Do we want them to act just like men? Aggressive, cutthroat, willing to do anything to make it?
Last Saturday I got into a discussion about a man in the music business. This woman deplored him, I had no problem with him. She said he told off-color jokes, I said men tell jokes like this to each other all the time. She deplored his lack of decorum. I said men who take chances, who are not bound by societal rules, win in the end.
Let’s be clear, this was not a discussion of physical abuse. This was all about style.
As someone once said to me, Mo Ostin, the most respected executive in the history of record labels, had sharp elbows. And he was seen as the mildest! Do women need these same sharp elbows to survive?
I was caught in traffic listening to an NPR show about citing women as experts. The reporters, one a man, the other a woman, said that fewer than a quarter of their quotes were from women. And there were the usual excuses, about men populating the big gigs, men recommending other men as sources, but both reporters agreed that by not being cited, women lost opportunities for recognition, being on panels, advisory boards, and this got me to thinking…
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this woman Saturday night was right. Maybe women interact differently and instead of convincing them to be like us, maybe we need to be more like them.
Now some women have succeeded acting like men. Most famously, Helen Kushnick, who made sure Jay Leno “ate steak” every night, without knowing how she provided it, which in this case meant keeping A guests from other shows.
And I experienced this in the legal business in the seventies and eighties. Women who acted like men. My biggest threat ever came from a woman attorney, still practicing, I was doing a favor for a friend, he was negotiating for a role on a TV show, and when he ultimately didn’t like the terms and decided not to sign, this woman threatened to sue me! I knew she’d never win, after all there was no deal formalized, but who needed the headache, why’d she have to bring out the big guns? Ultimately my friend agreed to an altered deal, the pilot with a household name was made, but it was never picked up. But when I see this attorney’s name, quoted as one of the best, I not only stay away, I say if this is what it’s come to, what kind of world do we live in?
Now it’s fascinating the world we do live in. The pussy-grabber in chief is surrounded by men, and everybody on the other side, i.e. the left, the Democrats, are decrying his every action. But no one on Trump’s team is listening. Kinda like my Twitter feed. I don’t subscribe to the tweets of anybody I don’t agree with, so it’s an endless echo chamber. At least I get the “Wall Street Journal,” to see how the other team thinks, and tune in Fox News on Sirius for the same reason, but most people are so caught up in their own world that they don’t realize there could be another.
I mean women make up half of the population. Are we doing ourselves a disservice by excluding them from gigs, preventing their ascension because they won’t play our way?
The woman I had this conversation with on Saturday night is compassionate, more than any man I’ve ever come across in the music business. She’s loyal, she cares. And there’s no loyalty at a record label, none. What if we stopped saying it was just business and trotted out compassion and loyalty, and stopped trying to screw each other, take advantage of each other?
And I don’t know where the #MeToo line is. Did Al Franken really have to go? And as Dave Chappelle said, if you don’t involve men in the discussion, there will be no progress.
Then again, I was at dinner with Shirley Manson and she decried the clothing and posturing of so many women in this business. They play to raw sexuality, stripping down to almost nothing, playacting in videos and live, do they really have to do this to sell music? And are they doing it for men? Is it another form of prostitution?
There are many issues here. And it’s not as simple as promoting women, which is an admirable goal. Rather, it’s importing female culture into our business. And I’m no expert, I’m a man. But I’ve been thinking about this discussion ever since Saturday night. The male we were talking about is mega-successful, but does that excuse his bad behavior? Not illegal behavior, not behavior beyond the pale, but behavior abhorred by women?
Think about it.
Readers Respond – please note, these comments are unedited for grammar, spelling, and content.
One of the problems is when women act like “men” they aren’t described as acting like a man, but as acting like an unappealing woman. Misogyny runs deep in both men and women. It’s sometimes impossible to recognize it for what it is, but it’s there. An opinionated woman is shrill, a tough negotiator is unseasoned, and a big money maker is “lucky”. Women possess a full spectrum of talents and tacts, but unless they are helping a man get rich, sleeping with a powerful man, or working in an industry controlled by women, they’re criticized for simply having the audacity to be in business at all.
