Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today

That's What She Said: 700 Working Musicians Tell It Like It Is

Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today; credit: Shantel Mitchell / NPR i

Musicians from all over the country and abroad, as young as 12 and as old as 82, answered our questionnaire. Shantel Mitchell / NPR hide caption

toggle caption Shantel Mitchell / NPR
Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today; credit: Shantel Mitchell / NPR

Musicians from all over the country and abroad, as young as 12 and as old as 82, answered our questionnaire.

Shantel Mitchell / NPR

In March of this year we at NPR Music sent hundreds of women 18 questions. By June we had collected about 700 responses from musicians ranging from American Idol contestants to klezmer drummers to metal songwriters to opera divas.

The stories in the musicians' responses — which we are making available here in all their glory, unedited and uncensored — are by turns infuriating, hilarious, downright inspiring and heart-breaking. Our goal in asking these questions and publishing the musicians' answers is not to make any sweeping declarations about what's happening in the concert halls, recording studios or practice spaces around the country. We don't know. But every single one of the women whose answers you can read here has some idea. We call the project Hey Ladies: Being A Woman Musician Today.

As we read through their answers we started to notice trends — similar stories across genre, instrument, age — and shared frustrations. Issues like money, children, style and the sexist sound guy came up again and again, so we organized responses into themes; you can explore the responses by any theme or read each musician's full response.

We hope that what they have to say will be useful to writers, academics, artists and historians. We hope that their advice and their presence will be useful to musicians just getting started or looking for a leg up or wanting to commiserate, regardless of their gender. We hope that you find tons of new music here, so we've linked to each musician's Myspace page or website.

Hey Ladies is an ongoing multiplatform project. We've used the musicians' responses to produce a series of radio pieces, which will air on NPR programs through the summer and into the fall; they'll be a mix of reported pieces, profiles of musicians and roundtable discussions. We'll also be writing about ideas and issues brought to our attention by this project here, on The Record.

The first radio piece in this series airs this evening on All Things Considered. It's a piece by Lara Pellegrinelli that raises questions about the relevance of Lilith Fair this year.

If you have a story idea inspired by the information collected here (for radio or web), would like access to the responses for your own work or have criticism of the project, please write us at heyladies@npr.org. If you have a story to tell or would like to talk with some of the musicians who participated in Hey Ladies, join the discussion on our Facebook page.

In the hope of getting even more information and stories we're keeping the questionnaire going. If you're interested in filling it out and would permit us to publish your answers, please write us at heyladies@npr.org.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to the women who took the time to write so thoughtfully and openly. We hope that this project does right by every one of them who was ever mistaken for a girlfriend, a rookie or a boy; every one who feels like she must prove herself 10 times more than a man; and every one who fervently wishes on long van rides between gigs that she could pee in a bottle.

And thank you to all the people who worked and advised on this project: Amy Schriefer, Alyson Hurt, Tom Cole, Jacob Ganz, Sami Yenigun, Jess Gitner, Sam Sanders, Mia Gottesman, Rob Akins, Alex Spoto, Lindsay Sanchez, Mito Habe-Evans, Kate Walsh, Emily Lichter and the NPR Music team.

The Full List of Questions

  1. What is your name? If you are in one, what is your group's name?
  2. What is the best way to contact you?
  3. What instrument do you play? (vocals count as an instrument)
  4. How many years have you been playing?
  5. How many different groups have you performed with regularly? What are their names?
  6. Where are you from?
  7. Where do you live now?
  8. Is music your fulltime job? If not, what's your day job?
  9. How old are you?
  10. Do you have a deal with a record company? Which one?
  11. Do you own publishing rights to your music? Do you own your masters?
  12. Describe your gear.
  13. How would you describe your music?
  14. Why did you choose to play the instrument you play?
  15. What is your role in your band? In the studio? In business or marketing decisions?
  16. Do you think being a woman and a musician is different from being a man and a musician? If so, how? Was there a moment that made a difference clear to you?
  17. Do you see differences between generations of women musicians? If you do, please describe them.
  18. Did anyone ever give you any valuable advice about making your way in the music industry? What advice would you give to a woman musician just starting out?



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