It’s incredibly easy to coast through life arrogantly convinced of your own progressive principals without real, rigorous scrutiny of a system that affords us men easy mobility while spouting feminist rhetoric. How many of us have passively floated to the top of the music industry, or any sector of work for that matter, while being selective with when we offer unequivocal, vocal challenge to the litany of obstructions and attitudes that hamper emerging talent outside of the white and male? The devastating revelations about Burger Records, a behemoth in supposed indie-cool, and many of their signed artists exposing the rampant culture of toxic masculinity and sexual misconduct not only highlighted the liberal hypocrisy that’s alive in our counterculture, but begged a deeper, personal question: when the chips are down, how much of an ally are we? I can personally attest to straying unthinking into problematic attitudes, boorish behaviour that leaps out from behind socialist principles of ostensibly deeply held emancipatory values and resulting in friends telling me to be better.
The stubborn, stagnant gatekeepers of thousands of male-dominated music scenes all over the world and its idle enablers should have been buried a long time ago. I’m absolutely delighted to present a written piece by Melbourne artist and punk rocker Brook Storti detailing the perennial battle female musicians have to endure pushing their art through the slop of big egos and unwarranted stature. Fronting the gloriously scuzzy Sandy Dish, Storti’s lyrical spits against the patriarchy are hilarious in their savagery but also joyous in their hopeful affirmation of solidarity underneath garage rock swagger, summed up beautifully with a line from ‘That’s Hot!’: “Loving people with all your heart, that’s hot!”.
This dog-eat-dog music industry bullshit needs to stop ASAP. As a female in the music industry, I see more ego driven and sexist comments from boy bands that write songs about feminism than you could believe. Because being in a band is cool, like way cool, like so cool that every white male forgets their fucking manners.
But there are so many perks of being the front woman to a punk band, right? Too many to choose actually. Like, when sound guys tell me that I’m too loud, and I should sing into the microphone quieter. Like, when I try to bond with other lead singers and they explain to me that it’s different because I don’t sing, I just yell, yeah? Another freakin’ perk, is when a radio host tells me that I have one good asset in my band, and it’s my lead MALE guitarist of course. And lastly, the biggest perk, is that no one ever messages you pre-gig to organise gear, because the FEMALE LEAD SINGER (or ‘yeller’) wouldn’t know how many mics will be needed for their set.
Males dominate the music industry, they always have. They dominate festival line ups, they dominate financially, they dominate at labels and on the airwaves and in PR, because males are dominant yeah? The Melbourne music scene is crazy good. With over 500 live music venues in the city and so much competition the shit bands are epic and the newly formed, rusty bands are freakin’ brilliant. It’s a good thing. Competition is healthy, and useful. So we need to change the way we think, drop the ego and support each other.
I never had singing lessons or a music teacher, I had two males that believed in me. They studied and practiced and performed for years before I even considered starting a band. When I asked them to be part of my band I said it was going to be fem punk, poetry, fuck men, eat-me-out-on-my-period kinda vibes, and they put their hands straight up. I can’t play an instrument, I used to always come in late on my songs and I didn’t know what “bump in” meant. But this is what I wanted to do, so they were patient and taught me.
My band takes the full front of my ‘amatuness’, but still believes in me. They are my support, my hype, and you can be that for someone else. Dudes in boy bands criticising others because they’re not real musicians isn’t helpful at all. Instead, be their support, their hype. If you try, practice and want it as much as the next person, then it’s all valuable. If your band is good enough you will make it. But it’s more likely people will come to your shows, and venues and bands will ask you back again if you are kind, nice and make good impressions.
If you’re in the music industry, be polite, wait for your turn, play first, complement other bands. If you’re not a musician but love going to gigs, then I’ll share with you a great secret that my mother told me. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. If a woman is on stage topless, sweaty and LOUD. She probably knows it. You don’t need to tell her. And if you see a female artist perform, when she gets off the stage please I am begging you, DO NOT compliment her outfit or hair or how hot she looked on stage. Just comment on the music.
If you’re a girl, you can’t just be a lead singer, you have to be a female lead singer. And if your band is good, it must be because you’re a FEMALE lead singer and baby sex sells. SO FUCKING OWN IT. This might seem negative and silly but this is the truth. Change your behaviour, empower musicians for giving it a go and cancel the fucking band hierarchy. WOMEN RULE AND YOUR DUMB COMMENTS WON’T STOP US.
Listen to the IWD 2021 playlist here. Due to certain artists featured not having a Bandcamp, I’ve compiled a Spotify alternative here, but encourage you to prioritise Buy Music Club and thus directly supporting the music you love!