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April 30, 2020
Culture

Adelaide’s emerging music streaming industry is an opportunity to get gender representation right

As festivals and gigs have fallen to the wayside due to the coronavirus, grassroots digital broadcasters have become the gatekeepers for live music. CityMag spoke to some local streaming platforms about how they're tackling the issue of gender representation.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Image: The Sunny Side Uploads stage (supplied)

SPECIAL REPORT: COVID-19 ADELAIDE

Diversity in lineups is an enduring problem in the music industry.

It’s a problem on a national level. A glance through the Instagram page @lineupswithoutmales, dedicated to giving visual representation to the gender imbalance on festival stages, shows a clear imbalance.

For example, only 44 per cent of acts billed to play at the (now cancelled) 2020 Groovin The Moo featured a non-male member, and this year’s Laneway Festival only had 40 per cent of acts including a non-male member.

Gender representation on the radio is also an issue. According to a report by Hack, although the gap was closing in 2018, listeners were more likely to hear songs performed by men than women.

Voters in Triple J’s Hottest 100 that year then reinforced this imbalance when they voted in 63 songs by solo male artists or all-male acts.

In addition to visibility, this problem also has consequences for who gets paid. That same report says only 19 per cent of APRA payments to songwriters in 2018 were made to women.

All these factors are intertwined, says co-director of Girls Rock! Adelaide Sianne van Abkoude.

“Festival lineups inform other events,” she says, which can “support more established acts or, in turn, provide a much-needed leg-up for other artists in earlier stages of their career.

“Being programmed on lineups like these is an endorsement that has a continued benefit for marginalised voices.”

Due to the coronavirus changing almost every aspect of normal life, livestreamed platforms have appeared in the place of (dearly missed) experiential events, like gigs and festivals.

These platforms have emerged quickly in response the the global pandemic, and with the advent of this new digital industry comes the opportunity to bake in new attitudes toward diversity of representation.

While the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia code of practice asks community broadcasters to “play a diverse range of music” throughout their programming, there is no such governing body to ensure the music livestreaming community is giving due consideration to whom it gives airtime.

This will come solely from each platform’s founders.

Timothea Moylan, a co-founder of Sunny Side Uploads, which broadcasts rock and alternative performances from The Jade on Flinders Street, says her platform is “working towards” representing more varied voices.

To date, more than 50 per cent of Sunny Side Uploads performances have included one non-male band member.

“It’s really important for everyone in the music community to have a voice,” Timothea says, adding that online streaming services can amplify diverse voices as the reach is wider.

“As a female musician active in our local music community, this ethos [of diversity] is something that I – along with the rest of the Sunny Side team – feel very strongly about.”

Timothea says she is also looking to explore other genres on the platform in the future, such as electronic music and hip hop, which has the potential to draw in new audiences.

Annie Siegmann of Knock Off Sessions similarly believes all livestreaming platforms should consider diversity when booking live performances.

The Knock Off Sessions broadcasts alternative indie music live from The Wheatsheaf every Friday, as well as from couches in undisclosed locations on Wednesday nights, and the last five of its six performances have included one non-male member.

Annie identifies as a queer musician and says it’s important to represent diversity in lineups.

“Our second artist was Nancy Bates, who’s a Barkindji woman, so we’ve definitely had a few people from diverse backgrounds,” Annie says.

“I definitely think it is one of our core values… to keep diversity at the forefront.”

However, Annie says measures like diversity quotas aren’t necessary, as she’s confident there’s enough female, queer and people-of-colour performers who have the talent to be included in bills based on merit alone.

 

Dan Gill, co-founder of long-standing underground electronic radio station Groundfloor Radio, says that, through his platform, diversity is exemplified in the music being played more so than the station’s presenters.

In the platform’s prior week of radio programming, CityMag found there were two non-male presenters, compared with 15 male presenters. One presenter’s gender could not be verified.

When CityMag asked Dan about diversity of hosts, rather than music, he says the station was “working on it” and “it’s as diverse as our resources allow at this point.”

“We discussed in the past offering deejay workshops to try and make our scene more diverse generally, and that’s something that we definitely want to do, and we were hoping to do before the coronavirus,” he says.

“[But] it’s interesting because I don’t think as many other cities have such a prolific male presence in underground music as what we do in Adelaide.”

Dan says the station encourages people to get in contact – “we’re always looking to broaden our horizon of contributors on the station,” he says – and every female deejay who has requested to play has been given a slot.

Lakota Weetra identifies as an Arabana Narungga woman and was stoked with her first mix on Groundfloor Radio

 

He adds that his local techno and house music network, to some degree, reinforces the gender disparity in Groundfloor’s on-air voices.

“I think there’s consistently more men than women that attend techno and house parties,” he says.

“I’ve been in the club before, deejaying, and I’ve seen that it was filled with 95 per cent men and five per cent women.

“In that respect, it’s kind of like, if your audience is 95 per cent men and five per cent women, maybe it is a likelihood that you might end up with 95 per cent male deejays and five per cent female deejays.”

But he reiterates, Groundfloor does take diversity in its programming seriously.

“The music itself is representative of something [and] it’s not necessarily [about] the person who’s delivering it,” he says.

Amy Fforde co-founded underground electronic Mixcloud page Platform two years ago with the aim of archiving local mixes.

She admits it’s disappointing Platform’s collection and lineup is “extremely” male-dominated, considering she’s seen a large emergence of female deejays in the past six months, but, “in the near future there’ll be more gender diversity.”

Contrary to Dan’s experience, Amy believes Adelaide’s house and techno fan base is evenly populated by men and women.

As for why there are more male deejays and presenters, Amy believes it could just come down to men feeling more comfortable trying it in the first place.

“The only thing that’s held me back from deejaying is the fear or failure,” she says.

“I feel like such a fraud for admitting it, but it may be the same reasons other girls aren’t giving it a go.”

Luke Penman, founder of play / pause / play, was previously the music director at Radio Adelaide, where he also hosted Local Noise, a program dedicated solely to Adelaide music. Music was selected on the basis of whether the artist playing it would perform in Adelaide soon.

Broadcasting a diverse range of voices was a high priority for his slot, Luke says, but true representation and visibility is difficult in an audio-only format.

“A lot of diversity – gender, ethnicity, age and disability – gets lost in translation, especially for those playing instruments and not singing,” Luke says.

“When we’re talking about places where people can see the artists themselves, picking diverse lineups where people can see themselves represented is vital in growing the music industry and in building stronger bridges between communities.”

As the founder of a music streaming platform himself, Luke believes anyone creating a music-sharing project right now is doing an incredible job.

“Chances are they’re working for free and when you’re all working for free on something then you’re probably pulling in mates, and that’s not necessarily going to be inherently diverse,” he says.

“Diversity should definitely be an ultimate goal, and I think that will come for a lot of those projects, but in the early days when you’re still building something and everyone’s still figuring things out, I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to stick with what you know.”

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