[This is a really important post by Tshepo Mokoena–in a male dominated industry (streaming) that reflects another male-dominated industry (music), with playlists manipulated by men to men, the much vaunted “artist data” benefits for touring falls down both economically, artistically and ethically. Turns out streaming is a hyperefficient way to make sure the rich keep getting richer and the bias keeps getting stronger. Thanks, again, Spotify!]
A funny thing happens when a mixed-gender group chats in a room: people, of all genders, tend to think that the women are talking more. And they tend to think that even while the opposite is true….In translation: women have had to fight for a voice in the public sphere so much that their bare minimum participation is seen as Too Much.
I bring this up, because it’s just about that time for the annual rollout of the coming summer’s festival lineups and their inevitable gender imbalances. Welcome! You can almost draw a parallel between that academic idea – how one woman speaking a little, giving a bit of input, is perceived as her being on a par vocally with the men in the room – and the way women can still feel like a box-ticking afterthought at festivals. A 2017 BBC study found that all-male acts accounted for 80 percent of UK festival headliners. The same study also noted that a quarter of those top slots basically were taken by the same 20 acts – your Muses, Kasabians, Foo Fighters, Killers and so on.
But what about outside the traditional rock festival setup? This week, two events – Spotify’s Who We Be Live in London late this month, and Annie Mac’s AMP Lost & Found festival in Malta in May 2019 – shared news of some of their confirmed artists. Both present some pretty incredible talent, from UK rap, R&B and electronic music. Who We Be, after all, is the name of Spotify’s grime and rap-focused playlist. But, look closer and you also start to notice another trend emerge around gender balance, specifically when streaming plays as central a role in booking a live show, as it does for Who We Be. So while festivals are expanding beyond the ‘yes, let’s go see Kaiser Chiefs for the 18th time!!’ format, what space does that leave for women, in an industry that’s still traditionally dominated by men?
….In the US, Spotify’s RapCaviar, with its more than 10.5 million followers, is often cited as a star-maker. Only, hehehe, it turns out that women feature on it very rarely. When writer David Turner looked into the numbers, for Jezebel’s The Muse earlier this year, he found that women rappers accounted for about 4 percent of artists on the playlist between May 2016 and December 2017. Women overall made up 10.8 percent of RapCaviar artists over that time period.