Jobs for the girls?

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Is female success in the music business really all that new and strange?

When the NME announced that their new editor would be, oh my God, a girl, naturally a lot of the non-music press highlighted on the fact that no longer would one of the biggest music tomes be the playground of chain-smoking indie skinny boys (they’d had a writer called Johnny Cigarettes for frips sake).

GIRL POWER had finally broken through, and the media reacted with the same kind of surprise that would greet Nick Griffin announcing the BNP’s new membership secretary was a Muslim immigrant.

This got me to thinking about the way that the media views women in the music business.  Equal surprise came when this year’s Mercury Music prize shortlist featured a rash of female solo artists, headed by the Something About Mary-esque coiffed La Roux and Florence and the Machine.  

“Yay for the girls!” cried the press, completely ignoring the previous successes of the female-fronted Portishead (1995), PJ Harvey (2001) and Miss Dynamite (2002).

Instead, these publications (especially the tabloids) seem to prefer to focus on certain individuals and, having put them on a pedestal, start trying to shake them off as rapidly as possible with varying rates of success.  

Whether it’s Sharon Osbourne being allegedly at odds with everyone she’s ever worked with or Amy Winehouse going from being one of the most original vocalists of her generation to apparently begging for alcohol whilst on holiday in St. Lucia the press have loved reporting every gory detail for our reading pleasure.  
How about different stories of women in music?  How about Emily Eavis who inherited responsibility for the line-up of the biggest music event of the year, the Glastonbury Festival, proving herself more that capable with some daring artist choices?

Or there’s Kanya King, the woman who set up one of the most influential music awards, the MOBOs, and received an MBE in 1999.  Or Annie Lennox who, when not adding to her bulging collection of awards, has regularly campaigned on issues such as the Gaza conflict.

Ironically, when Lauren Laverne was appointed to head up The Culture Show it failed to register as another example of women breaking through the glass ceiling - instead everyone started arguing whether this was another example of the BBC’s apparent spate of ageism.

The film critic, Andrew Collins, himself a former NME staffer, told the Independent that the perception of NME as a Boys Only club was a self-fulfilling myth.  If mainstream media continue to treat news stories like these ones as such a strange occurrence, that perception is never likely to change.

Louise Steggals

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