The GENDER DISPARITY REPORT FOR IRISH RADIO is long overdue. I have worked with Linda Coogan Byrne on this report and in the past and I just have to say she is KICK ASS and I have admired her integrity and continuing support for Irish Women for a very long time. She has been in this conversation before anyone agreed this was a conversation to have.
I risk being blacklisted by the Irish Media for speaking out on this. I risk being excluded even further from Irish radio stations we are calling to account. I risk men not being willing to tour with me for fear of me being difficult. I risk my own touring options in Ireland of audiences or venues or festivals not liking the disruptive female singer, BUT what is worse? Risking knowing that the next incredibly talented generation of Irish women coming up in the music industry will be muted as we have been.
I walk this path with my sisters (some of whom can't speak out) in Irish music and recognise also that this conversation is the START to a much more inclusive conversation around other minorities also being left out of our national musical voice. These facts are HARD to look at and not be enraged, but they need to be seen. And for me the intense emotions around this are also very personal as I am one of these statistics. These numbers of exclusion are real life women who are working really hard at their craft. Who are releasing songs and who are trying to bring their art into the world for the betterment of us all.
And it is not just radio. It is the entire system and ecology of the music industry in Ireland. One structural part affects the other. Radio drives demand for festivals. Demand for gigs. Demand for opportunities. Everyone looks at the radio playlists and curates opportunities based on that. Every female musician in Ireland I know in Ireland will have their own story about how reading this report tore open their hearts. I invite you to look them all UP! Here is a list to start with.
We work so hard, some of us like me with three kids or in other caring roles. Creativity and motherhood is no joke and what it takes to commit to our art in spite of all the challenges. We are warriors.
Reading this report immediately brought up an experience from 2017 when the booking agent I was with in Ireland told me that I would need to get a song in high rotation on Fm104 or Today FM or 2FM if I wanted a chance at touring Ireland or getting onto festival bills. I went to work as I always do to make shit happen. I employed Linda and we spent money, time and effort on getting music into the ears of the stations, but with no return. The only station that looked at me was RTE 1. And now when I look at the data that all matches up. RTE1 is 50-50 they based their decisions of inclusion and the 3 stations that were hinging on my opportunities in Ireland didn't give me a look in. It was a big wake up call then. And I decided to change tactics for the next time. I have since changed booking agents and approach completely and have gone the route of a grassroots touring model where I just tour and I make my own audiences one person at a time. This is wholesome and beautiful of course and I love it, the troubadour life. But when I look at this report I am enraged at how little space there is for us Irish women to be given the other path... the radio discovery and support path would be incredible for at least SOME of us. It is hard to read that the starting line for Irish male musicians is so much further ahead than us.
This report then makes me go back further than 2017. Back to the start of my career in the music industry in Dublin. I had been sheltered playing trad music with my Dad with lots of incredible female musicians on the West Coast, but when I landed in Dublin it quickly became clear this was a boys club. I am talking about the heyday of the singer-songwriter. The lock ins in Whelans where guitars were passed around to the wee hours to the MEN. Only ever the men. It confused me as was so different to the "session" vibe in the West. I was a passionate, somewhat naïve, yet committed young singer-songwriter with music in my DNA and all the time to want to better my craft and yet the doors were never going to open for me. It was then and still is ALL lads holding that power in Ireland. And that same attitude prevails when we export our Irish acts around the world. Our modern Irish writers and poets just like Joyce and Ulysses, all men.
It wasn't always just exclusion. It was sinister too. I was taken advantage of. I was the victim of predators in the scene and assaulted. I was told by women, my elders in Irish music, that the only way to climb the ladder was to sleep with certain men to get there, "we all have" I was told. I left music entirely when I was pregnant with my first daughter. It felt disgusting. It was such an unsafe space as a woman then and it still is today.
I only took up music again years later when I emigrated to Australia and met an amazing group of female singer-songwriters touring with their kids and shaking up the country. The conversations around women being excluded were happening. Women supporting each other was happening and I finally felt safe to bring my music back out from the shadows. And whilst I LOVE the reception I have had in Australia, I long to go home. I am Irish through and through and I have wanted nothing more than to be recognised for my art in Ireland. I grieve that it hasn't been possible. 2017 told me that loud and clear. I also grieve for the Irish women that didn’t have the positive experience I had in Australia which brought me back into the music. How many songs have we lost? How many women have quit or died with their songs never reaching our ears?
I also feel enraged for the amount of Irish women that HAVE to get in touch with me to tour Australia. I have only had ONE man ever reach out and many, many women wanting the support to tour over here as a way to make a living for their art. They are so talented, but they are drowning in the same cesspool of misogyny that took me down for years. I see my Irish sisters making their livings in Germany, America and Australia because Ireland doesn't support us.
I want to see better for THIS generation of Irish female musicians.
They are fucking powerhouses!!
And I want to see better for the next.
We will RISE!
It is time.
Please HELP us call for change.
GENDER DISPARITY DATA REPORT ON IRISH RADIO: Link to download full report is here: https://we.tl/t-fLq0J6ciI6
Link to play a slideshow presentation of the report is here https://canva.com/d…/DAD_kmfQraE/LacXD6V8n_UGaOkS3r1Giw/view