Oh, Play Me Another Song, Love!

Kerry Andrew asks the question that (she clearly thinks) should be on the lips of everyone, everywhere:

is there a gender gap in the music industry?

Well, frankly, that probably what you’d expect from a ‘freelance composer, performer and music educator based in London, specialising in experimental vocal music, choral music, folk, jazz and electronica‘ who also happens to have breasts, I suppose…

Any chance the answer’s ‘No’?

Well yes. The facts are clear: 14% of the PRS for Music Foundation’s (the Performing Rights Society of composers, songwriters and music publishers) members are female.

And there came a resounding cry of ‘So what?’ from everyone….

I don’t believe there’s a cabal of grunting old men in darkened, smoky rooms putting big crosses over scores submitted by ladies.

Really? Well, chalk one up to you for that, at least.

I’ve never felt discriminated against in the slightest, so rest assured I am not setting fire to my piano to rage against the dying of the light. It’s simply true to say that there are more professional male music creators than female out there. For some reason, it’s taking a lot longer than in literature and the visual arts to reach equilibrium.

And when we reach ‘equilibrium’ will we have better music as a result? Or is that not really your goal?

At an all-girls’ school workshop I ran recently, the music teacher said it was brilliant for the students to see, with their own eyes, a real live professional female composer.

Ahhh, yes. A familiar refrain, indeed. ‘If only that person looked like me, I’d want to do what he/she does!’

But surely talent doesn’t discriminate? You either have it, or you don’t? And that’s what’ll make you successful in the end, not external sexual or racial characteristics…

At GCSE and A-level, the classical composers studied in set works are almost exclusively male. And white. Oh, and dead.

So? Is their music of less value, intrinsically, than if they were female, brown or alive?

It’s glaringly obvious: if girls are presented with examples of successful female creators in all genres, they might view composition as a viable profession for themselves.

But if they don’t have the talent for it, they’ll still fail.

Positive prejudice goes some way to helping this. Last year, the PRS for Music Foundation, looking at their alarming statistics, decided to do something about it, funding 28 projects through their Women Make Music scheme (including me, with a project on British birds in folklore. ).

*shrugs* It’s their money…

And today, UK Music launched their Equality & Diversity charter, encouraging organisations, businesses and individuals to commit to two or more actions to help improve equality and diversity in 2012.

Well, of course. I guess you’re no-one if you don’t have an Equality & Diversity Plan these days. Rather like a ‘Social Media Strategy’.

Does it help? Well, jury’s still out….

No doubt some people would say this is political correctness gone mad.

Oh, perish the thought!

They’re wrong.

Phew! Glad you cleared that up.

These are great initiatives – not just for women, of course, but – in UK Music’s case – for people of different ethnic backgrounds and for people with disabilities.

Hurrah! A rainbow-coloured orchestra! Who cares what they sound like, feel the diversity!

We need, however, to address the inequality at the nub: those writing the curriculum, the National Music Plan, and teachers at all levels should make an effort to use examples of music by women in the classroom; to promote composition as a living, breathing, utterly unisex profession.

And will we get better music? Shouldn’t that be the only concern?

13 comments for “Oh, Play Me Another Song, Love!

  1. February 20, 2012 at 8:04 am

    I’m struggling to think of a single female composer. Not a songwriter; a composer. There’s probably a reason for that.

    • February 20, 2012 at 8:52 am

      Me too, but that’s because I’ve got tin ears and know hardly any at all. But I do know how to cheat:


      • February 20, 2012 at 10:45 am

        There are thousands on that list, but as in includes Vanessa-Mae and Yoko Ono I am not sure that it is particularly discriminating. Apart from the delightfully-named Mrs Philarmonica (fl. 1715) and various members of the Mozart, Schumann and Mahler clans, there is little there that is familiar. Thea Musgrave is the only name that jumps out. No Bachs, Beethovens or Brahmses. Perhaps serious music is something that women don’t often excel at. Or perhaps there has been some massive repression over the centuries. Or perhaps I don’t listen widely enough.

        I’m all for people making music and having fun, but this lady looks a bit too much like a rent-seeker for my liking.

    • Andrew Duffin
      February 21, 2012 at 9:46 am

      Elizabeth Poston? Clara Schumann? Fanny Mendelssohn?

      Maybe you just haven’t heard of enough composers, period?

