The Dos And Don’ts Of Working As A Woman In The Music Industry

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! TC mark

image – Giovanni Gallucci

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  • ohmygrmmr

    Should be:
    harder than most men
    formed without basis

    • http://twitter.com/ThoughtCatalog Thought Catalog

      Fixed.  Thank you.

  • TD

    I like this article, even if it’s a little daunting. To be honest, booking isn’t the best time ever for anyone, male or female, but it definitely is worst off for us ladies. I think you make good points. guys fanbro each other all the time but because the dynamic is different they don’t lose any legitimacy because of it.
    I’d also add:

    DO support other women in music. I guess it depends what kind of music your booking for but it’s all too easy to only pay attention to bands that are just four dudes. Don’t dismiss females in bands and don’t dismiss women doing other industry things. My experience is women are totally willing to help each other out as long as you reach out. 

  • Kelly

    This article seems true for any woman who is trying to make it in the creative management side of things. I work in festival management and it’s definitely all true there as well. Biggest thing? DON’T SLEEP WITH THE CREATIVES. 

  • m bell

    i feel like this could also be true of women in almost any workplace (except for the traditionally more female industries like teaching and publishing etc). glad to see a grown up lady write a TC piece about professionalism instead of sex. kudos to you:)

    • AL

      Last line… das sexist.

  • Ashlyn

    Interesting read…what you’ve said is true about not just work-places but anywhere while it maybe more predominant in such environments…getting labeled is something that happens everywhere and the don’t have sex rule is a commandment in any close knit community…its strange though if a guy is sleeping around he’s ‘The Man’ because he’s scoring apparently but a girl dome thing is a ‘whore’…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matisse-Jenkins/742298725 Matisse Jenkins

    Meh. 
    Interesting, but not terribly well-written.

  • Ashlyn

    Oops!!!
    its strange though if a guy is sleeping around he’s ‘The Man’ because he’s scoring apparently but a girl does the same thing is a ‘whore’…

    • Guest

      That’s because all a women has to do is open her legs to get laid. A man has to work for it.

    • Guest

      That’s because all a women has to do is open her legs to get laid. A man has to work for it.

      • AL

        same ole sexist rhetoric. 

  • blau

    I really loved reading this. As a young woman who wants to go into the music industry, specifically booking, it’s nice to know more about it. Thank you.

  • jack

    this would be great if it was music industry catalog

    • http://twitter.com/taylafederer Tayla Dam

      shit, i didn’t mean to like this. it’s thought catalog. this is a thought. what the fuck do you think thought catalog should be? mundane posts about the one same topic????

  • Anonymous

    It’s hard working in a field where it’s still a boy’s club – I’m in the art scene.  Not sleeping with people in your field and not drinking just plays into a double standard that women can’t do what men do. Just be brave, be bold, and don’t make excuses about your actions. 

  • guest

    so treat it like a job basically?  be professional, don’t dip your pen in the company ink or be drunk at work, etc.  

    • http://twitter.com/taylafederer Tayla Dam

      this comment was clearly from a guy

      • guest

        I’m not a guy!  Just bitter that I have a lame job.  

  • Meghan

    Every internship or job I’ve had since 2006 has been leading up to a career in the music industry and even though this is pretty general advice I’ve seen nothing specifically pertaining to women in the music industry on the internet in other places…so thanks. I’m second guessing something I’ve wanted since I was 18, though, because during these internships I realized that there aren’t that many people who are truly passionate and enthusiastic about music as I thought…I guess you get burned out, or you’re a prick. All the ladies I’ve seen at labels/magazines/festivals are super cute and cool, though! You gotta admit, a chick working behind the scenes of a rock concert is pretty hot. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/christina.horn2 Christina Horn

    As female artist/musician/booking agent with multiple degrees I have fought sexism in my field as bravely as women in most other professional fields. I have studied feminism and wrote my master’s thesis on the topic of women in music.

    While I understand that the author only intends to aid young women in their career I disagree with the statement that movies such as “Almost Famous” have caused this epidemic. I felt a little more like a teenager being reprimanded by my mother about  my choice of clothing than like a colleague being guided by an experienced music industry pro.

    I believe that “sexism” in the work-place has been a problem since the 1950’s when women first became a force to be reckoned with. The inequality in pay-scale has improved drastically but we are still working for full equality. I would NOT recomend working overtime without getting paid but I would recomend working HARD and being bold.

    We have to be careful not to hold ourselves to a different standard then our male counterparts. We are different but we deserve equal compensation for a job well done. The dos and don’ts in this article should be addressed to BOTH women and MEN.

    Thank you for bringing this issue to the fore-front!

  • Waicool

    know your shit and be loyal to yourself above all others

  • Apostrophe

    Maybe DO learn grammar and DON’T misuse the apostophe!

    • Onlooker

      Stop nit picking! This is not a university essay. It is just a woman’s thoughts and feelings on working in the music industry.  Hope I got my apostrophe  and not apostophe right!!

  • Missing

    missing and misplacing is a definite don’t!!! ”r”

  • http://twitter.com/ewalkonby ewalkonby

    Same goes for professional sports. Being a girl in the locker room, you have to keep your eyes up at all times.

  • Ko

    Love this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Methofelis Nicole La Rrett

    Yes. Yes, and yes. Being in an extremely male-dominated portion of the entertainment industry (I’m a backstage tech, and rarely am I on a team that has another woman) people will not only assume you’re unable to do your job properly (lift that? climb that? hah, vaginas are hilarious!) and/or that you must be a lesbian/looking for sex/a sexy lesbian looking for lesbian sex is inevitable. 

    Now excuse me while I ponder sexy lesbian sex.

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  • Lived w band

    Re: the band. The only time I’ve heard girls tell you who to sleep with is when it comes from a girl who has already gotten a guy in a band.

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  • Elodie

    These rules apply to every career and field!

  • Elodie

    These rules apply to every career and field!

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