For Kira Puru, the time is now.
“I feel like we’ve spent enough time talking about this you know and I just want to make good music and be able to feel comfortable in my own workplace like other people have the opportunity to.”