Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today

Break It Down: Women Musicians By The Numbers

Each week we produce a piece, for the web or the radio, drawing from a questionnaire NPR Music has been circulating among women musicians since March. This week we wanted to give you a statistical snapshot of the over 700 responses from women who have sent us their stories. And we've got charts!

You can read every single response here, but the some of the highlights include the reasons they chose their instruments, their role models (for better or worse), their occupations (musical or not), and a comparison of where musicians come from to where they live now:

Locations

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

Respondents to our questions mentioned role models when we asked several different questions — from advice for up-and-comers, to the different experiences men and women have in the business. Some were presented as good role models, some the opposite.

How did you choose your instrument?

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

We asked musicians to describe their gear, but we also asked them how they chose their instrument. Many of the women play multiple instruments, and sing. A surprising (or not) number said their instrument "chose them," though most said they'd picked up the instrument as a child because of their families.

  • 32

stories about a sexist "sound guy"

In response to almost every question, musicians told us stories about the sound guy (or girl), usually as an example of treatment they receive just for being women. Lily Chapin, who plays with The Chapin Sisters, says, "Soundchecks are always interesting. Especially when it's just us girls up there. The sound guys often don't take us seriously, until they know us, and they can be patronizing, like, 'This is a monitor — that's where the sound will come out.' It's crazy. But then after the show they're like, 'Wow, you guys are really good. Can I buy your CD?'"

We asked if music is their fulltime job. 63% said it is, 37% said it's not. Here is the breakdown of the work musicians said they did in addition to music:

Occupations

Accountant
Actress
Admin. Assistant
Advertising
Architect
Archivist
Work at Art Gallery
Artist
Audio Engineer
Band Manager
Barista
Biochemist
Booking Agent
Caregiver
Chief Financial Officer
College Professor
Communications Officer
Computer Systems Engineer
Computer Programmer
Consultant
Cook
Counselor
DJ
Doctor
Energy Production
Farming
Fashion
Full-Time Musician
Gardening
Grad Student
Graphic Design
Healthcare
Hotel Administration
Human Resources Manager
Immigration Services
Information Technology
Insurance
Interior Design
Journalist
Lawyer
Law Enforcement
Legal Secretary
1
5
2
3
1
1
4
5
1
2
4
1
4
7
1
13
2
1
2
4
3
1
1
2
1
2
4
290
1
3
5
5
1
1
1
1
2
1
4
4
1
3
Librarian
Marketing
Mother
Multiple Part-Time Jobs
Music Industry
Music Promotion
Music Education
Music Journalist
No Answer
Non-Profit
Office Manager
Personal Assistant
Personal Trainer
Photography
Producer (Music)
Public Relations
Radio Station
Realtor
Record Label Owner
Recording Studio Owner
Recording Studio Employee
Researcher
Restaurant Owner
Retail
Retired
Secretary
Sheet Music Distribution
Software Development
Student
Stylist
Tarot Card Reader
Tattoo Artist
Teacher
Therapist
Unemployed
University Administration
Venue Owner
Vocal Therapist
Waitress
Web Design
Writer
Yoga Instructor
4
7
12
15
5
4
17
2
133
7
1
2
1
4
1
2
1
1
3
1
1
3
2
11
5
2
1
2
17
4
1
1
21
3
4
6
1
1
9
4
5
1

This isn't close to the end of the data we've got at our fingertips — if there's anything else you want to hear about, tell us.

We're also making all of the information submitted to us available to anyone researching women musicians (or anything related), so if you're interested in access, write us at heyladies@npr.org.

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