I truly believe the world would be a better place if more women were in charge; see the out of control mega narcissistic ego battle going on between us and N. Korea. How’s that going?
Also for what it’s worth, almost the entire creative team at Kobalt here in LA is comprised of women (has been for a while now), and they are killing it. I think it’s time.
This is an important discussion to have, Bob, thank you for sharing it. In my opinion, we should not tolerate bad behavior from anyone in business or in society. We all know successful people with bad behavior, but we also know successful people with good behavior, so clearly bad behavior cannot be the only road to riches. When we tolerate bad behavior in a person who becomes successful, we enable them to justify their bad behavior as the cause of their success. Their “bad behavior = success” correlation then becomes a self fulfilling prophecy as people continue to allow it to occur. If only more people would follow the rule of this book: The No Asshole Rulehttps://www.amazon.com/dp/0446698202/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_tai_i_OE5bBbMG35HF2
All the best,
Timothy Leary, a man, said it best:
“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition”
One of my touring Pals and I often use language with each other that others find shocking.
Maybe we learned that on the ice playing hockey It’s reserved for each other- equals.
And neither of us would speak to others like that
Being shitty can be part of expressing power- and thats where the problem is.
Allowances are given for those who cannot communicate easily ( on the spectrum which is not uncommon among Artists) or stressed … not causing others stress
Some people choose to be shitty, and for that they do not get to deal with the best qualified people- or they have to pay extra
This is why I hate “equality” in TV and movie roles equated to casting female characters as gun-blazin’, bad guy-blastin’, ball-kickin’ goddesses of violence……all while wearing sexy costumes of course.
The idea is not to drag women down to the bestial hole men dig themselves into. It’s to elevate all of us to show our best selves. Female management and problem-solving styles do tend to cultivate collaboration and cooperation more.
An old, sexist, corny cliche that I find still proves true, is: men simply behave better when women are in the room.
A good one Bob.
Many good points that folks should consider. Sharp elbows and T & A are strange bedfellows but that is the biz and always has been. I often find that strange when I consider that the real greats that I have worked with have always been compassionate, giving, and generous people. When you are actually that good, you don’t have to do that other stuff.
George Kilby Jr.
Great points, Bob!
Right after reading you, I found the following in The Atlantic. The conclusion: “One longstanding avenue for sexism is the exploitation of personal space for bullying. It’s men looming in or getting handsy, pretending to own a woman’s personal space, asserting dominance. As social media has been taking personal space out of more human interactions, it may at least be giving women more room to be heard.”
Years ago I was having a long lunch with the jazz genius Ornette Coleman (there were no short lunches with him.) He was an extraordinary character, not only a man who changed music but a great mind on any number of topics.
Anyway, as we were walking back towards my office after the meal, he stopped suddenly and said, “You know, Chuck, we have to stop using music to sell sex.”
I thought for a moment that he had it the wrong way around, that he meant we had to stop using sex to sell music. Then of course I realized he meant exactly what he said, and that he was right as usual. I’ve never forgotten that quote.
Great column. To answer, “is raw sexuality necessary to sell music:” no.
For every Rihanna there are plenty of failing acts, trying to use sex to sell. Rihanna is at the pinnacle of mainstream culture. She is frequently naked “playacting.” Would you say she’s a less legitimate artist? I wouldn’t.
Great post …. this is where we should be at in tone on the issue
Until we recognise that equality means equality,not the pick and mix buffet on the female side,then the conversation is stalled and stunted.
Wow one of your great ones . Thanks for this
Maybe if only ruthless pricks – men or women – get ahead in your business, you’re in a shitty business.
Thanks for a great piece, I know many man respect your view and it’s more of what we need. Everyone shouldn’t be the same, its about finding ways to appreciate our differences and the benefits we get as a business, and society, from people having a different perspective.
A Bitch is worst than a Bastard.Women are relentless and in a vendetta mode.
Most men in music are pigs. Leave it at that.
I love that you wrote this. It is a conversation that few people are willing to have and definitely not one that feels safe to most people in a work environment. But the best thing that can come out of this period of new consciousness about women/sexual harassment/gender equity are real conversations and mutual understanding. So, well done.
Yes, strange chaps, women.
