It’s Friday 8 March, which means it’s the annual International Women’s Day. Expect plenty of activity from pretty much every digital music service, with curated playlists and other content galore. Which is great, albeit also may raise questions about how today’s celebration can be carried through to the playlist-curation and artist-partnership decisions taken by these companies throughout the year.
Journalist Liz Pelly’s ‘Discover Weakly’ article last year raised the question of “whether streaming culture is merely reflective of a relentlessly male-centric status quo, or if streaming is creating a data-driven echo chamber where the most agreed-upon sounds rise to the top, subtly shifting us back toward a more homogenous and overtly masculine pop music culture” – a question that’s still lacking a firm answer.
Spotify’s publication last week of data from the sausage-stuffed (in songwriting and production terms) Norwegian streaming charts from 2018 was at least a sign of engagement with these issues – as is that company’s Equalizer Project and related content. The industry is also more aware than it was about its own diversity challenges: curating women-focused playlists is good, but ensuring playlist, industry-relations and other teams are diverse is also key.
There’s plenty of stuff going on today, anyway. In fact, it started yesterday with a partnership between artist Annie Lennox (and her NGO The Circle) and Apple Music, and a short film about ‘Global Feminism’ featuring an array of stars. “While we celebrate and acknowledge the advancement in women rights over the past 100 years, we must make sure it’s inclusive for all. This short film aims to highlight the injustices still experienced by millions of women and girls the world over – from misogyny, rape and violence to pay disparity,” it explained.
There’s also Love Music Hate Racism’s ‘Beautiful Resistance’ campaign, which launches today (for two weeks) with artists including Lianne La Havas, Ray BLK, Grace Carter and Kara Marni sharing their stories of culture, identity and discrimination, in a video published on YouTube. Apple Music has guest playlists, Deezer has a week-long takeover of women artists, and there’ll be a lot more activity being announced throughout the day.
Another thing to read, although it’s not music-specific. Former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard has published a guest post on The Guardian outlining the view of why “gender equality is not a ‘women’s issue’ – it’s good for men too”. It outlines some of the thoughts on how men can be part of this conversation in a positive way, particularly when they “still dominate positions of power” – something of relevance to the music industry, and its various efforts to reshape its demographics and power structures.
Oh, and one last thing. British comedian Richard Herring is (as he does every year) searching for and replying to grumpy tweets asking ‘when is International Men’s Day?’ by patiently explaining that it’s on 19 November, with some sharp one-liners. It’s not just a poke in the eye for “ignorance and the inability to google” though: the aim is to raise £100k for domestic-violence charity Refuge.