Time’s up for maledominated live music
To mark her first AMP Sounds festival, DJ Annie Mac asks why live music is still so lacking in women
LAST WEEK, the t Wireless Festival announced its line-up. li Of the 39 names, only on ly three were female. fe On the Saturday, there th e were no wo women on the line-up at all.
I am m incredulous. incred Having curated my own live shows for the past decade, I know it can be difficult to achieve an equal gender balance. But it’s really quite something for not even one of the Wireless bookers to pipe up and say, ‘Lads, maybe we should get a few more female names on there.’
It’s not just Wireless, of course. Music festivals have always been heinously lacking in women. I have been Djing for 12 years, starting out as the lone woman on all-male line-ups. I’ve been in excruciating situations, Djing surrounded by half-naked women on podiums. It took me years to pluck up the courage to tell promoters that I didn’t like the message it gave out. That if they (and it was always a man) could get some scantily clad blokes up there too, it would make me feel a lot less uncomfortable. Now, at last, things are starting to change. The #Metoo and #Timesup campaigns are huge global news. All the more reason why I was shocked that, in 2018, the bookers of a festival as huge and culturally important as Wireless were not thinking about us at all.
Then last week’s Grammys happened. Of the eight awards presented on air, only one ( Best New Artist, Alessia Cara) went to a woman. And the only Best Album nominee not invited to perform live at the ceremony was the only female nominee, Lorde. Grammys president Neil Portnow claimed that women need to ‘step up’ to be better represented. Pink furiously wrote an open letter to all the women who step up every single day. I would like to see Portnow make his comments to Beyoncé’s face. The problem is not that women need to ‘step up’, it’s that the music industry is inherently skewed to favour men. All the major record labels are run by men. All the major festivals (with the exception of Glastonbury and Emily Eavis) are booked by men. According to the Billboard 100 Power List for 2018, there is just one woman in the top 25 most powerful people in music: Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) boss Jody Gerson. We need a lot more Jody Gersons. We need to be in the boardrooms making the big decisions. We need to OWN publishing companies, production companies, record labels.
I’ve listened to the radio all my life, but it wasn’t until I heard Mary Anne Hobbes and Sara Cox on Radio 1 that I aspired to be a broadcaster. As the saying goes: you can’t be what you can’t see. When I took over Zane Lowe’s new music slot as the first ever solo woman to present that show, the listening figures didn’t plummet – in fact, they balanced out in terms of gender.
I feel it when I DJ at festivals – the front rows are always filled with girls. The guitar company Fender reported that, in 2016, over 50% of their new sales were to women. All those young girls with guitars!
So let’s keep speaking out and pushing forward the new wave… in the words of the legendary Patti Smith: ‘ The people have the power’ – and we ladies aren’t going anywhere.
AMP Sounds: 9 shows throughout gh February; visit anniemacpresents.com macpr for tickets k ts and info in
Below: Grammy winner Alessia Cara, and UMPG boss Jody Gerson