YES, It’s the business that has to change, not the women. The same with all businesses. Capitalism creates competition, but we should be able to show that we’ve evolved beyond ‘success at all costs’ into a more sharing, caring culture. Life’s too short…….>for fussing and fighting, my friend.
This is from the wife of one of your subscribers. My husband Jeff often has me read your articles and we enjoy them together .
This is a great write up. What I’m interested to see is how will writing, approach and behavior change because of this idea/realization.
Sincerely a fan,
From JP Hagerty
I love the concept you’re putting forth here. It reminds me of a concept that popped in my head the other day, while discussing the NFL kneel ban. I was explaining the reality that money is at the root of the decision, and it’s too bad and too often that money incentivizes the wrong thing. What if money incentivized us to be better people? To lean toward equality and justice? The thought was so anathema to my current understanding, but I realized that it is indeed possible.
Can we begin to think more like women? Or have we also evolved into something we barely recognize; a more ferocious version of ourselves in order to succeed, to bring home the meat, to take care of our families? Without going into too much detail, my current occupation involves taking gigs for money. There’s many factors, of course, but the trump factor is money. Years ago, I would NEVER NEVER have cancelled on a job once I confirmed it. I considered it in poor taste, no loyalty, didn’t want to let people down, etc etc. Now I go to the highest bidder, rescheduling left and right, knowing the freedom the money provides, which ultimately allows for peace of mind and to spend more time how I choose. Out the window with the ideals, or was it recognizing that the companies, corporations, etc. hiring me couldn’t care less, but yet asked for loyalty with no quid pro quo?
The whole point here is, in the world of business, whether woman or man, it changes you…and in most cases, not for the better.
Greg Chandler Maness
I am glad you are talking about this subject, Bob.
Of course the problem about gender disparity is much deeper than women’s or men’s approach or style in business. Sexism is often unconscious. And that’s why it’s imperative to talk about it. We have to bring the subject to the conscious side.
How many times have women been dismissed, called “anxious”, “emotional”, or asked, “are you on your period”? So generalizing women behaviour or culture can also be harmful. We are all different from each other. Each one has it’s own style.
There are men and women with sexist behaviour. Women in leadership positions are often trivialised or sexualised. Comments like “I loved the dress you were wearing during your speech” or “I wonder who she had to sleep with to be promoted” are very common. Ignoring our ideas and solutions are also frequent.
Sexism exists when people, as a society, believe that women are inferior or inadequate in some way, and because of that they must be treated differently. Enough with that!
Here in Brazil we are also demanding equality.
Best regards from Rio.
From a completely white, not-too-conservative not-too-liberal, female executive in Colorado Springs who reads nearly every book you recommend:
Brilliant blog – perhaps the best I’ve seen on the topic.
Check out the psychoanalytic data (via The The Big Five Aspects) on the differences in the temperaments of men and women.
Jordan B. Peterson has spoken about his online quite a bit…. especially on YouTube.
Paraphrasing here… but the main idea is that men and women are far more the same than they are different… and the differences aren’t a matter of good vs. bad. That said, it’s really more about which temperamental differences have utility in various contexts. Couple with the fact that those relatively small differences, become hugely relevant at the extremes.
Given the fact that women tend, on average, to be higher in trait agreeableness than men, they don’t tend to inhabit or thrive as often in jobs that require a highly disagreeable temperament… though some do!… also, on average, men or more interested in things, and women in people. This helps explain things as well.
These aren’t my ideas, but what I’ve learned that the data shows… and it makes sense and resonates as true in my own experiences. I’ve been a professional in the music business since about 2001… and by far, the women I’ve encountered in high positions at labels and publishing companies have tended to be extreme outliers in terms of how disagreeable and aggressive they’re personalities were in comparison to women I’ve known in other areas of my life… just anecdotal there… but it seems to me, that in a dog eat dog business, you gotta be a dog or you get barked away. It’s worth mentioning that the less disagreeable/aggressive women I’ve encountered in the music business were more sensitive, nurturing and artistically tuned in (which makes sense of course)…. but they were also often in lower level positions (in terms of the corporate structure) and often didn’t stay around for along… Again, just anecdotal.
