Inspiring the next generation of headliners to pick up that instrument!
In honour of International Women’s Day, we highlight recent studies that show the disparity between male and female artists, ways in which we can encourage more girls and women to take up an instrument, and some female artists that we feel deserve your attention.
Guitarists, for example…
When asked to name some guitar or musical heroes there are some names that pop up regularly: Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, etc. There is no denying that they all played their part in establishing the electric guitar as the instrument of choice for those who like to rock. But that list doesn’t tell the full story of music across the past several decades; where are the women in music? What about Carol Kaye, Lita Ford, Mary Ford, Nancy Wilson, Jennifer Batten, Mother Maybelle, and the legendary Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Music has always been a male-dominated industry from the level of recording artist to the label manager. Though there have been many a female artist and all-female groups, they have been heavily outweighed by the sheer number of male performers.
Admittedly, I am not one to veer too close to chart territory. On the odd occasion that I do, I’ve always thought that it appeared today women are better represented across the musical spectrum. especially in the pop world with Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Anne-Marie, Jess Glynne, and Rita Ora all getting heavy airplay. Even to the casual observer, Billie Eilish’s clean sweep at the Grammy’s would suggest that women are well represented.
However, BBC research recently found that “three times as many male as female pop stars appeared on last year’s biggest hit singles”. That is a striking amount. If you delve into the figures it is clear that male artists like George Ezra, Calvin Harris, Ed Sheeran and Drake still take the lion’s share. In 2018, a mere 14 female artists had hit singles that didn’t involve collaboration with a male artist. 2019 saw some encouraging uplift but there is still a long way to go.
What can we do about it?
I know that I started this off on a rock ‘n’ roll slant, then segued into pop, and you’re probably wondering where is he going with this?
Well, there’s something going on that was previously overlooked and it might go a long way toward significantly bridging the gap between male and female artists – especially when it comes to the guitar.
When Fender commissioned a joint study with award-winning neuroscientist and musician Daniel Levitin to find out just who is playing music today and the associated benefits, they didn’t expect to stumble upon a striking insight with regard to diversity:
“Women continue to define the emerging guitar market, accounting for 50 percent of all beginner and aspirational players”
The fact that 50 per cent of new guitar buyers in the UK were women was a surprise to the UK team, but it’s identical to what’s happening in the US.Fender CEO Andy Mooney, Rolling Stone
In years to come a stronger female-led guitar presence could provoke a further wave of change through the music industry. Better representation for women translates into a more vibrant musical community. As well as female songwriters and singers, we should be encouraging young girls to take up anything and everything instrument-wise and the more female musicians and bands like Nita Strauss, Nik West, Esperanza Spalding, St. Vincent, Cat Power, Haim, Warpaint, Soeur, The Donnas, PJ Harvey, Bjork, the better! Bands like The Runaways and Siouxsie and the Banshees were showing us how it’s done back in the ’70s, but now it’s high time that another female-led rock revolution was underway.
The study also found that “72 percent of respondents cited they picked up guitar for the first time to gain a life skill or as a means of self-betterment” and “42 percent said they viewed guitar as part of their identity”. Self-betterment and the enrichment of identity can only serve to empower girls and young women. By increasingly encouraging and supporting their development, not just as an artist but also with regard to self-confidence and self-awareness, and by extending the opportunities that they have to express themselves in environments beyond the male gaze, we can better equip our daughters, nieces, sisters, cousins, friends to challenge the status quo and as Linda Perry stated, ‘go beyond the “Women in Music” label’. Go way beyond so that’s it’s so far off on the horizon that it becomes a distant memory.
Useful industry links
The Women In Music website is a fantastic resource and the industry’s leading non-profit of 100+ volunteers who work daily to serve thousands of women worldwide. In the UK they partner with Help Musicians to deliver Women in Music UK, with a regularly updated Blog and Facebook page.
Learn to Play Day
The UK’s Music for All Charity is hosting their annual “Learn to Play Day” across the country on the weekend of Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th March 2020. Check out their website to find out where you can get free taster music lessons, and again kick start your instrument playing journey.
Young Songwriter 2020 Competition
There’s still time for you or someone you know aged between 8 and 18 to get their submission in for this year’s Young Songwriter 2020 Competition. Closing date for entries is 31st March 2020. The 2020 Judges include Tom Odell, Imelda May, Miranda Cooper, Eg White, Chris Difford, Sacha Skarbek, Emily Phillips, Janet Devlin, Harley Alexander-Sule & Paul Adam. There are some amazing prizes to win and who knows, it could be the first step on the path to a career in music! Head to the Song Academy website for further details.
