"I hope that this will result in more support for gender diversity in senior positions and give the younger generation of music industry hopefuls confidence in the opportunities that they'll have in the future."
Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino dubbed 2017 "the year of male consequence" following the rise of the #MeToo campaign. Jessica Dale explores the issue and how this has, and will, influence the Australian music industry.
"The way I found my voice in discussing this grotesque problem is because I am one of those women. I'm a woman who works in an industry that clumps all women together and treats us like we're a 'genre'. A girl with a guitar is not just a human being standing on a stage - she is quite literally a girl with a guitar… who will be referred to as such on numerous occasions and asked millions of times what it 'feels like' to be herself."
This is just some of the op-ed Best Coast frontwoman Bethany Cosentino shared with Billboard in November last year. She concluded with the claim that, "If 2016 was the year we elected a grabber-in-chief, consider 2017 the year of male consequence."
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2017 saw a big shift for the entertainment industry and maybe Cosentino wasn't all that far off with her "year of male consequence" claim. The #MeToo campaign quickly gained prominence on social media feeds across the world, following, in particular, allegations surrounding producer Harvey Weinstein. The campaign encouraged women, celebrity or not, around the world to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault to demonstrate how widespread the issue is.
It wasn't long until the campaign's grasp hit Australian shores, with more and more Australian musicians sharing their own experiences; one of the most influential voices came from The Preatures' frontwoman Isabella Manfredi.
"Perhaps the greatest clarity this unfolding story has given me is some perspective on my own experiences in the music industry, mostly in, but not confined to, America. There was the touchy-feely US booking agent whose behaviour became so inappropriate that the boys told our manager to keep him away from me (I felt embarrassed to do this myself). Or the head honcho who, when meeting the band, looked me up and down and licked his lips before turning to the guys to shake hands and talk 'business' (we were all stunned)," shared Manfredi in a post to social media in October.
The post continued to detail more circumstances of the same inappropriate nature, before Manfredi concluded with, "I'm sharing this because I don't want the next generation of women coming up in the music industry to face this kind of morally ambiguous, second-guess-yourself crap. It's not on. On this album cycle I've been asked, does sexism in the music industry still exist, and what does it look like? I think it's time to compile our experiences, however subtle, and give it a face," and an encouragement for people to share their stories with her…
Concurrent to the #MeToo campaign, Chugg Entertainment already had Australia's first-ever all-female stadium tour in the works, with managing director Susan Heymann at the helm of the two shows in Sydney and Melbourne with Sia, Charli XCX, MO and Amy Shark.
"When we decided to take Sia into stadiums, we knew we wanted to make this an event rather than just another concert and more than just a great package, we wanted to tell a story. The first all-female line-up in a stadium gave us that story," explains Heymann.
"There was no shortage of great options for talent, we must have contacted 15 to 20 acts before confirming the final bill. It was just a matter of bringing together the right line-up of artists, who complemented each other and delivered an incredible and full night of music."
Heymann says that the reaction to the line-up, and the event being the first of its kind for Australia, was "resoundingly positive".
"The media referenced this aspect of the show in almost all of the press and the audience responded positively," she continues. "It was especially great to see so many young girls at these shows, with their families and their excitement at attending an all-female concert event."
Creating an equal and gender-balanced music industry was one of the largest talking points at last year's BIGSOUND conference. When asked if enough is being done to make the music industry a more inclusive place in light of this, Heymann is more than aware of the current landscape.
"There is always more to be done, but it feels like things are changing. I can only speak for my immediate environment and Chugg Entertainment has female representation in almost all departments of the business and most of the senior positions are filled by women."
"This movement [#MeToo] is going to influence all industries on a global level, it's started an important conversation. I hope that this will result in more support for gender diversity in senior positions and give the younger generation of music-industry hopefuls confidence in the opportunities that they'll have in the future."
Moving to 2018, and the confidence Heymann references isn't hard to find. #GrammysSoMale trended following this year's award ceremony, after Recording Academy President and Chief Executive Officer Neil Portnow told Variety that women need to "step up" if they want more awards. Sheryl Crow and Pink were among the most vocal in calling him out, with Pink taking to Twitter to say, "When we celebrate and honour the talent and accomplishments of women, and how much women step up every year, against all odds, we show the next generation of women and girls and boys and men what it means to be equal, and what it looks like to be fair." Portnow later backtracked his words saying, "Regrettably, I used two words, 'step up,' that, when taken out of context, do not convey my beliefs and the point I was trying to make."
Closer to home, Melbourne trio Camp Cope altered their song The Opener (a track already about inequality in the music industry) to call out Falls Festival for the lack of female representation on the line-up while performing at the event. Courtney Barnett has used her latest single, Nameless, Faceless, to touch on the fear of walking home in the dark alone in the lyric, "Men are scared that women will laugh at them/I wanna walk through the park in the dark/Women are scared that men will kill them/I hold my keys/Between my fingers," while Manfredi appeared on a special edition of ABC's Q&A program to discuss the #MeToo movement and the reaction she received from her post.
"When I put my post up on Instagram, [I] invited people to contact me via email. And I got over 200 emails within the space of two weeks, under two weeks. And, you know, quite a few of those stories were, clearly, prosecutable. They were clearly breaches of legality," Manfredi explained to host Virginia Trioli.
"So, in those cases, I did my best to consult those women on, 'What would you like to do? Would you like to take this any further?' But it is a huge - I mean, it's a huge step. And it goes back to that thing before, saying, no woman wants to be known as that girl, the sexual harassment girl, you know? She wants to be known for what she's doing a good job for."