To echo Peterson, I’m a fan of competence!! Man? Woman? Who cares… I just want to work with people who know what they’re doing and are ethically above board.
Duh, of course
I think you’ve got it wrong when you describe the issue as “importing female culture into our business.” It implies that there are two sets of business norms — ones that men prefer and one that caters to women. Women don’t need to be coddled. They can enjoy coarse banter and dish it out. The culture that suppresses the elevation of more women in executive positions — especially in the music business — is more subtle, more insidious. It happens when bosses hold meetings that morph into social events that, by their nature, make it hard for women to participate. Dinner meetings that linger with multiple rounds of drinks or move to bars or start at clubs that drag into hours after midnight. The quantity of liquor alone changes the vibe, the expectations of interaction among attendees. It’s not even that most women don’t drink as hard as men. It’s that many women, especially those in their 30’s and 40’s when a career should start to climb higher ladders, have other responsibilities — marriages, children. The men might be great husbands and fathers. But, women have a more direct, primary responsibility in most families. Bosses that create expectations for socializing and bonding in these ways marginalize many women.
Well, today’s female rappers are aping the male rappers…
Watch Lil’ Tay’s “Got Da Money”..A 9 year old Asian Canadian, “making it rain”, with dollar dollar bills, ya’ll..Bragging about owning and driving a “lambo”..Hitting the crack pipe, and decrying da hoes..
You heard me right..NINE years old. It’s a Trainwreck you can’t not watch..Just when we thought we’d hit rock bottom as a culture, as a SPECIES, with Dr. Phil guest turned internet star turned signed recording/touring artist Bhad Bharbie, we’ve sunk even lower..
Bhad Bharbie’s “song”, “I Got It” shows her brandishing cash money, bragging about all her fleet of cars, and decrying da hoes..I’ll bet Cardi B’s “music” is much of the same..
While you’re at it, check out JLo’s new video, “Dinero”..It’s about, you guessed it, having lots of money..She’s got money to burn, literally, igniting her charcoal grill with “Benjamin’s”..She’s pushing 50, but is desperate to capture that ‘tween market..
Welcome to the “Year of the Woman”!
Thanks for another thought provoking piece.
I don’t think expecting men to be more like women is the answer. It does appear we are living in an age where men are treated as though they are dysfunctional women (insensitive, “don’t get it,” etc.), replacing an era where the converse was true (remember when “women drivers” was a
pejorative?) Each gender has its own unique strengths as does each individual. Beyond that, we might be better served to differentiate between traditionally feminine and masculine qualities (or “energies” if you prefer) rather than assuming that all men or all women are a particular way. It is a scientific fact that individuals from both genders have a unique blend of both “male” and “female” hormones which predisposes to specific perspectives and behaviors. All of us, no matter our gender identity, will benefit from developing and demonstrating more compassion for our fellow travelers. As you’ve said many times, no one has “the answers.” We’re all trying to figure it out.
It’s a two way street. Suck it up buttercup. You don’t have to like that guy’s behavior, but apparently he knows what he’s doing. Not everyone is going to like each other or get along. But be professional and respectful to each to other.
If a woman acts like a man, she’s considered a bitch. If she doesn’t, she may miss out on opportunities she is well qualified for. Importing the female culture is important, but they have to be ready to except the harshness of doing business. That’s just reality.
“I said men who take chances, who are not bound by societal rules, win in the end.” Hmmm.. #MAGA ? haha
More often than not, I am embarrassed by my gender.
I think about it all the time. Only a fool would deny a woman an opportunity because of her gender.
I have been having many similar thoughts over the past year. And not just related to the music business. What is true equality? I’m not talking about support when it is convenient or popularized or understood within existing personal reference frames. I’m talking about true recognition and acknowledgment and acceptance.
I’m an artist manager from Romania and I run a music business conference and showcase event in Bucharest.
Lately I got to talk a lot about the role, the attitude and future of women in music business with my friends, colleagues and artists.
I do believe that we, women, should learn some tactics from man. We are sometimes too apolegetic, too emotional and not bold enough. At the same time, I believe we bring to the table something that most man might not be able to: loyalty to our artists and a sense of responsibility that’s not driven by ambition and power.
In Europe, there’s a movement initiatied by the PRS Foundation (http://keychange.eu/). They want to achieve a 50-50 balance between male and female artists at festivals. I’ve also seen that conference organisers are very concerned with having at least one woman in each panel. This year, at Mastering the Music Business, our music biz event, when I sent her details about her panel and fellow speakers, a female booking agent asked me how is it possible that she’s the only woman, that this was not right. This got me by surprise because I never thought about it. We are more women than men in the event’s team and we had other panels with more women than man or even only women. But it happened naturally, without thinking on achieving some balance.
As I said before, yes, women need a small push sometimes (especially because man are usually louder and faster and more ambitious). But I would not like to be asked to express an opinion or join a conference panel ONLY because I’m a woman. I want to do it because I’m good at what I do and I’ve got something to say.
Best from Bucharest,
Thanks for addressing this again, it’s a tough topic with no easy answers. That said, some thoughts are below.
We need to stop making sweeping generalizations about what men and women act like.
Success does not excuse bad behavior. Can’t we figure out how to hold each other accountable to act like decent humans AND enjoy success?
Finally I will ask – does anyone really want this business to look, act, and feel the same? I certainly don’t – that sounds like a recipe for complacent, stagnant echo chambers (and ripe for takeover by those with more progressive views). Instead, let’s import femaleculture into ourthe business (and hats off to all those who are trying).
Ideally it would be viewed as behavior abhorred by people, not just women. Only then will we start evolving together and people like that (hopefully) start checking themselves. Or maybe we could all take Sturgill Simpson’s advice – “I woke up this morning and decided to kill my ego.”
Wild, weird world we live in.
“Import female culture into our business” uhhhh its been going on for decades… what do you think will happen when the music industry is one safe space and nobody ever experiences that rush of taking on a risk? Don’t kid yourself the music industry is safe, even if there is no loyalty at a label…do something about it… make it work…nobody said it was going to be easy.
Your friend you spoke to Saturday night who had a problem with off color humor should look into a thicker skin, but then again why would she when slowly but surely there is nothing to be afraid of? The edge is dull and generic, safe spaces dominate because ironically strong and empowered individuals need a tremendous amount of safe space to operate. Its nice to know that your friend is so compassionate in such a difficult business…perhaps she will sacrifice having a family so she can make her mark in the industry….without great sacrifice there will be no great victories.
oh and just a side note…you fear for females because some of us are on a road to “rough elbows” like the big boys? Don’t worry, women have the capacity to destroy without a second thought..that is something that is every female wether she realizes or not.
Best to you always Bob,
“Act just like men”… Not only are you stereotyping all men as “Aggressive, cutthroat, willing to do anything to make it” but you’re also saying women can’t naturally be those things. They have to “act” like that, but they can never actually be that.
I love your letters and read all of them. This idea/letter definitely needs more work and perspective from all parties. As a (young, 24 year old) woman in the industry, I’ve felt both hurt and encouraged by the men around me in in this industry. You gotta play the cards you’re given and if you’ve got the passion for it, you run with it. I can’t help I was born a woman, but I also can’t help that I’m naturally aggressive (assertive, really). I can tell you right now, at no point in my day am I actively trying to “act like a man”. (Although most people already assume I am via email because my name is Rudi).
Let’s turn this one into a podcast episode!
Best wishes from Nashville,
Hi Bob, as a journalist, I do not care who I quote, man or woman. That said, I do find women to be more hesitant and cautious than men when it comes to dealing with reporters and providing quotes. For me, sometimes if comes down to who returns my call quickest or who provides the most interesting, pithiest or downright controversial statements/positions. I find men are more willing to take chances and stake out a position and that is at least part of the reason they are quoted more often and become regular media sources.
You know, I read this yesterday and let it go by, but thought about it again when I had a business transaction with a man I know earlier today. This man can be very brusque, and has only had one relationship with a woman in the almost forty years I have known him. He berated me today when I asked about being paid for work I had already submitted, and I was certain that he would not have treated me in such a way had I been a man. I started to think about it, and I don’t recall many men having worked for him at all, so perhaps he feels that it is easier to not pay women on time because they are more easy-going. I never thought about it before.
