Ladies: if for some nutty reason, you decide you want to be challenged, ridiculed, unfairly judged and, of course, stereotyped in your career, the music industry is just the thing for you!
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve worked in both booking and label environments, and I’m not going anywhere. But the business is so conspicuously male that, at times, I catch my left eye twitching in the mirror. It’s weird that, even today, I feel like I have to ask “where, exactly, do we girls fit in?” Here’s why.
As a female, once you tell somebody that you work in the industry, it’s as if they automatically think one of two things: “whore,” or “bitch.” Thanks to movies like Almost Famous, websites like isanyoneup.com, and Pamela Des Barres’ tell-all book, I’m with the Band: Confessions of a Groupie, we women appear to have firmly cemented our place in music as sex dolls. On the other side of the scale, flicks such as The Devil Wears Prada depict females in positions of power as being uptight, chaste bitches – and this feeds fire to the flame.
So here are some friendly reminders for my fellow women who wish to follow their dreams, without falling into either of the above mentioned categories.
DO work hard. You will have to work harder than most men who attempt to establish themselves in the business. Deal with it. Go to work early, and stay at work late. Express your own opinions and ideas in a thoughtful and strategic way. In the music office of the 1980s and 90s, there would come a time when one of the gazillion interns got hired for paid work. Then, women were typically brought on for “caring” or “talking” positions, such as publicity. Flash forward to today. The same women who once made coffee as Gen X interns now have as much agency and opportunity for power as men.
DON’T fall into the sticky web of office gossip. Don’t ask to hear about who’s sleeping with who, and for God’s sake, do all you can to avoid being gossiped about. Keep your work life separate from your personal life.
DO know your stuff. Read books, watch movies, and study documentaries on your specific genre of music, if you have one. “Knowledge is power.”
DON’T have sex with the bands. NEVER, have sex with the bands, or their immediate friends. Once you have crossed this line, there is no going back. You will not be taken seriously as a professional. Remember, in a close-knit business, your reputation follows you around. I can’t stress this enough ladies. NO BOYS IN BANDS.
DO have manners. Act courteously with everyone you encounter. I firmly believe that if you are kind and fair, even in an aggressive environment, people will enjoy working with you, and continue to do so. Today, power in the music business is defined by relationships and experience. Build them!
DON’T become a “fan girl.” Being overly obsessed with one group of people is not a good look. Neither is giggling every time they come into the office for a meeting, and neither is asking them to sign your underwear. Maintain your professionalism at work. Any screaming whilst listening to their CD can be carried out in the privacy of your own home.
DO be bold. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Take everyday as a learning experience, absorb as much as you can from your peers, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
DON’T get drunk at shows. In this business, you will most likely be invited out to many shows. Don’t forget, you’re always being judged. Shows are often the best places to network and meet new people in the industry. Becoming intoxicated, flashing, fighting, falling down, and compulsively calling your ex-boyfriend are things potential colleagues DO NOT want to see. Save it for Friday night out with the girls.
DO grow a thick skin. As is mentioned above, you will be judged. Opinions will be formed without basis. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for other women in the biz to grow jealous, and attempt to tear you down. It’s of the utmost importance to know yourself, so that when the time comes, you are able to brush off every negative comment thrown your way. KEEP THE PMA.
And so, my brief but enjoyable time with you readers is over. Although sexism in the business is still rife, I can genuinely say, things are getting better. Women are starting up their own record labels, and there are more female booking agents then there have been at any other point in history. So don’t fan the flames of discontent. Get in the door, be friendly, inquisitive, professional, and people will want to work with you. Sisters are doing it for themselves!