South By South Sausagefest

Someone tallied the numbers on how many women artists are here at South By Southwest music. I was kind of surprised at the low numbers, because I feel like we’ve seen a lot of female acts (both live, and on the schedule). But in relatively speaking, there are few. Only 388 of the more than 2,000 bands feature even one woman.
(via Jessica Hopper)

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  • BabyPop

    Can I take this opportunity to shamelessly gush over one of my favorite musicians, Alicja Trout, who is playing with one of her bands, River City Tanlines at SXSW this year? (A good interview with her here.)

  • BabyPop

    And we just don’t see enough pregnant women with flying v’s nowadays. :)

  • mwoe

    I am for including women just for the sake of their being women, but you do have to consider that probably less girls (as in youngsters) create bands. Thus fewer total numbers of female musicians of quality.
    The right questions to ask are:
    1. Who was asked but could not make it?
    2. Is there something that repulses / dissuades girls from getting involved in certain music scenes from the production side?
    This is a start on the relevant questions related to the absence of women in SXSW and music in general, from both the performance, criticism and industry perspectives.

  • wax_ghost

    I second what mwoe said.
    Music is a very macho culture that oftentimes will either relegate women to the role of sexualized “groupies”, force women to act like the men to be accepted, and/or treat women badly for “admitting” that they are women. The more established a music scene or type of music is, the worse this gets.

  • brad

    I agree and disagree, there are quite a few female artists who are really good. There just don’t seem to be that many who are just pretty good.
    Anecdotal Example: When I made my top ten albums of 2008 list 4 of the 10 were either female solo artists (Esperanza Spalding, Adele, Santogold) or featured a woman in the band (Alphabeat). But all my honorable mentions were dudes.
    So it probably is a volume issue here. The most gifted still end up in the music industry and make excellent music, so at the top there’s more of a balance, but when you’re trying to fill a festival with 2000 performers, it might be harder to find women.
    I can’t speak to the reasons. . . I just listen to music.

  • brad

    p.s. what’s the female equivalent of sausagefest?

  • SodiumSkies

    So, so sad…
    But I think we can help by supporting women artists — talking them up, buying their music, whatever.
    Here are two bands I’m crazy about. Give them a listen:
    The Organ, “Brother” (there are better videos, but this one is from SXSW 2006)
    Electrelane, “To the East”

  • Ace

    What exactly are you saying?
    Should the organizers skimped on the bands they wanted to attend just so there would be more women there?
    Should the bands themselves only hire female members?
    I’m don’t think that the selection is sexist, I just think that they happened to pick bands that had male members.

  • SodiumSkies

    Urban Dictionary says “Taco Fiesta”/”Taco Fest”.

  • SodiumSkies

    I think Ann is just saying SXSW’s line-up reflects a lack of women in independent music.

  • Ace

    Well, that makes a lot more sense.
    I do see a lot more women in independent bands than in other genres, though, even if they are still a minority.

  • SodiumSkies

    Yeah, I think it’s really encouraging, and a strong point of the genre.

  • Véronique

    Big thanks, SodiumSkies! Even though I’m from Vancouver, I didn’t know about The Organ. Busily downloading from eMusic now. Love this stuff! Shame they broke up. All my favourite bands seem to.

  • anteup

    In the hardcore scene girls are frequently referred to as “coat racks”.

  • phio gistic

    Oh, yeah, SxSW with Jane’s Addiction playing with “Playboy Bunnies” on stage. How cutting edge. Ho-hum.

  • teandoranges

    As someone who started a band and have worked with mostly male musicians, and as daughter of male musician… can honestly say, one of the reasons I’m burned out on music and am on a musical haitus is the sausage-fest… and the fragile egos… and the being invisible or seen as a threat… and being expected to bring a certain type of sexiness into the act… and the list goes on and on.
    I agree with mwoe’s #2 question… and for me, yes, something very MUCH repulsed me about the music scene as a woman. Yes we live in a competive world, but from what I can see, the music industry is still very much male ego oriented and besides the occassional token female, or the uber-sexualized female musician, female musicians are still very much underappreciated, and/or ignored. From my experience musician egos in general are extremely fragile so that doesn’t make it any easier. And obviously, after a life of music coming out my ears, i’m burned out on musicians… including my own musical self.

  • SouthernFeminist

    As another female musician, also from a family line of male musicians, I can tell you I was never interested in music until I became a feminist. My twin brother was in bands in high school and I always viewed that as his ‘domain,’ not that I couldn’t join, but I just never saw any female acts! The first time I saw a punk rock show with a phenomenal female lead singer, I immediately became obsessed. But she didn’t play any instruments, so I seriously lacked role models and riot grrls weren’t in my social scene.
    When I decided to start playing music, I sought out an all-female band. But, my band failed to find any female drummer that ‘clicked’. We struggled as to what to do when our last chick drummer quit, and we ultimately decided we wanted to play more than we wanted it to be an all female group (we’re currently 2 gals, 1 boy).
    I have become involved in rock camp for girls in the hopes that I can help other young talents blossom, in the hopes that the music industry will become more balanced in the future. I mean, I started my band at 23, never picked up a bass until I was 24 and am very lucky to live in a community that supports women artists. So my group, as a female-centric band, has probably had a unique experience of being more welcomed than normal in a really competitive market.
    I still think there is a tendency, as with any oppressed community, to expect the same standards from male and female musicians. Unfortunately though, there are two totally different experiences being had by the two groups. In the rock camp for girls, I’ve noticed that girls are really reluctant to be heard, even in rock camp! Some of this is from normal awkward adolescence, but I think more of it has to do with girls absorbing the signals all around that they have to be perfect in order to try something new. From what I’ve seen, mediocrity is more acceptable in male musicians, there isn’t this need to be ‘excellent’ in order to put yourself out there.
    Part of what we encourage the girls to do is realize they don’t have to be phenomenal to be worthwhile; that their voices and viewpoints are valuable. The music industry may make excuses for the lack of female musicians out there being in some way related to talent, but I think we all know its not. Women still struggle to not be sold for their sex appeal and I’ve seen spoken with many a resentful male musician who thinks its unfair all-woman bands get attention and credibility just for being a minority. Its so competitive out there, I think that rock camp for girls are so important to tip the scales back in the right direction and at least put some young gals on a more level playing field.
    That being said, I do think we should criticize SXSW for not having more female musicians. But what I’d really be interested in seeing is how those numbers of total female representation in the festival has changed… are we seeing an upward trend in the inclusion of women? Now that’d be something to blog about.

  • MrsSXSW

    Hi everyone,
    I’m the one who did the informal tally on SXSW bands that had women personnel. My spouse is a supervisor and director of SXSW events in general, but not of the music festival specifically. There is an entire music festival staff for that.
    I would like to say that I’m very proud of the work SXSW does because I think it inspires many people.
    I did this study because of my association with Girls Rock Camp Austin. Many bands did not list their names or photos on their band page for SXSW, and sometimes that information wasn’t even on their MySpace page. If a band did that, they weren’t included in any of my final numbers. I have no idea how many acts this may include.
    I think the most useful thing these numbers may show is that when women participate in music, they will most often be collaborating with men. The all-female act is a rarity. Even “solo” artists are backed by a band that may be co-ed or all-male. I plan to use this piece of information when I am talking to people about Girls Rock Camp.
    One thing I can tell you about SXSW’s outreach to women is that the Interactive conference had over 250 women speakers. In fact, it was the rule that if someone was putting together a panel or “core discussion,” one woman or more had to be included. Probably not every panel ended up this way, but the attempt was made. This year, we had the best female participation by SXSW Interactive registrants, ever. Everyone commented on how many women attended the conference and made significant contributions. I myself was very energized by the meetings I attended and the wonderful women I met and listened to.