Thank you for writing this.
I own a small tour support/bus company.
I have 5 buses in my fleet.
Couple of observations on the current landscape on female touring personnel There are more and more sound guys who are actually sound gals. They’re way easier to tour with. Devoid of the “salty, know it all” sound guy stereotype. Equally competent behind the desk.
The best tour managers are female. I’m married to one. But since January 60% of the tours I’ve done are run my female TMs. They’re way way more organized than the guys.
Maybe this is a sexist (reverse sexist since it’s a compliment) statement, but I think this is part of the female DNA. To keep things organized.
I will say, male TMs seem to have a better ability to remain calm when things go wrong, or unexpected things occur. But overall the females win as TMs go.
On my 5 buses, I have 3 female drivers. This is almost unheard of in the tour bus world.(I know of 2 other female tour bus drivers who don’t work for me) Bands love them. They drive slower and more carefully than the dudes. They’re easy for me to manage and work with. They’re polite.
Of the 3 only 1 is equally competent to the guy drivers in terms of mechanical aptitude. This is a tough area, because buses need constant mechanical attention on the road, and it’s been a bit of a challenge to work through mechanical issues with the ladies. There’s a logic to mechanical things. The generator is overheating. When did it start? Have you checked the coolant? Is the exhaust fan working? Did you trip a breaker? These things are (sex bias here, but these are observations) typically the mindset of the guy.
The key trait I appreciate in the females in the touring world is they are WILLING.
They aren’t entitled, or lazy or salty or jaded. Many tour guys are.
It’s a hard life. I get it. I live it.
Female touring pros are a game changer as far as I’m concerned.
As a side note. I’ve been touring non stop (literal 360 days/ heat for 4 years straight) while building my business. I log long hours driving. 90% of the new music I listen to is female. Hop Along, A Giant Dog, Brandi Carlisle, Angel Olsen, Neko Case, Tancred, Alex Lahey, Lissie ( the last 2 on my buses now). It seems to me that female artists are the only ones these days who’s music packs the emotional punch. Guys overthink music to the point where it’s lost that.
Said as a guy. A drummer guy. And a touring guy who owns some buses Keep doing it Bob Ian Lee
Bob, you have done some great work championing underdogs, speaking up for people of color, women, artists on the fringe… I always wish for more of this but I’m grateful for anyone who isn’t afraid to take a stand or ask hard questions in addition to their usual work. The quote I reference from you above is something that struck me… “just business” … at this point in history it is hard for me to understand why anyone would use this as a rationalization for anything….This ‘what if’ of yours is something women have been asking for a very long time…(props to Hannah Arendt for decrying the banality of the “just doing my job” work ethic). But I don’t see it as an either/or in favor of men or women. I see it as a call to recognize the need for compassion in general… and for men to embrace this quality in their work is to acknowledge that all beautiful things have a fragility that will not stand up to abuse. If these beautiful things are not recognized and valued, they will eventually go away — and we are perilously close to that point. So, with all very due respect, how is it that someone with your awareness of such inequities would even have to ask this question? Are people still wondering? Because it’s way past midnight, folks. Please do what you have to do to wake up from the delusion that being a dick is ok in the name of ‘just doing your job’.
Thank you for addressing this topic! AND, considering how smart you are, I’m a bit surprised that this hasn’t occurred to you before now. We are all far too comfortable believing and/or behaving as if men are the gatekeepers of the music business and they get to decide who is let through the doors of power and that this is how is SHOULD be. Music is for everyone and should be represented by everybody. I am a female agent at a boutique agency and will say that being a woman in the music business is VERY DIFFICULT.
1) Show business was founded by men at a time when women were regarded as mothers, socialites, supporters but NOT workers. The model of business relied on backroom deals, bravado, drinking/cigar smoking, winks and pats on the back. You get the picture. It’s one that women were not a part of and generally were not allowed to enter. If you read Frank Rose’s book “The Agency” you will get the complete picture.
