I was shocked to learn that less than 20% of the people singed up to PRS are girls!
I am lucky that I have not come across that much sexism or prejudice in the industry, but thats not to say that it isn't out there. I only had one story to tell of sexism I have come across in my time as a working musician and i'll tell it now...
A few years ago I had a phone call from a promoter, asking if I wanted to play their venue that coming weekend. When you get phone calls booking you that close to the gig you know you are either replacing someone who's pulled out or the promoter isn't very well organised. I said I would play and the promoter said they would let me know sound check and stage time details as soon as they could. I didn't get any information through and so I turned up, with a friend at about 7pm that night.
Now, I think thats quite late, soundcheck is usually earlier but I sensed it wasn't very well organised. I went to the venue and in to the room with the stage. There was a man in there playing an acoustic guitar and a few of his mates. I said hello and we talked about who we were and what we were doing. He told me he hadn't gigged in years and that he was just going to play some covers, he said he had seen the running order and he was on after me. I (at the time) had just finished a mini radio tour and was promoting my 'Who Framed Winston Silcott? EP.' I had quite a bit of recognition from that EP and it was doing really well. It isn't arrogant of me to expect not to open a show when the act performing after me didn't have anything to promote, wasn't as currant as me and was just doing covers.
He asked about my guitar and I told him I played a Daisy Rock. Daisy Rock guitars, for those of you who don't know, are guitars built especially for girls. They have a smaller neck so my hands can fit round them easier and they come in girly colours and are there to encourage girls to play. I am endorsed by them and they are kind enough to send me over guitars for free for me to use at my gigs. At the time of this gig I was playing a bright blue Daisy Rock, I still have it and I love it, its amazing. When I got my guitar out and showed the man in the venue he told me he thought my guitar was 'a shit guitar' I told him it was built especially for girls and he continued to tell me it was 'shit.' I decided to just leave the room, put my guitar away and go and find the promoter to find out what was going on.
The promoter had arrived but was drunk and was laying on a table in the bar. I asked him what the stage times were and he said he needed to wait for the sound engineer. My friend Kerry and I went to get something to eat and came back. I was gutted about what the man in the venue had said about my instrument. It can be scary enough to get on stage and so his remarks made me feel really nervous. I kept thinking 'if he was brave enough to slag me off when its just me and him he's going to say really mean things when the venue is busier and he's had a drink' and 'if he says things to me like that when I am just there for the soundcheck whats he going to say when he actually hears me play!"
We went back to the venue and sat around for a bit. The promoter was still there getting steadily more and more drunk and there was no sign on a sound engineer. The guy who had insulted my guitar was at the bar too by this point and I had seen via a poster being put up round the venue that the guy was right and I would be on after him. Bare in mind it was about 9:30 by this point. I was getting more and more anxious and annoyed. So my friend and I just picked up our stuff and left. It is the only time I have ever refused to play and walked out of a gig.
To try and see both sides i guess I should think that maybe I cant put this incident down to sexism. Maybe its just that man being a dickhead. Maybe he just thought he'd try and show off in front of his mates and he just assumed that cause I was so young i'd be inexperienced and in awe of him as a musician, i don't know…. Maybe it IS arrogant of me to think that I should have been put on further up the bill.
I don't really think that though.
It WAS nasty to tell a 17 year old her guitar was shit and it IS wrong to get some shit old man playing Oasis covers to play after me when I am promoting my EP.
Looking back at it now I think the worst part of it is that someone would be so unsupportive of another act on the same bill! I wish I had told him to fuck off, smashed his guitar over his head, told the promoter his nights were shit and slammed the door on my way out. I am glad I didn't stay and play, purely cause it would have wasted my time.
Sexism in any industry is terrible and it needs to end! Exactly the same as racism, agism and homophobia. There are loads of great ways to support ways of putting a stop to all this and I have listed some sites below.
Since that gig I have gone on to headline many shows including my own weekly residency, have big radio play, festival slots, studio sessions and tours. I am also lucky enough to never have experienced anything like this again anywhere else, so that proves there are good people out there!