Safe Gigs For Women
Inspiration to pick up an instrument often comes from attending live gigs and performances. There is nothing quite like the exhilaration you experience first-hand when the visceral energy of an artist, band, DJ, etc. is tangible. You can see, hear, feel and absorb yourself in the music. Ask any artist and they’ll have a gig they remember, which inspired them to go, “I want to do that…”
Unfortunately, there are also far too many instances of aggression, intimidation, and sexual assault aimed towards women at gigs. Places where people should be able to go and enjoy themselves often become another arena in which to be subjected to unwanted and/or unwarranted attention.
Founded by Tracey Wise, Safe Gigs For Women is an initiative established by regular gig goers with the aim of creating a safer environment for women at gigs. As stated on their website, their aims are:
Work with gig goers to spread the word that it is not okay to grope, threaten or harass others. Encourage victims to speak out, and supporters to advocate that this behaviour will not be tolerated.
Work with venues to ensure they take reports of sexual harassment and other threats to women seriously. We will work with venues to create a standard in the industry for safe venues. We will then campaign to get the standard adopted nationwide.
BandsSafe Gigs For Women
Getting bands on board to recognise our standards, talk about our work and get their audiences recognising and spreading what is acceptable.
Inspirational female musicians
We’re going to pick out those who we feel are pushing things forward and who you should definitely give some time to.
1. Little Simz
Simbiatu “Simbi” Abisola Abiola Ajikawo better known by her stage name “Little Simz” has won plaudits across the industry for her self-described rap and experimental music. The multi-talented rapper, singer, musicians (and actress), seems to possess wisdom beyond her years with lyrical dexterity some can only dream of. Not only that but if you check out her NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert, she’s a dab hand on the guitar too.
2. Lianne La Havas
Lianne Charlotte Barnes aka Lianne La Havas is a British singer and songwriter who has collaborated, toured, and wowed artists and producers ranging from Alicia Keys to Prince.
Trala are the trio of Jesi Jones, Julie Melucci, and Moriah Smallbone who for two years have played extensively throughout North America and Europe. Highly accomplished musicians and talented songwriters, they honed their skills before unleashing their recent singles “Holy Collision”, which garned more than 67,000 streams on Spotify in the first six weeks, and the ruthlessly catchy “Gotcha”.
4. Maggie Rogers
Maryland native Maggie Rogers has come a long way since “that video” went viral. A rare talent whose experimental musical style and refreshingly honest lyrics, Rogers swerved the limelight following her sudden success and instead accompanied more experienced bands like “Mumford & Sons”. By taking the slow road and honing her craft carefully, her debut album “Heard It in a Past Life” showcases an artist growing in confidence with a bright future ahead.
5 & 6. Chai & Tricot
Heading to Japan for the next couple of bands, Tricot and Chai. Both band who display levels of technical proficiency that most can only dream of. I implore you to check out their videos for the tracks “MV” and “N.E.O.” (above).
7. She Drew the Gun
Someone closer to home, singer-songwriter Louisa Roach started performing solo under the moniker She Drew the Gun – recruiting band members along the way. As an artist she weaves together hypnotic soundscapes with poetic lyrics that stay with you long after the track has finished. Another fine example is the mesmerising “Something for the Pain“.
8. Bryony Jarman Pinto
We were privileged enough to interview and capture a performance with the incredibly talented Bryony Jarman Pinto. Raised in Cumbria and now based in London, Bryony Jarman-Pinto is an expressive and adventurous singer-songwriter, combining harmonious vocals and mesmerising jazz-fused melodies with personal and complex lyrics.
9. Holly Redford Jones
Holly Redford Jones is a singer-songwriter who doesn’t shy away from tackling the complexities of raw emotion with her lyrics, seamlessly shifting from soulful to sultry vocal delivery with seemingly no effort whatsoever. Straddling genres with ease, Jones is equally at home with the straight-up blues-driven rock as she is with elegant, ethereal indie-pop ballads.
Need some advice?
Here at Dawsons Music we’ve tried to make life easier for those who’re thinking of making their first instrument purchase. We’ve put together a series of “Buying Guides” that cover “Guitars“, “Drums“, and “Keyboards & Pianos“.
Feeling inspired yet?
If you want to dive straight in and check out what we have to offer, there are “Guitar Packs” covering Acoustic, Bass, and Electric guitars.
Fancy the drums but don’t think you can get away with something quite so noisy? We also have a range of “Electronic Drum Kits” that are much more neighbour-friendly.
If you’d rather go down the keys route, then we have plenty of Keys & Piano choices to suit everyone.
More power to you
Hopefully, this post gives you or someone you know the inspiration to get started on your musical path. Remember that no matter what, if you pick up and instrument you’ve got an instant friend for life, a tool for letting your creative side roam free, and you never know where it might take you.
All the best!
Jon has a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons Music Web Team before progressing into his current role as Content Manager. Favourite things: My LTD MH-400NT, a decent brew, and Ron Swanson.