Researching gender in music: gendered space, female visibility & redesigning environments

Lazer Guided Reporter

In May 2017 I began research for my MA dissertation, Why are there so few female Music Producers?. I spent three months interviewing female members of the music industry in Ireland, and also researching gender in music magazines. Since August, I’ve been adapting the research into a series of articles. This article is the first, and outlines how the initial research question was transformed by what I found, and some thoughts about female visibility in the music industry, and an environment which may be hostile to women.


It is a question that has been doing the rounds for years — where are the female headliners? Where are the female producers, conductors, record label owners? At the top levels of the music industry, where are the women?

It’s a question worth asking, and definitely one worth answering. In case there is anyone with lingering doubts as to whether or not women actually…

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chra – on a fateful morning

comfortzone crystalized

recorded and produced by christina nemec in vienna and horner wald 2016
mastered and cut at dubplates & mastering, berlin 2017

artwork by susi klocker

On her latest release, chra aka Christina Nemec is sketching out a psychogeographical map, that guides you to the border of the internal and external world – ‘on a fateful morning’ lets you enter a sphere where the imaginary and the subliminal cross. Evoking abstract images that transcend reality, chra installs an autarchic time-and-space-continuum of vague, nocturnal beauty. Pastose bass drones, airy ambient synths and processed audio-samples form a hypnotic stream that lets you enter an altered state of mind. By subtly intertwining musical and non musical sounds chra is weaving an intensely atmospheric, poetic tableau of emptied spaces left to our imagination. It’s the pulse of arcane memories that is filling these sonic landscapes, operating deep within our subconscious.

‘on a fateful morning’…

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Women’s Representation in Music

by Elizabeth Keenan


The Leaky Pipeline for Women in Music

  • The “Leaky Pipeline” is a concept most commonly associated with STEM fields. It describes the loss over time of women from certain STEM fields, largely due to gendered stereotypes, that results in their underrepresentation. The “leaks” occur at different stages in the “pipeline”: when girls are discouraged from taking science courses in high school; when they change from STEM majors in college; when they opt not to go to grad school in STEM fields; or when they choose industry options over academic tracks.
  • A similar effect happens in music: while many girls take lessons to learn an instrument or sing, they are less likely to be encouraged into careers where they create music. This is music’s “leaky pipeline”, where women enter careers as performers, rather than as composers.


Can’t women just write music anyway? What’s the big holdup?

  • It’s more complicated!
  • Women are actively discouraged from risk taking.
    • Although older studies categorized men as more likely risk-takers than women, more recent ones have discovered that women also take risks. However, they’re more likely to take risks on behalf of a group rather than their individual needs.1
  • Women are more likely to underestimate their own abilities.
    • Women constantly underestimate their abilities and downplay their successes, while men overestimate theirs.2
  • Men are more likely to mentor other men. Whether it’s fear of sexual harassment lawsuits or the ease of mentoring someone who looks like them, many men do not mentor women.3 In strongly male-dominated areas of music, this can be career-killing.
  • These are structural issues that reinforce the status quo. If men don’t mentor women, it’s less likely that they will see them as equals or creators; this means fewer invitations to perform at gigs. As well, if women feel less confidence in their abilities, they are less likely to put their names forward.

The music industry itself fosters women in certain types of careers, both as businesspeople and as performers.

  • Women have traditionally taken on jobs in publicity, marketing, and other “feminized” careers.4
  • Men dominate the careers based in creativity—such as A&R—and that offer more power to sign artists and shape labels.
  • This male-run industry results in male-heavy programming, from top to bottom. In genres from indie rock to hip-hop, male artists receive the bulk of contracts and promotion. The exception, of course, is pop, which is less critically valued as a genre.
  • Festivals provide an easy illustration of men’s predominance in certain genres. In 2015, a graphic designer deleted all the male-only bands from festival posters. The result was quite stunning.5

Additional barriers in classical music performance:

  • In classical music, female performers and composers face additional hurdles, often steeped in the very tradition in which they work.
  • Until the introduction of blind auditions in the early 1980s, women accounted for about 12% of professional orchestra players in the United States, and zero conductors.6
  • By 2010, the number of women musicians in the major symphony orchestras had reached around 36%. With almost 50% women performers by 2010, the New York Philharmonic and which became one of the first major orchestras to hire a female assistant conductor (Xian Zhang) in 2004.7
  • Because conducting cannot be decided with a blind audition, women still face discrimination. Marin Alsop was the first woman to become a conductor at a major orchestra, and she’s still the only one.8


Valuing composers over performers—and performers over fans

  • In both popular and art music, those who are “performers” tend to receive less credit for their originality or creativity (think how Beyoncé has been disregarded as a songwriter for her collaborative process), while those who are perceived as “creators” (someone like Bob Dylan, who won the Nobel Prize for poetry) receive more credit for their contributions. Historically, in both popular and art music, women’s and men’s roles have been divided along those lines.9
  • Women are more likely to be categorized as fans, rather than as potential musical creators. As a result, they have fewer ways to access the kind of musical training that would lead to a career in music.
  • Typically, instruments like guitar (and yes, DJ equipment) have been associated with male performers. Because women have little representation as performers, teen girls have fewer idols on these instruments. This may be changing, though—Taylor Swift has driven sales of the guitar in the teen girl segment of the market.10

Did you really write that?:

  • Women creators—especially DJs and other popular musicians, whose name is not written in a program and handed out to audience members—frequently get questions about the man behind the curtain.
  • When women participate as creators, men often cannot separate women’s work from their gender. Many men will start to see women as encroaching on a territory that is rightfully for men. A recent example of this in Groove magazine featured DJ Konstantin of the Giegling collective suggesting that women are overrepresented and not as good as male DJs.11

Barriers for women as composers in the art music world:

  • Women composers’ music is underrepresented in classical programming.
  • Women in Music UK has been tracking the representation of women composers and conductors at the BBC Proms (the world’s largest classical music festival) since 1989. In 2017, women accounted for only 7.5% of composers presented.12
  • In the United States, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conducted a survey of the 2015-2016 season for 89 US orchestras. Their findings:
    • Overall, only 1.7% of composers were women.
    • Among living composers, women composed only 14% of the pieces.
    • Literally every female composer in the survey was a living composer.13
  • This 12% figure aligns with film composers, too.14
  • In 2013, Ellen McSweeney posted on New Music Box that an informal survey of Chicago new music programming showed that 63% of the performers were men, while 82% of the music writers were men.15

9 In popular music studies, see Matthew Bannister
10 This story is SUPER SEXIST, but it illustrates the point. The bit at the end about girls taking up guitar because of Taylor Swift is useful.

Live: Carmel Zoum

Fields & Frequencies

Carmel Zoum performed at the Meetup X Corp. event on May 5th 2017. Info:

French-Congolese Berlin-based singer and performer Carmel Zoum, was born in Moscow, grew up in France and has been living in Germany for 13 years. Since her parents are Congolese, the first music to have an impact on Carmel Zoum was “Soukous” – a dance music genre that originated from Cuban Rumba music and the Congo – that gained popularity throughout Africa.

A versatile singer, MC flowing in English and French, Carmel Zoum is a fiery force of nature on the mic, bringing groovy and beautiful melodies and hardcore Dancehall vibes to thrill dance floors. Based in Berlin, Carmel Zoum is mainly known as a dancehall reggae artist, but also works with hip hop, electronic and bass producers.


Official Website



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Event [no.8] – The Other The Self @ INTONAL 2017

New Emergences

For its 8th edition – which will take place at INTONAL 2017 – New Emergences extends a warm invitation to musician, sound artist and curator Julia Eckhardt from Brussels (Q-O2). The other the self was the title of a number of events that were organized by Q-O2 in recent years and culminated in the publication of the book The Second Sound – conversations on gender and music (2017) which Julia Eckhardt will present on this occasion. For the discussion Julia will be joined on the panel by festival artist Susanne Kirchmayr: Electric indigo, from Vienna (female:pressure); by performance artist Helena Engberg from Malmö (potato potato); by Remco Schuurbiers, of CTM Berlin, and Rewire DH; and by the New Emergences team, represented by the composer/performers Fani Konstantinidou, Semay Wu and Anne Wellmer.

29 April, 17:00, IAC, The Red Room

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A recording by a woman from Binga represents the continent on-air

radio continental drift


It was a recording by Lucia Munenge from Sikalenge Ward in Binga, which got to represent (sounds from) the African continent on a WDR3 “open sounds” programm recently: “The Sound of the World” on the field recordings platform radio aporee:::maps. You can find Lucia’s recording on aporee maps here

Sikalenge2 2017-04-03 at aporee

Lucia’s recording was the only recording from the African continent played in the radio show, all other 33 listening samples from the aporee sound maps originated on the other continents. The radio show was dedicated to the aporee radio project by German artist Udo Noll, to its sound maps and audio recordings, which are contributed by listeners from around the world (at the time of this post, 37493 recordings of 32649 places by 1421 contributors with a total audio length of more than 90 days)


Lucia Munenge is one of Zubo Trust’s six community based facilitators who were trained during the radio…

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Guest: Mo Loschelder

Fields & Frequencies

Mo Loschelder presented her festival Heroines of Sounds in November 2016 and shared her experience as a founder of Media Loca Booking Agency in March 2017. Info:

After her studies at Duesseldorf Art Academy from 1985 – 1991 with famous painter Gerhard Richter, Mo Loschelder decided to move to Berlin, where she started to DJ and to collaborate with visual artist Daniel Pflumm and electronic musician Klaus Kotai, organizing the clubs „Elektro“ and “Panasonic”, curating the music program at “Init”, running the label Elektro Music Department and producing LP’s and EP’s under the moniker Kotai+Mo, Los Dos, Mo feat. El Puma and under her own name. From 1994 – 1998 she worked at the record-store Hard Wax where she established the “Strange Music / Early Electronic” section. From 2002 – 2005 she was executive manager at a manufacturing service in Berlin, and in early 2006 started as booking agent…

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Next Meetup: 16th March 2017. Topic: Booking

Fields & Frequencies

✌️ LOCATION: Please send us a message (same as the last time) ✌️
✌️ Open projectors for VJs ✌️
✌️ Open decks for DJs / Live Acts ✌️
On March 16th, we invite you to join us in a discussion and / or party, meet other Berlin-based artists, DJs, VJs and professionals from music industry or just have a beer and chill with us ^_^. This time, we will talk about booking an artist from all aspects: How to be booked as an artist (DJ/VJ/etc), how to be a booking manager, what it takes to successfully run a booking agency and what are the conditions in Berlin and world-wide. Two prominent Berlin based booking agency owners and industry professionals will join us in the discussion and share their professional experience and insight: Mo Loschelder from Media Loca and Annika Weyhrich from fling.
💎7 –…

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radio ground work with women

radio continental drift

…since April, we have been treading a favorite bit of earth again…

the sand roads of Binga Zimbabwe in particular…

very active listening work has kept us under ground since


but, we are scratching the surface of “the world” by now…

ground- and underground radio work with the women of Zubo Trust in Binga has been growing on-air wings…


thanks to women on the other side of the Zambezi /Lake Kariba and thanks to Zongwe FM, community radio in Sinazongwe Zambia


you may listen to our steps in to the audible world HERE


or, catch up with us, elsewhere… like

in pictures here

or, on the Zubo website here

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