      • February 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

        Maybe not. But none of those three would be classed as ‘great’ by any usual parameter. None popped into the mind unbidden, as it were. I think the surnames of two are a clue. Robert Schumann’s missus, Felix’s big sister, Peaches Geldof, Kelly Osbourne, know what I mean? Yes, I am kidding, but if you asked 100 people to name 10 composers, I bet you wouldn’t hear any names of women in there. I’ve no idea why, whether nature, nurture or lack of opportunity, but it’s how it is.

  2. john in cheshire
    February 20, 2012 at 9:50 am

    What I don’t understand is where do these moaners come from and why are they given so much publicity.
    I’m sure there must be a least one man out there who thinks this socialist crap has gone too far; and that the moaners and whingers should be told to shut up and then ignored. Why aren’t they being given a voice (a singing voice if necessary). I want us to return to a situation where these people don’t matter; at the moment, as soon as their thoughts are aired, then some idiot feels they have to act on them. Ms Andrew should be told, for example, to concentrate on what she claims to like doing – composing – and leave the big issues to the grown-ups.

  3. ttwtw
    February 20, 2012 at 10:08 am

    “Last year, the PRS for Music Foundation, looking at their alarming statistics, decided to do something about it, funding 28 projects through their Women Make Music scheme (including me, with a project on British birds in folklore. ).

    *shrugs* It’s their money… ”

    Some of ‘their money’ was once ours…. http://www.prsformusicfoundation.com/About-Us/Our-Funders-and-Partners

  4. February 20, 2012 at 10:58 am

    Women – on the whole – are more balanced than men. To be a great artist of any kind you need to go to extremes.

  5. Able
    February 20, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    “For some reason, it’s taking a lot longer than in literature and the visual arts to reach equilibrium.”

    Is it now? Are females who wish to be composers, artists and authors discriminated against? No, and she admits it. So until we have ‘equilibrium’ in all areas this complete and utter b*ll*cks will continue to be spouted will it?

    This is just some more of the ‘close all those sexist mens clubs’ only to be followed immediately by the opening of women only clubs, women only shops, women only times in public areas like swimming pools.

    There is no longer an ‘equilibrium’ in teaching, why? because the feminists decided that girls need female role models, screw the poor boys (not forgetting that all we men are evil rapists and paedophiles of course). Look at everything from law to medicine and you will find more women on such courses, because of course they are discriminated against FFS.

    We have positive discrimination in every area of life, professional, legal and personal, for women and those of left-wing favoured groups. So what we really have is discrimination against every white, heterosexual, male. Will she, or any of the other feminazis, be addressing the inequalities there I wonder? Not likely.

    The sooner an economic collapse occurs, sweeping away all the extra support for these ladies, the better in my book. Equality means a level playing field, the same opportunities and freedoms not identical numbers of each and every gender in each and every role (well those you want anyway, I don’t see any complaints about the lack of female sewage workers, do you?).

    My personal belief is that what we really have a gender gap in is adults with an understanding of facts and justice – maybe we could start a publicly funded group to run workshops teaching these women what hypocrisy is (just give them a mirror)!

  6. nisakiman
    February 20, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    The feminists among us keep on pushing at that open door.

    They are still rooting for Emmeline Pankhurst, and seem quite oblivious to the fact that nowadays, anyone who is good enough will succeed in their field of endeavour, regardless of gender. (At least, in the Western World, anyway. Some places admittedly are still a little, um, behind the times, shall we say, on equality of opportunity…)

    The whole concept of quotas merely degrades those who really can excel in the given area.

    And as Able so astutely points out above:

    “…I don’t see any complaints about the lack of female sewage workers…”

    Off topic here, but I note that you, Julia, and others on Blogspot, have a new captcha system, involving two separate words in different formats. While I’m sure this system is very good at fooling computers trying to generate spam, it’s also very good at fooling people who (like me) no longer have 20/20 vision. Can you change it back to the previous system? Because if not, I’m afraid you will be seeing very few comments from me, and I suspect that will go for quite a few others. It’s not a refusal to use the system, but simply that I can’t be bothered to spend ten minutes re-doing captchas in the hope of eventually getting one right just so I can post a comment…

    • February 21, 2012 at 5:57 am

      Yeah, that new Turing word generator is Blogger’s change, not mine personally! Even I’m having problems, on other people’s blogs! It’s generated a LOT of complaints to Blogger too.

      • February 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

        Time to switch to WordPress, then?

        • February 22, 2012 at 7:49 am

          Nearly! I’ve compromised by turning the dratted thing off.

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