All the Women Who Independent (Musicians), THROW YOUR HANDS UP AT ME!
I promised you the female perspective, and here it is! As someone who’s been in Nashville for 13 years now — shout out to 17 year old Erin for taking the plunge! — I have a pretty solid grasp on what it’s like to be a woman in this industry. I am also keenly aware of the fact that I have a lot to learn, and will probably always have a lot to learn. Our industry is ever-changing and, if this past year has taught us anything, it is to adapt and survive.
Let me hit you with some facts:
- In the last 10 years, the peak percentage of women being played on country radio was 33%. It has since declined to almost half of that, reaching just 16% in 2019.
- In 2019, Mickey Guyton’s single “Better Than You Left Me” was pulled from country radio after consistently climbing, because country radio “didn’t want two female ballads on the charts at the same time.”
- Only 12.3% of the 600 most popular songs from 2012-2018 were female performers. That’s 73 performers. Out of 600.
- In 2020, only four female artists made the Billboard Top 20 year-end lists, with Taylor Swift being #9.
So, what’s my point? My point is that we, as women in this industry, can’t follow the traditional model of “making it,” because that deck is simply not stacked in our favor.
Take it from someone who’s watched it, and has experienced the ups and downs of this industry time and time again. Here are some pointers, and some hard lessons learned from a girl who knows.
There is actually room for everyone at the table:
The narrative that we have to continually compete against each other to get that “one spot” is antiquated, and quite frankly, sexist.
Story Time: I was in a meeting with a record label, and after the executive had talked AT me (not to me) for an hour, he finished it up with “…and ya know, we just signed our one girl for the year so, we’re tapped out.”
That was my first indication that there was something very wrong with this industry. Meanwhile, later that year, this video came out of all of the songs released by men that sounded exactly the same.
While that video came out in 2013, not much has changed. If you look at the songs released by women that year, they were all completely different. Yes, there were also a bunch of murder songs, but who doesn’t love a good true crime story, am I right?
(Side note: who wouldn’t be angry after being told to wear “tight jeans on your sugar shaker and climb up into my truck” ten million times? Literally none of that sounds appealing.)
My point being, the only way we are all going to make it to the top and change the narrative is by bringing each other with us.
What does it mean to stand out?
This is an interesting one, because everyone moving to this town is a big fish from a small pond moving to the ocean. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be the prettiest sunfish in all the seven seas!
Moving away from that awful analogy, what I mean is that there are ways to make yourself stand out from everyone else, and one of those ways is by referring back to my previous point.
This is a very small town, and people talk. You have the talent, you have the songs, and your performances are great… but are you easy to work with? Are you kind to others? You could have the most unique sound coming to Nashville since Elvis, but what else do you have going for you? Kindness matters.
I cannot tell you how many artists I’ve watched come into town — men and women alike! — with their egos all puffed up. They end up developing a reputation for being difficult to work with, or even untrustworthy, and their careers simply fizzle out.
CONFIDENCE. IS. KEY.
Knowing your own worth — and what you bring to the table — can be more valuable than you know. Unfortunately, confident women are too often labeled as “cocky” or “bitchy.” However, when you know your value and how to ask for what you’re worth — and combine it with being a kind human — you’d be amazed at what doors will open for you.
Basically, don’t be a Karen asking for the manager, and you’ll be fine.
How can we start to change the narrative?
Truthfully? By paving our own path; by making a new way to the top, because the one that’s already there is not working. Yes, some of the major female artists out there are starting to speak up and make a change. We still have to do our part to make sure that momentum keeps going. (Lookin’ at you, Queen Dolly.)
- Work with more women, and play with more female performers.
- Seek out women who are trying to do the same thing, and see how you can collaborate with them.
- Start your own “girls only” night (a writer’s round or a showcase would be a great start, and I’ll have an article on that coming soon!)
- Go out and support your female friends’ shows. If you want people to support you, you have to support them, too.
- Request more female-fronted songs on the radio!
- Listen to more female artists — get their streaming numbers up!
I am positive that there are even more ways than those to support each other, but that’s up to you to create, little sunfish!
It’s time we broke a few glass ceilings, yes?