As I may have previously mentioned, I work in accounts. For a Swiss watch company. This leaves me rather inadequately equipped when it comes to making factual statements about the music industry and the way it’s run. So what I’m about to say is total guesswork, based on what I’ve seen on MTV since I got Sky installed a few weeks ago.
The guys who manage and promote musical talent are not interested in working with a female artist that they wouldn’t want to fuck.
I just flicked through my iPod. Here’s a selection of the female recording artists I have on there:
Debbie Harry (Blondie)
Nina Persson (The Cardigans)
Rachel Nagy (The Detroit Cobras)
Brody Dalle (The Distillers)
Kim Wilde (I’m just looking after these Kim Wilde songs for a friend, honest)
I’m struggling to come up with a successful female recording artist who could be described as just plain ugly. Take a look at some successful male artists for comparison:
Barry Manilow (keep children away from this man)
Thom Yorke (Radiohead)
Gene Simmons (Kiss)
So, as a man, you can be as “unconventional” looking as you like, without fear of losing record sales. As a woman, if you don’t have the right look then you won’t have to worry about losing record sales because no one will give you a recording contract in the first place.
As far as unconventional looks go, you’d be hard pushed to top Beth Ditto, of the Gossip. She’s a big girl. She’s also extremely talented, and when the Gossip first broke onto the scene I thought they were going to be huge. They’re still around, of course, and are a pretty successful act, but I really expected them to have taken over the world by now. Instead, you see Beth Ditto turning up in tabloids under headlines complaining that she’s a fatty. Chris Moyles (you know, the guy who’s job it is to play and promote new music, believe it or not) once spent a large portion of his radio show making fat jokes at her expense. That’s Chris Moyles, the famous unfunny fat man. I even read articles written after this incident that were criticising Moyles but still claimed that Beth Ditto was as famous for being fat as she was for singing.
And so she’s stuck. Any female artist that in any way breaks from the norm will be instantly labelled by the media and become known for what they are labelled as rather than the talent that got them noticed in the first place. I doubt I will ever read an article about Beth Ditto that doesn’t refer to her being fat, including this one. And yet no article will begin with the phrase “Leather faced, big nosed cradle snatcher, Rod Stewart…” or “Wife beater, Chris Brown…”
Flicking through my iPod, I find that the vast majority of the music on there is recorded by men. I will admit that this is largely due to the fact that I am an air guitar toting musical fantasist. I listen to Lemmy yelling “that’s the way I like it, baby, I don’t wanna live forever!” and imagine that it’s me rocking that shit. I can’t fantasize that I’m performing Blondie numbers to my screaming army of fans; it just doesn’t feel right. At the same time, I do own music made by women and love listening to it when I’m not imagining myself leaping about onstage in a leather studded jacket over a spandex catsuit. Unfortunately, for those of us that do not seek out generic mass-produced pop music and like a little gravel in our vocals, female artists are few and far between. If there is more out there in the mould of the screaming Brody Dalle of The Distillers….well….that’s just awesome.