The nominations for the ARIA Awards 2013 were announced earlier this week, with the likes of Flume, Tame Impala, Birds Of Tokyo, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, and Empire Of The Sun clearly leading the pack as multiple nominees.
But the dominance of male musicians up for recognition at the Australian Recording Industry Association’s night of nights is something that the leading industry figure of New South Wales’ peak music body is concerned with.
MusicNSW’s Executive Officer and former music critic Kirsty Brown has written an opinion editorial for Crikey (as The Music point out), in which she discusses the wider problem of what she considers the Australian music industry’s bias towards men.
“How is it that in 2013, female musicians are still relegated to the special interest bin of the virtual music industry record shop? What will it take for the music industry to look at its diversity problem, and move away from its whitewashed, male-centric gaze to embrace, oh you know, the other 51% of the population?” questions Brown in her piece, entitled ‘Why the blokey music industry is out of tune’.
“The ARIA awards have only 18 women receiving individual nominations across all 27 categories this year, and the media is paying attention,” she writes, (calculating her tally by including the Aristan and Fine Arts nominees, while taking into account the mixed gender presence of bands like Big Scary, San Cisco, and The Preatures). “The ARIAs, AMPs, AIRs and APRAs have all faced the same challenge: why so many dudes?”
The testosterone-centric ARIA nominations isn’t an isolated issue however, notes Brown, “The ARIAs, AMPs, AIRs and APRAs have all faced the same challenge: why so many dudes?”
She points out that of royalties collecting agency APRA’s “registered songwriters, just 21.5% are female artists.” Pointing towards AIR’s recent Flume-dominated Independent Music Awards, Brown laments: “The 2013 AIR Awards saw just two nominations go to female-lead acts across all categories.” (Brown possibly meant ‘winners’ not ‘nominations’ given Catherine Britt and Amy Dickson were the only female artists who triumphed in their respective categories.)
The gender issue is highlighted by the judging panel of the coveted Australian Music Prize being revealed, as reported in Tone Deaf’s Industry Insight, and of those tasked with selecting the winner of the $30,000 cash prize, “only two of the 11 are women,” writes Brown.
Speaking in response to Brown’s issues, AMP Director Scott Murphy tells The Music that “the total number of judges – along with the number of males and females – is decided upon by getting the right people for the role.” Adding that, “we actually had two additional judges due to be on this year’s panel, both were women, and unfortunately they had to pull out before judging began.”
While not going as far as identifying and attacking the music industry as sexist – in the way that ‘Royals’ singer Lorde, and Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry did in their respectively eloquent opinion pieces – Brown instead grills the difficulties of opportunities afforded for women to “break into the male-dominated arenas of festival programming, A&R, booking agents and production.”
“This year, just 15 women out of 105 speakers were programmed into the BIGSOUND Conference,” she points out, while highlighting the gender disparity of Triple J’s broadcasting, reflected by radio station’s popular Hottest 100 polls, where “women in alternative music are not faring as well… and they’ve received some spirited criticism for this over the years.”
From a behind the scenes view, Brown concedes that the roles of publicity, marketing, and assistant positions are “heavily female dominated” areas of the industry, but questions why there aren’t more females in other parts of the music machine, which reflects a deeper problem.
“The industry is yet to have a meaningful dialogue about why women are so under-represented and exactly what we’re going to do about it,” she proposes.
“We are here. We are actively contributing to the music industry. We play important and pivotal roles. We are writing and performing world-class original songs. We are important to this industry and its future.”