2) We have not come very far from that model only now the players are predominantly a) old school guys who still rely on this type of mentality. Mostly now we feel sorry for them because they are stuck in the past and still believe that record deals matter. But they get plenty of respect to their faces and still wield power. b) Middle aged power brokers that fill the halls of CAA, William Morris, etc. c) Young guys who perpetuate the “bro” culture. It sounds something like this: “Hey, dude! Do me a solid and put “Xyzddhipster” on the line up this year. You know I’m good for it. Got some killer weed for the after hang. Love ya bro’!”
3) The business has always and still does rely on a mentality of success that requires a 24/7 work ethic. You eat, sleep, breathe the music business and this is a matter of pride. You must sacrifice your life, any sense of balance as a human being, otherwise you are not serious about the job. For historical AND biological reasons related to child rearing, this is not reasonable for the majority of women. How many women with multiple children do you know who can be out 6-7 nights a week looking for the next new thing never mind drinking/smoking at the after show hang? Or flying all over the world with their bands and/or to schmooze with managers, tastemakers, etc? You have to be visible to succeed in this business and that doesnt only apply to artists.
4) Women who are succeeding in this business often dont like to look at these historical facts and the exclusion of women in their field. It’s as if they are colluding in some form of female weakness to acknowledge the reality. They are typically strongly anti-feminist and point to their own success as a reason to deny the majority of women’s experiences. Also, and this is the heartbreaking part, even if they do acknowledge discrimination in the business, they simply dont have the time to be helpful as mentors or advisors to other women coming up in the industry. Their priority is holding onto what they fought SO HARD to get. Keeping it is a daily battle.
I get it. Lots of women aren’t comfortable talking about money. We weren’t brought up to do that. We also weren’t expected to stand our ground, be confident, persuasive, ask for what we need, foster our intelligence, speak directly and with authority. We need to take personal responsibility here. Simply whining about this situation won’t further our cause. At the same time, we need to acknowledge the real discriminatory culture of the business in order to make any significant change. Men in the business need to give a shit about this. There needs to be some shift in values as you indicate in your piece. Loyalty, compassion, even kindness (!) need to matter in the music business. And please, if you are a woman who has success in the industry, take a look around you. Even if you have never experienced blatant discrimination, I guarantee you that the woman sitting across from you has. Either way, she would greatly benefit from your advice and experience.
I think this relates to what you’re saying. Why is music still so top heavy with men playing most of the instruments? I had an epiphany recently, looking back at my history playing in bands.
It was a reflection on collaborating and rehearsing. That there might be in many cases, a different approach to getting things done. My starting point was always listening to the other members in the band. Then I would sit around “waiting” for everyone to listen to me, so they could engage with the ideas I was coming up with. That time never came. But I always found a way to fit in, and that became my normal mode of operation. Catch the wave of what others were doing, interact with it dynamically as I could to better the whole.
Generally, the guys’ head space was virtuosic. Each one came in ready to impress and unload and unleash their impressive chops. My natural inclination and personality type was not to seek the spotlight. It was to support the spotlight and seek pleasurable sounds that supported theirs. To some extent, that was really fun and I’m grateful they let me play. But on some level, I always, without fail, felt that they were “letting me play”. Just like when my brothers would pull together a pickup game of football, and “let me play” even though I was littler.
I wonder if in my youth I had either had more ability to elbow my way in with instrumental prowess, or if the reverse, I had found guys who approached music more slowly and interactively and cooperatively, if I would have achieved my dream of being in a touring band. As if were, I retreated finally, on the brink of losing my voice, to my own recording space, which turned into a commercial studio, and I, into a producer.
This in and of itself has been a hard road to walk as a women, with men reluctant to relate to me in a collegial manner I assume because its just too complicated for them emotionally. I now know my work is good, but I had to find that out on my own. Very much alone, walking my own road, with allies of all genders who, in my studio, worked with me according to my style. I set the work tone in my studio, which is always comfortable, collaborative, musical and where everyone gets a gold star A+ for effort.
Thanks for continuing to talk about this. It can be very subtle but very much define the course of a woman’s career trajectory in music.
Thunder Ridge Records
Great column Bob. I thought in my A&R career I had to act like my mentors, Ahmet Ertegun and Doug Morris. And I did.
As women we are condemned for the same behavior as the men. It’s gender hypocrisy. I have worked for Atlantic, Giant, RCA, Relativity, & Columbia records.
I have seen and experienced it all. Illegal activity, physical, and sexual abuse. Cruelty. Gaslighting, manipulation, aggression, and even threatened. Usually fired when I complained. No payouts, just blacked balled. A miracle happened and I hid in plain sight at Columbia for 10 years.
I decided in 2015 to write my story, the truth, even the parts about my own enabling of the legends. I worshipped these men. It took time to get an agent and I got a deal in April 2017 before Harvey Weinstein. That’s how it works for regular people.
It’s out this September. The icons exposed for their greed, and abuse, and discrimination. And also the men that actually care, and help woman succeed without wanting anything from them, like it should be.
They are out there. It took long for me to find these men but they are the music industry’s only hope.
Please continue these conversations. They are necessary. Without men, as women we cannot succeed. They must be involved in the conversation. Peace!
Up to now humanity has been at a point in its evolution where it was in survival mode. We felt we needed to fight to carve out our place in the world, to eat, to prosper & thrive. The default system that we employed during this time in our evolution was the patriarchy. This system has become outdated and out of balance. Greed, sex and power have become the dominant forces in our culture. The masculine has suffered at the hands of this system, as much as the feminine, both inside and outside of ourselves. We need to find balance between these two sides of our nature. We need to develop the ability to both gently conquer and nurture. To combine the logical and Intuitive sides of our being, in a loving balanced embrace, both on a personal level and in society.
If we can develop the ability to use both our masculine and feminine qualities to their full effect, we will reach our potential as humans and free ourselves from the chains of fear that bind us. We must find this balance, the Yin & Yang, the shadow & the light. All humans have a masculine and feminine side. Usually 60% masculine 40% feminine (if you are a balanced man and the opposite for women. Here is a link which explains this perfectly… it’s fascinating!
I am a women who worked in the music business for ten years, first on the industry side and then shifted over to creating music four years ago. I met a lot of wonderful men and women who supported and protected me along the way. I also met plenty of sharks. It is a tough business and there are a lot of players, who play the game hard. It was very intimidating at times and that kind of environment doesn’t bring out the best in people. It just breeds fear and distrust and stresses people out. It effects people’s health and that is unacceptable. Thank you so much Bob for raising this issue.
Love & light,
I’m in the music business now, but I’ve always been in male centric industries, and here’s the thing, it’s the same everywhere…
I’m confident, I’ll ask questions, I’ll challenge what I don’t think is right, and I’ll do things my way. I’ve been fired for it, I’ve been written up for… but I’ve also been celebrated for it, promoted for it, and congratulated for it. You have to find the right ecosystem in which to thrive. There are so many things that have been said to me with a negative connotation that would have been used alternatively with a man:
“You’re a bulldog… be careful with that”
“If you took it from a 10 to an 8, you’d still be better than most… but you should bring it to an 8”
“You’re high risk, high reward… so I’m cautious of you joining my team”
“You were really harsh… you need to show more empathy”
“You have no glass ceiling…but…” (there is always a but) …and I could go on…
The first parts of these statements are 100% correct. Some women would be offended by the second parts, but I’m OK with it, it’s part of the game we have to play. There will probably never be an even playing field, it’s just not how our world works… but if you play the game to your advantage, you can come out on top.
Women will tell me I’m not feminist enough Men will tell me I’m too bold You’re displeasing someone either way, Bob.
And then you have the men that really get it. And as a woman, once you find them, surround yourself with them. Yes, women need to empower women, but MEN need to empower women too, and women need to let them do it. They aren’t all bad.
The partners at my company tell me when I’m wrong, as they should, but they’ll teach me how to be right, and then they’ll empower me to make decisions and do it on my own. No bullshit about the fact that I’m a woman, or what that means when it comes down to running a huge piece of business.
These men who are “deplorables”, they are usually deplorable human beings, and everyone knows it. It’s not just towards one person or another. I think we’ve seen this pretty clearly in the “Me Too” allegations. Are any of them major surprises? Not to most of the people who know them.
So… I say…
For the men – get over it, empower them, partner with them, your lives will be better for it.
For the ladies – it’s all about the Maggie Kuhn quote “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” But dammit, take the support when you can get it.