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So you wanna be in a rock band?: The state of women in the industry

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Lifestyles | November 17th, 2008



The real forces behind a move towards ending gender discrimination in the music biz are unsung business women. This is a continuation of last week’s discussion with Tish Ciravolo, founder of DaisyRock Guitars, Carla DeSantis, creator of RockRGrl Magazine, and finally, Madalyn Sklar, the brains behind the online female artist community, GoGirlsMusic.

Though eradicating sexism (and building a female-friendly music community in doing so) is clearly at the forefront of each of their enterprises, Tish, Carla and Madalyn’s efforts expand to encompass helping all independent artists by offering up the knowledge that they’ve acquired from their own experiences.

As spokeswomen at several important music festivals, all three women are concerned additionally with the bigger issue at hand: that of the crumbling music industry. But, instead of evaluating the music biz’s current climate of illegal downloading and industry corruption as a downfall, Sklar believes that the “music industry has been headed down the independent, do it yourself route for sometime now, and [with the changes that are being forced to take place], the playing field is becoming increasingly levelled each day - you don’t [necessarily] need a label to get noticed anymore.”

For Sklar, it’s an exciting time to be an indie artist, and though the future of the music industry’s infrastructure is uncertain, both Tish and Carla agree that music will always be around, with or without the bigwigs. To this, DeSantis adds, that essentially the record labels are getting their just desserts.

“They pissed off their consumers by demanding that we buy expensive albums that only contain one or two tracks that we actually care about,” DeSantis said. “The labels didn’t work with what the customers wanted and now there’s a karmic debt to be paid.”

As evident by this statement, DeSantis clearly feels that the major labels’ lust for capital has been the most detrimental force in deconstructing the industry. She went on to note that the fact that contracts in which artists are only entitled to a mere two per cent of their albums’ takings, yet are required to entirely fund their own touring operations, can exist, acts as further evidence supporting this assertion.

For Ciravolo, the biggest sin ever committed against artists by the corporate music biz falls into related territory: that being, the lack of regard for artistic development and creative growth. In her view, we’ve gotten to a point where musical talent and/or merit are not considered prerequisites to superstardom. It’s become all about pre-packaged marketing ploys meant to play to the lowest common denominator, and generate a quick buck.

However, in saying all of this, DeSantis is quick to reiterate that, “the industry sucks, but it has always sucked, and the key to success is simply to find likeminded, trustworthy individuals, and to build your own community of support.” She was also adamant about explaining that due to the current predicament with which the music industry is entangled, “complaining about how bad things are for women is like trying to save the people on the fourth floor of a building that is on fire. The system is so broken and in flux that it is not necessarily any worse for women than men [in the grand scheme of things]. Everyone is facing a hard time [which can definitively] be routed to bad business practises.”

As some final offerings of advice for the aspiring artist, Sklar encourages to not be afraid to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and Ciravolo endorses being proud and confident of your art, however “un-mainstream” it may be.

It’s interesting to consider that all three of my interview subjects were unable to name just one female in rock history whom they deemed as being the most influential which indicates to me that they are tons of great examples out there, you may just have to dig a little deeper. In my opinion, this makes perfect sense, because if life’s taught me anything, it’s that things that are the most rewarding, fulfilling, and worthwhile never are obtained without a challenge. In relaying the views of these three rather impressive ladies, I hope to leave you with the promising thought of a future in which musicianship is judged purely based on one’s talent, and nothing more. I know that this is a goal these women and others are working towards; and an admirable one at that.

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