We interviewed four Female AMS students about the female artists inspiring them and how they feel about being a woman in the music industry in 2020.
For International Women’s Day 2020 we spoke to 4 female students studying at various AMS centres and on our online programme. They discussed the female artists who have inspired them the most, and spoke about the struggles and obstacles of being a woman in the music business today.
Are there inequalities? Do they feel that they have the same opportunities as men? What would they like to see change in the industry?
We spoke to four students; Isla, a Glasgow student, Chloe, a second year vocal student studying in Exeter, Astrid (who performs under the name Milly Eon), a final year student on the AMS Online production course, and Hannah, a first year Edinburgh HNC student. Each student gave measured and interesting responses, drawing on their personal experiences and wider issues in the music industry – everything from representation, diversity, expectations and opportunity was covered. Interestingly, the largest and weightiest section of the interview comes after we asked the students – “what challenges have you faced within the industry?”
But it’s not all doom and gloom; it’s International Women’s Day and there’s plenty to be celebrated in regards to female talent, progress, and otherwise unrecognised hard work within the sector! The students spoke about some of their favourite female artists and who is inspiring them right now; they also spoke about what they would like to see change in the industry, and commented on the positive progress that is being made.
Dive in and enjoy… Oh, and Happy International Women’s Day.
Which female artists are inspiring you right now?
Isla: “Amy Winehouse, Birdy and Ella Henderson have been massive inspirations throughout my music journey so far. Particularly Ella Henderson – she has massively inspired the way I write. I feel her way of writing music and lyrical content is extremely emotive and beautiful.”
Astrid: “Missy Elliot! She’s one of my main influences at the moment. I also love Queen Latifah, although I haven’t heard anything recently that she’s done, but i’ve heard some of Missy Elliott latest tracks, she seems to stay quite relevant which is what I really like about her. She always stays current and I think I draw most of my inspiration from her. She’s my main go-to female producer at the moment.”
Hannah: “Although our voices, image and style are so different, Amy Winehouse has inspired me in many ways. Her singing style is unique, and you cannot categorise her into one genre, which, in my own way, is what I aim for in my career. People know me as an indie-folk singer, but I also like to mix in some blues and soul vibes! What I love about the way Amy sings is how much heart and passion is put into her songs. Her voice is rich with emotion, which is what sets her apart from singers of the same genre. I love the way her songs are brutally honest. They have been written for more than commercial reasons and the emotive way she sings them tells her story, which is what I aim for.”
Chloe: “Beyonce is someone I have always been someone who has inspired me to push myself and believe in myself. She stands up for women’s rights, empowers women and changes people’s lives.. From when she was in Destiny’s Child, to now as a solo artist she’s continued to inspire me with her song writing, morals, family values and singing. She helped me a lot with things like body empowerment, loving myself and realising it’s okay to be different!”
What about when you were getting into music for the first time?
Isla: “I wish I had more female musical influences growing up but unfortunately this wasn’t the case.”
What barriers are there for women in the music industry today?
Isla: “Women don’t have as many opportunities within the industry as men, which is extremely disappointing as there are so many young women who have so much drive and passion for being a full time musician, but don’t always have the same chances as men.
“Sometimes men are seen as ‘more capable’ when it comes to performing and producing – women have different qualities and talents that men don’t. I think so many more women are needed within the industry to help girls who are growing up to understand that the things they’re going through are or were experienced by us as well.”
Astrid: “It’s very male dominated – especially areas like electronic music.”
Isla: “Diversity is so important because it allows everyone to be seen as an individual regardless of gender, race, sexuality… Diversity allows people to be unique without feeling the need to label themselves as something they’re not and this is something in which the younger generations need to be exposed to.”
“When I started producing I was often mistaken for the singer. It’s a stereotype in the industry that females are usually assumed to be the vocalist rather than a producer.”
Have you faced any challenges within the industry?
Isla: “I have faced many challenges in terms of setbacks both in music and personally, I have struggled massively with my mental health and believing in myself. I have doubted my abilities from time to time but I always take these as learning curves and topics in which I can develop lyrical content from. There are always positives to take from these negative times and many of my favourite songs in which I have written have come off the back of these harder times.
Hannah: “It could be down to the folk genre that I’m part of that attracts lovely and open people, but in my experience, I have always been very welcome as an artist. I have noticed though that the industry seems to attract more males than females in general. For example, in my college, there is a high ratio of males to females. I couldn’t say why this was though!”
Astrid: “When I started producing I was often mistaken for the singer – It’s a stereotype in the industry that females are usually assumed to be the vocalist rather than a producer, there’s a lot of that kind of thing going on! I’ve had people contact me on Soundcloud and say ‘bro how you doing’ – and I’m like woah, I’m a female not a male! What gave you that idea?”
“They are often shocked and skeptical when they find out I’m actually the engineer; there’s quite a lot of scepticism from male singers that I’ve come across, only to find out that they really like my work and they really like how I’m able to tune into their production and their vocals…”
“I guess it goes with the stereotype of assuming women can’t do a male’s job, and then the shock of finding out your production skills! It’s like looking at a female mechanic – you assume it to be a male’s role – and then you find out a female is going to fix your car, so it’s that initial shock, or disruption to your expectation – the seemingly out of the norm…”
“There is so much media influence on the appearance of female musicians – it doesn’t matter about height, weight, acne, scars and stretch marks, or their past. All that should matter in music is the voice and the story the person is trying to tell.”
What would you change?
Astrid: “I would like to see a lot more female producers in the industry, I’d like to see a lot of female engineers as well – I don’t know why that is the way it is, you know, why it is so male dominated? It’s an interesting thing really.
Isla: “I would love to see more performance opportunities such as on stage at festivals like the Queen Tuts stage at trnsmt festival – who’s to say females can’t be on the main stage at gigs like this? I believe women can bring so much maturity and be the voice for so many people out there who are afraid to speak upon how they feel when addressing certain topics!”
“Who’s to say females can’t be on the main stage at gigs like this?”
Is there progress being made for women in the industry?
Isla: “I think progress is being made, but sometimes we are still pushing to be heard which can be difficult , especially for younger women. There is so much media influence on the appearance of female musicians – it doesn’t matter about height, weight, acne, scars and stretch marks, or their past. All that should matter in music is the voice and the story the person is trying to tell. Artists like Billie Eilish are doing it for us women right now, but I feel we all have so much more to give than people could even think.”
Hannah: “I can’t think of any instances where I have been treated differently because I am female. I am not saying that sort of thing doesn’t exist, but I think we have come so far and it’s great and we should celebrate that.”
Astrid: “From my experience it seems to be still very male dominated, and there seems to be many more female vocalists than there are female engineers or producers. I’ve not seen many female producers at all.
“I guess it goes back a long way – plenty in history of female inequality! There’s still lots of changes to be made. There’s more to be done, definitely.”
Check out Isla, Chloe, Hannah and Astrid (Milly Eon)’s music on their social channels: