Women in the music industry...

Wears The Trousers! was a short panel which took place on Saturday (February 18th) as part of Roundhouse Rising.

Analysing the influence women can have on the music industry, the panel brought together radio personalities, promoters and label press officers. Clash writer Theresa Heath was in attendance, and supplied this thought provoking report.

- - -

It may be 2012 but women are still under-represented in the creative arts, and music is no exception. Girls with guitars may be leading the way in areas like folk, but certain genres remain awash with testosterone. Going some way to combatting this is today’s panel of women from across the industry, here to discuss how to make it in music, and take questions from an audience of budding young artists and wannabe industry moguls.

First to speak is Annette Lee, PR at 4AD, and it’s not long before the controversial issue of unpaid internships rears its head. She describes how she worked unpaid for a year before being offered a job, and points out that “there’s a fine line between learning about the industry and the company and feeling like you’re being taken advantage of.”

Lucy Wood, programmer at Eat Your Own Ears, agrees: "It’s the horrible truth but the unpaid intern thing can be the way forward.” At EYOE these are limited to three months to “avoid exploitation”, but with many industry hopefuls often doing far longer before a job is forthcoming (if at all), some may question how viable internships are for young people without accommodation in London or a hefty trust fund.

Providing a welcome contrast to the industry peeps is the panel’s most high profile member, Viv Albertine of The Slits. Now embarking on a solo career, she talks about the moment she first got inspired to do music: “It wasn’t until I saw the Sex Pistols… Johnny Rotten couldn’t sing, I couldn’t sing – it made me think – I can do that!”

In true punk style, Albertine is delightfully coruscating about contemporary artists she feels aren’t keeping it real, lambasting Laura Marling et al for singing about “finding babies in woods” and things they clearly have no experience of. When asked how more women can get into rock and punk, she commands: “By keeping it real. Sing what you know about.”

Something of a foil to Albertine’s cynical realism is Jen Long, presenter for BBC Radio Wales. She’s literally brimming over with optimism, love of new music and the sheer joy of living: “I really like my job, I like what I do, so I’m always looking for new acts.” Her tip for budding music journalists? “Don’t study journalism!”

Equally inspiring is Ruth Daniel, ex-keyboardist with The Fall and CEO of UnConvention, which brings grassroots musicians and organisations together to discuss the future of music. A recent trip to Venezuela saw her inviting hip hop artists from various barrios to perform together in the city centre, something that had not been previously attempted.

After all this goodwill, it’s down to Viv to bring everyone back to earth with an almighty thump. Speaking about the realities of making it in music she tells this audience of wide-eyed youth: “You will be broke, rejected and divorced… it’s a lonely fucking life, I’ve got hardly any mates. But we need more people putting their neck on the line and making music. I was insane the first time and even more insane the second, but my God the world needs us.”

Hear, hear.

Words by Theresa Heath

More information on Roundhouse Rising.

Follow Clash: