Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today

We asked hundreds of women working as musicians today to tell us what it's like right now: the good, the bad and the same as it ever was. Read their responses, find new music and join the discussion.

Photo of Eternia courtesy of the artist
 

I balk at being asked to play 'Women Festivals' and other such things. I don't want to be playing in what I feel are patronizing attempts to rectify the balance between the exposure men and women get. But I am acutely aware of the disparity in chances and exposure.

 
Photo of Hiromi Wiqan Ang
 

All the festival artist T-shirts are men's size.

 
Photo of Betse Ellis of The Wilders courtesy of the artist
 

I can appreciate physical beauty on stage, but I think music is supposed to transcend normal ideals.

 
Photo of The Coathangers courtesy of the artist
 

Critics describe what you were wearing at the show as opposed to what you sounded like.

 
Photo of Emma Anzai of Sick Puppies courtesy of the artist
 

I'd say that women musicians these days (because of the economy and how the industry is in recent times) need to be more thick-skinned and adaptable, you have to be cool with sharing buses, rooms, etc.

 
Exene Cervenka of X Ali Smith
 

I think younger women, in their teens and twenties are becoming more visible in the arts, and are becoming more comfortable with being themselves vs being a sex object.

 
Photo of Deborah Voigt Angel Records/Joanne Savio
 

Overweight men in opera, who sang lead roles, could pretty much expect to be judged on their voice and their acting, with no mention of their size. But a large woman would always be criticized for her size.

 
Photo of Poni Silver of The Ettes Heidi Ross
 

Mostly, you deal with people saying things like, 'You know, I don't really like female drummers but you're alright!' As if that's some sort of compliment and I should take comfort in their new found respect for a singular female artist.

 
Photo of Paz Lenchantin of The Entrance Band Virginia Lai
 

Lemmy once told me..it's all about being at the right place at the right time.

 
Photo of Rachel Flotard of Visqueen courtesy of the artist
 

I started a record company, then signed myself.

 
Photo of Tierney Sutton courtesy of the artist
 

I tell my students: 1. Don't sleep with him if you want him (or her) long term in your band and 2. Don't forget to have kids.

 
Photo of Bettye LaVette Carol Friedman
 

I see differences between women after the 1970s. Women entertainers were suggestive until then. Women have become way too salacious since then. There is little left to the imagination.

 
Photo of Madi Diaz courtesy of the artist
 

I'm forever greatful to the women who spearheaded the women's rights movement to lead our gender to a place where I could feel that it is entirely possible to succeed on every level in my career.

 

By The Numbers

Women musicians referenced as role models (for better or worse):

  • 33 Joni Mitchell
  • 20 Janis Joplin
  • 15 Madonna
  • 14 Patti Smith
  • 11 Lady Gaga
  • 2 Miley Cyrus

By The Numbers

How did you choose your instrument?

  • 132 My family introduced me
  • 28 Learned it in school
  • 4Learned it in church
  • 10 Dated a guy who played it
  • 43 It chose me

By The Numbers

Do you work full-time or part-time as a musician?

pie chart

  • 63% Full-time
  • 37% Part-time

By The Numbers

  • 32

stories about a sexist "sound guy"

Tell Us About...

Share your reactions, stories, ideas and criticisms and leave questions for the musicians at our Facebook discussion board.

Your Thoughts »

Recent Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today

The leather-clad, self-taught  axeslinger riffs on Beethoven and <em>Revolver</em>'s Hottest Chicks in Metal.

October 24, 2011The leather-clad, self-taught axeslinger riffs on Beethoven and <em>Revolver</em>'s Hottest Chicks in Metal.

The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were the nation's first integrated all-female band.

March 22, 2011The International Sweethearts of Rhythm were the nation's first integrated all-female band.

Shanti Das has worked in the rap business for 20 years, and now she's written a book of advice.

October 8, 2010Shanti Das has worked in the rap business for 20 years, and now she's written a book of advice.

Is it possible to sell a bunch of records and be an iconic female musician in 2010?

September 28, 2010Is it possible to sell a bunch of records and be an iconic female musician in 2010?

Hear the singer-songwriter and the rapper discuss working in an industry dominated by men.

September 14, 2010Hear the singer-songwriter and the rapper discuss working in an industry dominated by men.

A statistical snapshot of the results that musicians submitted to our Hey Ladies questionnaire.

September 10, 2010A statistical snapshot of the results that musicians submitted to our Hey Ladies questionnaire.

MC Lyte has been an inspiration to many, many women. Who inspires you?

September 2, 2010MC Lyte has been an inspiration to many, many women. Who inspires you?

Diversify your bookshelves and browsing with these music writers.

August 30, 2010Diversify your bookshelves and browsing with these music writers.

Some of the best in their field discuss what it's  like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry.

August 27, 2010Some of the best in their field discuss what it's like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Musicians say social media is part of their job, but it takes time away from their real work.

August 20, 2010Musicians say social media is part of their job, but it takes time away from their real work.

Women musicians are using alternative methods to sell records and connect with fans.

August 19, 2010Women musicians are using alternative methods to sell records and connect with fans.

Do larger than life pop stars liberate other women musicians or do they make their jobs harder?

August 12, 2010Do larger than life pop stars liberate other women musicians or do they make their jobs harder?

Female performers like Beyonce create alter egos to reach out beyond themselves and to their fans.

August 12, 2010Female performers like Beyonce create alter egos to reach out beyond themselves and to their fans.

The violinist reflects on her self-confidence and her controversial, much-discussed album covers.

July 29, 2010The violinist reflects on her self-confidence and her controversial, much-discussed album covers.

What do classical music's album covers say about how we expect women performers to look?

July 29, 2010What do classical music's album covers say about how we expect women performers to look?

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.