Women In Music In 2015 - 'Who Run The World'

03 Dec 2015

Following Alison Lamb’s recent round-up of Women in Music in 2015 featured here, readers might be interested to know that a new company has been established in London to help improve the visibility of women in the grass roots music scene.  Who Run The World was launched in August 2015 in response to this issue, which evidently resonates with many talented female artists working to make their own way in music in London today; to-date the company has received over 100 artist submissions in that short space of time in the form of female soloists, female-fronted bands, and bands who include female instrumentalists.

At first glance from the outside, underrepresentation of women in music may not be felt or be a particularly well-known issue facing artists today, with artists such as Adele and Taylor Swift proving themselves great successes in 2015 as the year’s highest selling artists.  However, articles and statistics published in the last few years have brought this very real issue to light – according to The Guardian, only 30% of London’s artists are female, and PRS reported in 2013 that of their membership of over 95,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers, only 13% were female.  This gender divide is also reflected in the business side of the music industry; latest statistics from Creative & Cultural Skills (2012/ 13) revealed that the divide across all music industry related jobs is 67.8% male to 32.2% female.

My name is Beth White, I am a 22 year old singer/ songwriter from north west London with 10 years’ experience as a performing artist, and I am the founder of Who Run The World.  I was inspired to start up the company as a result of my hugely impactful experiences gigging for female promoters in Brighton as a university student – with Vicki Cook of FemRock, and Chuck SJ Hay of Hush Hush.  When I returned to my London home as a graduate, I found that the same experiences frankly could not be found in London’s underground music scene; most of the time I found myself sharing line ups with up to 1 or 2 other female musicians, and in my experience in London, all ‘behind the scenes’ jobs – promoters, sound engineers and venue managers – were occupied by men.  I strongly feel that there is nothing wrong with that per se, though elements such as community support and talent nurturing that I found in Brighton were certainly lacking – and I felt it was high time to bring this to London’s grass roots music scene.

In my experience, I also took issue with most London promoters’ ‘pay-to-play’ model (where artists purchase tickets from promoters to their own shows to sell on), which often leave highly talented yet struggling musicians out of pocket for wanting to perform.  It is my aim that Who Run The World will take on a different format, creating a strong community to promote all of our unsigned artists instead of penalising these artists for wanting to put on a show and share their music with audiences in the capital.

Who Run The World launched at Apples and Pears Bar in Brick Lane, which was filmed live on TV by London Live, and we were granted a monthly acoustic residency show every second Thursday of the month during the launch.  My policy on accepting artists onto our roster is that so long as they are talented women, regardless of their size, race, age or genre, they have a fair shot at gigging with Who Run The World, so we also host full band showcases of varying genres monthly in order to make all kinds of women as visible as possible in as many grass roots music gigs as we can orchestrate.

Our plans for 2016 include building on our strong community by working closely with London universities in their Feminist and LGBT+ societies to bring female-fronted gigs to them as social events – Who Run The World was recently featured in The F Word, a blog for contemporary feminism in the UK, and we have a Valentine’s Day 2016 event in the works for the lesbian/ bi community as an alternative to London’s LBT nightlife, which also characteristically tends to be under-promoted.  We also hope to dip into the festival market in the summer.

As our 100+ artist submissions gives evidence to, lack of visibility for women in music is certainly felt, and I strongly believe women need to take responsibility in redefining the grass roots music scene to have any chance of changing the male-dominant culture of the music industry today as a whole.  A recent BBC Three documentary series by CODA-signed artist Charli XCX brought lack of visibility of women in all sectors of the music industry to light, while Vice reported this year on the lack of female presence in the UK’s festival scene, an issue which spurred the founding of Robomagic’s new monthly showcase called Finding The Female Headliners, that launched on the same night as Who Run The World back in August.

Alison Lamb describes a call to arms for equality for all, across all sectors.  As Who Run The World continues to grow, it is my hope that this can and will be achieved, and such explicit attempts to support women and redefine the industry will no longer be required, as real change will happen for all female artists.  Until such a time, 2015 has certainly proven to be a promising year for women in music, and like all movements or attempts at affective positive change, it has to start somewhere.

Beth White
Who Run The World

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