It has been quite an interesting few months since I published the Gender Disparity Data Report on Irish Radio on June 24th.
We have now well over 60 million audience reach achieved across the reports combined. The music scene responded, the radio dj’s, programmers and ceo’s have begun having the conversations internally and we have seen a considerable shift in women on playlists across Radio. Change is HAPPENING!
Everything that’s worth fighting for in life requires lots of hard work, and there is still more to come. More countries, more territories, more deeper insights at the data and more reports. If you’d like to come involved join the revolution in Ireland here and in the UK here.
I would like to thank everyone who has contributed and supported in their own way, from journalists, do’s, musicians, band members, singers, managers and more.
You are all a part of the solution towards positive change, gender diversity and racial diversity and equality within the music industry.
We will have many more obstacles to overcome but for now let’s recap below on some amazing exposure on the reports.
GUARDIAN + PRINT EDITION (ran the exclusive) Special thanks to Becky Hill for being awesome.
My name is Linda Coogan Byrne, my colleague Áine Tyrrell has been on to you also, as we are a united front, there will be many more women sending you a similar type of call to action email. I hope, you, as a feminist understand.
We thank you for the ethical remembering you have brought to all corners of your presidency. Michael, you are a wonderful President we can be proud of. I met you a few times in Galway when I studied Renaissance Instrument making under the apprenticeship with Master Luthier Paul Doyle way back when I was only 19. There were many nights in the old wine bar on Dominick St in Galway were politicians and artistic minds alike gathered and spoke about the Ireland we wanted to create. I was 19 and in awe. I am now 37 years old and I wish to resume this conversation. Openly, and transparently.
You are incredibly inspirational. Your speeches are powerful and poetic and are changing the fabric of Ireland to a more empathetic and deep listening country. I was so happy when you became President as you are and always will be one of our finest members of the community.
To quote a statement you made in 2018 “I am proud to call myself a feminist. I believe global feminism has been a transformative source of new thinking… I’m heartened to see a renewed, inclusive, confident, feminism.”
Michael D Higgins, President of Ireland
I just want you to know your words still resonates and have empowered so many women, including myself to rise up against misogynistic and sexist models that are visible in almost every corner of the globe but right now I speak of Ireland.
Today I write to you on the injustice inflicted on our female musicians in Ireland and I am hoping that you can turn your power and poetry to something that needs urgent attention.
You are our Feminist President and at this time we need men to help elevate our voices on some industry truths that have been muting and hurting our female musicians and as of today, only a handful of Irish men in the music industry have been brave enough to stand with us. I published a report outlining the Gender Disparity across Irish Radio stations, you can view it here: https://www.canva.com/design/DAD_kmfQraE/LacXD6V8n_UGaOkS3r1Giw/view
You are a leader and we need our leader to help us. Ni Saoirse go Saoirse na mBan. I know when you read this report, that you will see this is not the type of Ireland that you want to see reflected in the time of your presidency.
As you have stated so powerfully so many times if in today’s current climate we are not seeking to INCLUDE the voices of those who have been historically silenced. We need to Re-Member our women and join them back into the conversation so that we do not just repeat the patterns of exclusion and selective history retelling. We need to do better for our future generations of women. Please take this letter as a request to draw your attention to THE GENDER DISPARITY ON IRISH RADIO
This report came about by my many years working in the music industry and seeing how female acts have been treated differently. I used my time in COVID to collect the data from RadioMonitor to see where the disparities were occurring. I reached out to Áine Tyrrell, RuthAnne and a handful of other Irish female musicians and asked would they all stand with me to release this report. Once the women all saw the data, they could not sit quietly anymore. It is shocking. It has not only shocked the women of the industry but the men too. You are free to read some of our countries finest male members of the music industry make statements on the findings on the report here: https://lindacooganbyrne.com/2020/06/30/what-the-men-in-irelands-music-industry-have-to-say-about-the-gender-disparity-report-on-irish-radio/
At the end of this letter, I have also given you links to many of the press coverage articles in Ireland that have been so supportive of us and this movement about this issue. We celebrate Rte Radio 1 for their continued support of women and truly are honoured to know they work so hard to make sure they reach a 50/50 quota, but we are shocked to see ALL the other stations fall very short of any sort of gender equity and also the fact that only 1 member of POC or LBGTQI+ community amongst these figures male or female as well (we are hoping to release the next phase of this report soon to address these inequalities).
Ireland is such an incredibly diverse country and the fact that so many voices are being excluded from our airwaves is very disheartening. It does not reflect who we are as a nation and definitely does not reflect the incredible wealth of female talent our country boasts.
I know you, yourself, have invited so many Irish women to attend and sing at many of your functions at the Áras an Uachtaráin and other places abroad and I am sure it will hurt you and your wife Sabina to know that these are the women that have performed for you who struggle to make a living in our country due to the exclusion of our voices on the radio.
We have been advised that this is indeed a breach of our human rights as Irish women. This exclusion from radio breeches our right to a fair and equitable living within Ireland. I am sure you are aware that one section of the music industry affects the other and therefore our musical ecosystem in Ireland is failing women on so many other levels; with under-representation of females on festival line ups, on major labels, and booking agents.
We are committed to great change.
We are committed to coming out of COVID with a “New Normal” on what we want our Irish Music Industry to reflect and support.
But we need your help. We are a few Irish women from different corners of the globe fighting to make this report be the change we want to see, but we can only reach so far. With your support, we could reach and achieve far greater. We welcome a statement from you of any kind. We welcome a meeting online or in-person to discuss these findings and our personal experiences. We welcome you to engage with the conversation and help us not be the forgotten women of this decade. We have already lost a decade of Irish women on radio and we refuse to lose another.
The first time I met you back when I was 19 in Galway your humble power to hold court was something that at even a young age I found inspiring. As did many others.
I know that YOU ARE THE VOICE that will help your Irish sisters on getting their songs and stories heard. You are the eloquence and power that we need. Please consider holding court for the Irish women of the music industry.
GENUINELY – from the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank all our supporters in the press – online and in print – who have ran articles on this very important Data Report, including podcasters who have had us on to speak as no radio station has invited us on yet (would you believe it?!).
You are part of the SOLUTION.
The reactions on the Gender Disparity Report were of shock and dismay from the general public, and then not so much from the women in music – they were used to being rejected. But it has given them an amplified platform of unity and the desire for change and they are speaking up for the first time; in unison.
Will they be heard?
So far, only 3 radio stations, out of all those listed on the Data Report got in touch and responded and said they will be mindfully aware and will chat among their teams at the stations and will ‘try do better’.
Here is the thing: It’s been over a decade since a commercial Pop act of the female origin broke in Ireland that lead on to even a semblance of commercial success and was adequately backed by Irish radio. Heck, let’s go one step further… The Cranberries were formed in 1989, the Corrs in 1990, Laura Izibor 2004 (Shine was her hit in 2009). Yes, it’s ‘COOL’ that Soule and Aimee are doing ‘good’ but its still nothing close to that of their male counterparts and the support they receive.
Why is there a massive timeline of a gap in Irish radio supporting its women in music? And how do we fix this gender gap?
I asked some of the men in music from Ireland what they thought about the report and we’d like to thank those who have been brave and supportive enough to make their statements public. We appreciate your solidarity: Follow this link to some images that can be used and shared by anyone who wishes to use them >>>> https://we.tl/t-vYZe5TVosG
What do we want and when do we want it?
We want to know why radio turned it’s back on our female creators of music, our passionate talented storytellers, our powerful banríon’s.
Thank you for your time and support in this movement.
SEE BELOW FOR THE RESPONSE STATEMENTS FROM MEN IN MUSIC FROM IRELANDS MUSIC SCENE UPON VIEWING THE REPORT. THEY STAND IN TOTAL SOLIDARITY WITH THE WOMEN WHO CREATE MUSIC IN IRELAND.
“The findings of this report present an opportunity for Irish radio stations to become a force for positive change in society. Radio has the unique position of controlling the measures of content which reach the ears of the public on a day-to-day basis. When this content is written and performed almost exclusively from the male perspective it perpetuates an industry which is already male-centric and it actively fuels the cycle of gender inequality in all aspects of the trade.
I’m slightly ashamed to admit that, as a 37 year-old man, I’ve had to really dig deep in the last couple of years to truly comprehend the privilege I’ve taken for granted; I did not see it in my 20s and early 30s because patriarchy and its psychological consequences are insidious and omnipresent and ignorance on such matters is rewarded. I’m still on that journey and I see this report as an invitation for one of our most important cultural institutions to do the same.
Mainstream Irish radio is a commercial enterprise but it needs to fully recognise its potential as a cultural establishment too; unfortunately that establishment is currently giving a voice to only half of the population and the societal ramifications of this, both conscious and unconscious, are monumental” – VILLAGERS, (CONOR O’BRIEN), Musician & Artist
“I’ve always been aware of how few Irish female artists there are on line ups, on stages and on radio and I’ve felt hugely uncomfortable many times realising I’m on an all Irish line up or playlist with not a single Irish woman on it, I’ve tried to call it out but it’s not enough.
The people in charge and all the lads benefitting from this need to talk about it and do more to change it, myself included.
This report highlights how unfair it is on the airwaves and its sad and It doesn’t make sense considering how many great female artists and musicians there are in this country” – Alfie, HUDSON TAYLOR, Musician & Artist
“There are so many really talented and exciting young acts in Ireland at the moment. We have had the opportunity to work with some very talented female acts over the past couple of years and fully support Irish women in music.” – Sean & Conor Price, Band
“The effect that gender exclusivity has on all of us cannot be underestimated.
My single mother raised me by herself on an income solely from music. She lost countless job opportunities to male counterparts of equal qualifications to herself. The stress this created is immeasurable. Misogyny strangles a woman’s ability to have a chance to make money, put food on the table, and in our case resulted in 3 months of homelessness during my childhood at age 5.
The radio stats prove that very little has changed and that is insane. There is no shortage of incredible female musicians/artists in Ireland who all deserve the same opportunities as men.
Change needs to be made right now” – Sam Killeen Guitarist // Composer // Producer // Mixing Engineer // Musical Director
“A lot of my friends and peers are within the Women in Harmony project and I just wanted to show my solidarity. I wanted to say that while the results were disappointing, I am also sadly unsurprised. I also want to add that this statement is not intended to diminish the incredible talent and successes of the Irish men shown there. Their accomplishments are completely just and deserved. I have the utmost respect and admiration for them. This data however, as you can surely agree, does a huge injustice to the diverse and worthy talent that Ireland has to offer.
Ireland has been the face of real change and progress worldwide for the last decade or so, and the music pouring from this country needs to be represented by more than the straight white male.
I fear that radio stations believe that they can only play what is requested, but I think that that mentality insults the intelligence and tastes of the Irish population. Music has to be more than a straight white male perspective. It is a shame to not see more than one woman, Black/POC or a single member of the LGBTQ+ community on that list. We owe it to those exact people unrepresented, that they can one day soon see and hear people like themselves in Irish media. If you were to ask Irish men and women what their Spotify/Apple etc streaming artists were, I don’t think it would reflect what those analytics showed. This country has a wide and eclectic taste in music that spans far beyond what is presented to us.
I am aware that this is all coming from a gay white male perspective who has been lucky to be played on the radio. But I also feel I have been given more opportunities than my female peers. I wish to send on my solidarity and support to the female artists of this country. We need to support our own and “our own” means everyone. We truly have the power to make tsunami level waves in the worldwide music industry. However, these waves need to be ones of diversity and inclusion” – Tim Chadwick, Musician & Artist
“The findings in this report are shocking but not surprising. It highlights an industry model that needs immediate reform. It is not acceptable that in 2020 this kind of inequality continues to exist on Irish radio. In fact, it is shameful. The Irish music scene is diverse and wonderfully creative. It is disgraceful that this is not reflected on air. Instead, a boring homogeny reigns supreme. We stand in solidarity with female musicians in their efforts to ensure equal representation on Irish radio.” – Jamie Coughlan, Overblown Magazine
“As an independent Irish record label, Rubyworks has long been aware of the challenges female artists face in the Irish music industry. The Gender Disparity Report provides a much-needed insight into one of those challenges. While radio is part of the challenge for female artists in Ireland, there is a wider context that also needs to be addressed, with a number of complex elements that dictate whether or not an artist will succeed. Rubyworks is committed to defining, understanding and overcoming these challenges to level the playing field for female artists in Ireland.” – Niall Muckian, Rubyworks (Rodrigo y Gabriela, Hozier, Hudson Taylor, David Keenan, Wyvern Lingo, Little Hours, Eve Belle, Ruby Sessions)
“Writing about gender equality in music from a male perspective is a strange feeling. Because in order to truly acknowledge the huge divide between men and women, as a man, I have to first admit that I didn’t notice it at all.
When I think back now, I wonder how that could have been. That’s what privilege is. I used to think that privilege was just some buzzword that people used in order to sound smarter, or to elevate a point. But I was ignorant then, and privilege is very real. Privilege is flipping through a music magazine at age 15, and not even noticing that there was no women in there. Privilege is thinking that its normal to place a band in a genre called ‘female fronted’ or to go on tour for 3 weeks. and to only ever play with one band with a woman in it, and then to sit there while guys have a discussion about whether women playing in bands is cool or not.
I allowed this to happen, and I stood by and did nothing. So before I can point the finger at the music industry, or at the radio, or at the whole system, I have to acknowledge that I too have contributed to this inequality. I have contributed to it, and I have benefited from it. Maybe this was unconscious, and it was conditioned by a system that’s setup in such a way that men are always on top. But nonetheless it happened, and it makes me sad that I spent a lot of my life not noticing that. I think the reason that Linda’s report hit so hard, is because when it’s presented to you in such stark analytical detail, it’s impossible to ignore. Its embarrassing for Ireland, and for all the amazing musicians both women and men.
The radio is dominated with male voices. The charts are dominated with male voices, and even when a woman’s voice is heard, often times it’s only a certain voice that the industry allows in order to shift units.
My Mam fought in the 90’s for equality in her sport. Women were not allowed to be full paying members in the club she played at. She fought hard for that, and lost a lot of friends over it, and had many arguments with men. But she fought her corner, because she believed that it was unjust. She set a great example for me to think about the world we live in, and how skewed everything is in favour of men. We have never had a woman be the leader of this country. That’s where the bar has been set for us by the generation above.
We have no choice, we have to change that right now. The gender disparity takes the magic away from the whole music scene. It’s uncomfortable to look at. But if it’s uncomfortable for me to look at for a few minutes, I can’t even imagine how uncomfortable it has been to live with that for your whole life. The problem with inequality, is that the person in a better position, can never truly empathise with the person in the worse position. So all I can really do is listen closely and promise to do better. All I can do is say today is that I stand with you, and that I am here to help in any way that I can. My inbox is open.”- NEALO, Artist, Singer, Rapper
“As a male musician, I’ve always known that there has been inequality ingrained in the Irish music scene. I work with a lot of female artists, and hearing their stories and experiences always upset me, because it often seemed like a different world to mine, which in reality it is. When I saw that there was a report on Gender Disparity in Irish Radio, I could have given an educated guess as to what it would contain, however upon hearing the sheer extremity of the numbers I was shocked. There’s very obviously an oversight here.
You can get into the weeds here and begin to explain it away with phrases like ‘Industry wide problem’, but the radio stations have a brilliant opportunity here to lead the charge in making genuine lasting change. I would love to see the stations themselves make a report like this every 6 months, and really celebrate the change they are going to make. Its a win-win situation: The stations lead the charge in correcting the scales, and we all get to hear loads of class tunes from brilliant under represented female artists from one of the most vibrant music scenes in the world. It’s time for the radio stations to turn this negative story into a positive one.” – DAITHI, Music Producer
“For too long we have accepted that radio-playlisted music runs in correlation to what’s popular. We now have proof that conscious & unconscious non-musical decisions are favouring the radio play of male musicians, to the detriment of our music scene. Despite what is said about streaming, radio still plays a huge role in our every-day soundtrack and there have never been more brilliant women making fantastic music across many genres.
It’s time for us men to consciously push their music and art because this is fundamentally a male problem, perpetuated by conservative choices and inherited biases”.- PAJ, Musician & Artist
“I would love to state that Linda’s recent report of the shocking under representation of female artists on Irish radio was eye opening, but unfortunately it wasn’t a surprise. The shameful shunning of the incredible female talent that Ireland has to offer, across the board, through every facet of the industry, is something that needs to change and change now. Women don’t deserve to be played on Irish radio because they are women, they deserve to be played because they are talented and horribly under represented” Dara Munnis, Music Photographer
“The report is shocking, and it is not. The only thing worse than the stats themselves are the badly theorised justifications I’ve seen from some men over the past week. It proves we have a long way to go. The best music in this country right now is being made by female artists and we’re not giving it a chance to blossom. The good thing is that it is easily fixed – Play more female artists on the radio. Today” Danny Groenland(Danny G & the Major 7ths) Musician & Artist
“Where to start with the results of this report? Unfortunately it’s no shock to me to read the findings, for far too long daytime commercial radio across this country has erred on the side of being ultra safe with a reluctance to promote Irish talent and when it does as the report cleary shows, that time and time again commercial radio plums for the same safe options which results in the sort of gender disparity we see in clear black and white in this report.
I’ve presented on commercial radio in the past so I know this to be the case all too well. The recent all-Irish trials by 2FM show that there is more than enough talent & high quality songs in this country (as I well know) without having to go to the same names everytime and certainly not as much as you see in the report – frankly the number of plays afforded to some acts is embarrassing, even if they were the most talented acts in music history – which allows no space for others and as the report shows especially if you happen to be female.
RTE Radio 1 have shown that there is a path that can be followed and I’d imagine that is down to their very knowledgeable producers and presenters that really care about promoting the wide and varied talent in this country, and of both genders !! I was very lucky to have a female radio mentor when I started off in radio and her guidance has stayed with me all these years later when looking at my own playlists for every show I do.
The likes of Ruthanne, ROE, Sodablonde, Orla Gartland, Ailbhe Reddy, Soulé, whenyoung, Emma Langford, Tolu Makay, Farah Elle, Ceev, Jess Young, Roisin Murphy, Zapho, Indian Queens (and many, many more besides) all deserve far more airtime than they currently get. It’s about time that commercial radio in this country began to wake up and reflect modern Ireland and all the wonderful variety of musical artists and flavours that are on offer in this country”. – John Loftus (presents Sounds from a Green World on 8radio.com and writes for goldenplec.com) was speaking in a personal capacity
“I had always been aware that there was a male bias in the music played on radio but – naively – had not realised it was as outrageously bad as this. I’m a pop act myself. Independent/unsigned. Male, Irish, white. I fully recognise my privilege. I can’t even begin to imagine how much bigger my obstacles would be if I were a woman.
First of all, where any broadcaster is in receipt of State funding – including by tax exemptions – applicants should be required to ‘equality proof’ their output. If France and Canada can successfully legislate for a 40% quota of nationally produced music on air, there’s no reason why Ireland can’t follow suit and – crucially – build a 50% gender balance into the requirements.
We have a brand-new government now and Ministers will shortly be appointed to oversee the arts, justice, equality, broadcasting. There may be overlap in some of those roles, depending on how Departments are divvied up. They can write and progress such a bill quickly. Yes, there will be pushback from luddite broadcasters but a cogent, transparent, unequivocal and public argument should be required if there’s some attempt to evade balance. Where these guys (and, let’s face it, they will be guys) expose their bias, they should be publicly challenged. They’ll blame the punter, of course. But they already tout themselves as taste-makers: so let them influence public taste so that an artist’s gender is never a barrier to a career. If RTÉ Radio 1 can do it, so can they.
Clearly, the gender imbalance on radio is replicated in festival line-ups and, to a large extent, in print media/blogs. I’m convinced that a greater gender balance on radio will help improve this organically. But it shouldn’t be left to chance. Again, the terms and conditions of State grants/supports need to be proactive. It would also help to create a climate that also improves the gender balance of our radio and TV presenters” – Tony Kavanagh- Musician & Artist
“In response to the recent light Linda Coogan Byrne has gave us all I feel the need to further that light as a male songwriter. The statistical percentage of radio play for the women in our industry is disgraceful but what was more heart breaking was seeing comments by these exact women saying “Disappointed but not surprised”.
We are absolutely blessed in this small country that the Irish music community is tight knitted and extremely supportive of the talent that goes beyond our individual counties so its baffling that these individuals don’t get the radio play and opportunity that is adequate to the time, effort, professionalism and money it takes to be a functioning artist in this modern age let alone thriving.
There IS room for us all in this industry, it’s not a competition for radio play, we are all carriers of unique stories and backgrounds and differences, but the stories and backgrounds and differences of our ladies are not getting the chance to be heard. We are a country of immense diversity, culture and acceptance so let us be that for the women that are setting unbelievable standards of talent and music. See the figures, then change them” -Conor Doyle, Musician & Artist
“For anybody who knows even one Irish female artist – even just one – it’s simply inconceivable to think for even a second that Irish male artists are as vastly superior in terms of quality as this report reveals Irish radio to believe. It’s impossible. It’s just not true.
The depth of creativity and expression of Irish female artists – as songwriters and performers – is on a par with female artists anywhere else in the world. That Irish radio is not recognising this, and therefore not even coming close to giving female artists the same support via airplay as their male counterparts, is a huge problem.
It may have been unproven up until now, but it’s not in the shadows anymore. Linda and Aìne’s report shines a light on what is as much an injustice as it is an imbalance.
The answer to the question of why this situation is, and has been, the reality for female artists is definitely one that needs to be found. But perhaps more importantly at this stage, and in this moment, is finding the answer to the question of how this situation can be addressed as soon as possible so that airplay on Irish radio more accurately reflects the brilliant music that so many Irish female artists are – and have always been – creating.” – Anthony Sullivan‘On The Right TRAX’ columnist, Tullamore Tribune/ Midland Tribune
“As the co-founder of Andrson, a company that fundamentally believes every voice deserves the chance to be heard, it’s disappointing to learn just how severe the gender disparity is in Irish radio. Music is the beating heart of Ireland, and we owe it to ourselves to make that heartbeat as strong as possible. That can only be done with fair representation and a far-better balanced gender distribution.
To my mind, that requires a rapid switch in mentality, from creating more intentional programming to pushing back on playlisters and media owners. And it means meaningful representation: putting deserving female artists and female-led bands in rotation, not just spot playing. “….For a female [or Black, or Asian, or LGBTQ] artist” is not a phrase that should ever act as a justification for quality or inclusion. Worthwhile music knows all genres, creeds, races, orientations, and certainly genders. It’s time Irish radio showed up for our female artists” – Zach Miller-Frankel, Andrson.
‘In many ways, this report is confirmation of the suspicions of many people: there’s been progress, but Irish music media still harbours problems with representation in many ways, and gender disparity is outlined in stark, uncompromising terms here.
‘As this conversation opens up further in the coming weeks and months, and so many of us would be well-advised to examine our attitudes in this respect, this report will hopefully be something of a turning point’ – Mike McGrath-Bryan, Music Journalist
“Recently, the world came together for equality. The whole music industry blacked out for a day, and we united to fight for human rights. We are making progress and have achieved so much as a human race since the death of George Floyd and the BLM movement is still a force to be reckoned with.
However, our own country still is not equal!
There are countless inequalities when it comes to gender in Ireland and if you think that statement is false, the recently released radio reports will change your mind quick enough! We are not here to spread hate, we are not here to be aggressive, we are simply making Irish radio aware of their massive blunder.
There are radio presenters and behind those radio presenters are programme directors and producers. These are the people who have the power to make Irish radio equal. RTÉ Radio One have set the example by having 50/50 gender split for Irish artists played on their station. The rest of the stations stats were absolutely mind-blowing and it needs to change.
There are countless incredible female Irish artists who deserve to have their art heard.
To all the radio stations in Ireland, this ends now. We are standing up once more to fight for gender equality in Ireland. Go raibh milé maith agat” – JaXson Musician, Co. Wexford.
HOW THE REPORT CAME ABOUT, THE STORY OF A TIRED IRISH WOMAN, IS BELOW.
Dear music lovers of Ireland, playlisters on radio, the board of the BAI, those in power within the Arts & Culture Sector and of course, my beloved musical family…
I’m Linda, hello.
I have put together a report that outlines the Gender Disparity on Irish Radio. It’s really shite to be honest. It’s in rag order. Oh yeah… I curse sometimes. I don’t give a damn to the notions that women shouldn’t curse. Why aren’t men told they shouldn’t? We are told too many things that we shouldn’t be doing from birth.
Don’t open your legs when sitting down, don’t swear, don’t raise your voice, don’t play with toy guns – only boys do that, and NO you can NOT wear a trouser suit on your Holy Communion Day. (I was forced to wear a dress, it wasn’t a pleasant experience). Female acts are told to look sexy, it sells. But what’s that got to do with the music? Was Lewis Capaldi told to look sexy? Sorry Lewis you should know I love you! Was Dermot Kennedy told to wear sexy clothes to appeal to his fans? Just using this as an example of the shit women are told when they are putting out music. I’ve seen so many contracts over the years by massive clients who have had millions of album sales that it was literally written into their contract to look and maintain looking a certain way.
I got tired by my late teens of being told what I wasn’t supposed to do as a woman. Least of all be attracted to women. But that doesn’t mean I am an angry, gay, man-hating feminist. I am simply a woman who has had enough of a patriarchal system that tells women they have to be, look and feel a certain way to conform to what others believe to be the law of the land, or just how things are.
When I naturally ended up working in PR, as I really truly do love this industry so much, I was told by one of the top Music PR’s (a man) that I was ‘a parked lada on the side of the road in comparison to him, who was a formula 1 car racing past me’. This was my welcome to the PR scene in Ireland. But it didn’t deter me. I am stubborn and headstrong like that. I let it spur me on instead.
But in the 12 years since being told I was the equivalent of a parked lada to him -a formula 1 car – I have worked with every single artist I have ever dreamt of (you can find out more about that here: https://www.goodseedpr.com/the-good-seed-crew/), something struck me. And it was that in the last decade there were no female acts or fronted bands breaking through in Ireland, no female acts or bands going on to ‘International’ success. But wow! The list of male acts was something else. From Gavin James, Picture This, Hozier, The Academic, Wild Youth, Snow Patrol and Dermot Kennedy to name but a handful, there was a pattern emerging and I wanted to see why that was. So I looked at one of the biggest sources of breaking new and emerging acts: RADIO.
And so my journey began… after 12 years of PR and Radio plugging, I was ready to ask the obvious question, the elephant in the room full of male breakthrough Irish acts: Where are the females?
The conversation on gender balance across airtime allocation on Irish Radio must be open among the Irish Music Industry and the powers that be in Radio, both National and Regional need to answer. They are the gatekeepers to an artists success. And it’s been predominantly male for far too long. Who is our next Sinead O’Connor? Why hasn’t there been another female band as successful as The Corrs or The Cranberries? They exist, trust me. They bloody exist and are out there. And yes, I am a bit pissed off. It is ok to be sad, angry and pissed off at a system that year after year let’s down our female creatives by not offering an equal platform to that of their male counterparts. And I want to know why that is?
Oh while you are here, I am trying to make a big deal out of this so if you share any links to the report listed below in this blog post, please use #GenderDisparityRadioIre in all your social media shares. Thank you.
Now let’s get down to business: This has taken me three months. I won’t dally any more, I’ll just get straight to the point:
The findings in this report outline the Gender Disparity that is present on the Top 20 most played songs by Irish artists on each individual radio station In Ireland over the period of June 1st 2019 to June 1st 2020. It also shows the Top 5 most played songs on each station and the Artists and Songs, in that Top 5 within the annual year from June 1st 2019 – June 1st 2020.
This Report is based on Irish only artists, and those whose songs are registered on Radiomonitor. Radiomonitor is the industry standard music airplay monitoring service used by all Record labels, Management companies and PR companies to evaluate the airtime allocated to artists/bands who have commercial releases in the Irish market and whose music is issued to Irish radio seeking radio airplay.
In relation to this report, Radiomonitor will not always have 100% of what is released in the Irish music scene if it is not registered by a label or company, therefore we recognise some songs could be missing if not received by Radiomonitor. However, it would never be the case of artists like Dermot Kennedy or those listed below not being registered, it is part of a music industry practice to monitor plays. So with that said, this report can be looked upon as a reflection of the biggest commercial artists who are on the Irish Music Scene with music being released to radio and stands as a solid factual based data report that is available on the airtime allocation across Irish radio for its homegrown Irish acts and bands across male and female acts showing the Most played Irish artists across each station.
The findings on the Gender Disparity that exists across Irish Radio are a staggering and shocking display of an industry model that needs drastic changes.
This is not an opinion-based report.
It is based on data.
We (as I got the help of my epic and awesome friend Áine Tyrrell to help me put the visual graphics together and she did a great job, I love you lots my darling) want to ask what can be done to implement changes across Irish Radio that creates an equal opportunity playing ground for both male and female Irish acts?
We look forward to the response from The BAI (Broadcasting Authority Of Ireland), those in control on Radio Playlists on each Radio station on this report and you, the general public, we look forward to your feedback.
Statements that can be used in any features pertaining to this report from women in music can be found below at the end of this blog post.
Thanks for stopping by, it means you are closer to being part of the solution! Well done you!
And while you’re here: I have put together a playlist of some amazing women on Irish music scene and its collaborative so feel free to add more:
You can now check out some statements from some women in and from the Irish Music Scene on the findings in this report:
“This is thoroughly depressing reading. The situation seems to be getting worse not better. I grew up hearing very few female artists on the radio and it seems incomprehensible to me that we are still in that place today. The unconscious bias towards male musicians, songwriters and performers is staggering. Looking at these figures I’m frustrated at the talent that we’re losing, the songs that will be missed and the voices that we’re never going to hear.”– Eleanor McEvoy, Musician & Chairperson of IMRO.
“I think we’ve always known there was a huge disparity between the sizes of the platforms given to men versus those given to women but to see it laid out like that is incredibly eye opening even to me as a woman in the industry. Any time I’ve had this conversation with men or women in my life, they’ve come back to me with ‘yeah but Soulé gets airplay, the Cranberries get airplay, you’re overreacting etc. etc.’ or ‘there just aren’t as many women making music’. The Dreams cover is evidence that the latter simply isn’t true. And your research is evidence that yes, Soulé and the Cranberries might be getting airplay but they make up a tiny fraction of Irish artists being showcased! I hope that things are about to turn. There are so many women making incredible music in the Irish scene so hopefully that will begin to be recognised!”– Sarah – Pillow Queens
“My name is RuthAnne, I am a Grammy nominated singer songwriter. As an independent artist, I have amassed over 30 million streams since 2018 of releasing as an artist. I have had my song ‘The Vow’ synced on the finale of ‘Love Island’ making it no.1 in Irish iTunes chart as well as synced on ‘Greys Anatomy’ and Netflix hit series ‘Raising Dion’ which pushed the song into the Top 5 globally Shazammed song last year. I have yet to have any of my singles playlisted on Irish radio. I have had support from several radio DJs which I really appreciate with ‘spot plays’ and interviews and singles of the week but when it comes to playlisting my songs – the powers that be have added them on the graveyard shifts midnight – 5am and no real daytime playlisting. A few of them have told me they want to play my music more but are not allowed because the ‘playlisters’ in the stations won’t allow them to play my music.
As a songwriter I have co-written songs which have amassed over 3 billion streams and gone no.1 billboard platinum and multiplatinum and Grammy nominated and some of those songs have been with and for some of Ireland’s biggest exports including Niall Horan and Westlife.
It’s disappointing to see the lack of real radio playlist support for Irish female artists and it’s something that needs to change. The standard of writing and production from Irish female artist music is on par with the male artists and we in no way want to replace the males or be against the males as there are incredible male artists in Ireland we simply feel there is more than enough room for us all. We need to inspire the young girls sitting in their bedroom to dream big and being influenced by females in Irish music but if we aren’t being seen or heard the next Sinead O’ Connor or Dolores may not be inspired to get into music at all due to the lack of representation in Ireland”.– RuthAnne, Artist & Songwriter
“Looking at Linda’s report on the gender disparity in Irish radio I was shocked! I had an idea it wasn’t going to be great but to have stations at 100% Irish male artists being playlisted on radio was just jaw dropping. This needs to change. There are just so many amazing Irish female artists who are working so hard putting themselves out there and they need to be on daytime radio and they need to be getting playlisted. Simple as. We have to all work together to change this. If RTE radio 1 can do 50-50 then surely we know it can happen!” – Niamh Farrell – Ham Sandwich
“Is it any wonder we have the same 5 names show up on this report when there is no room left for Independent artists, never mind our Irish women. They don’t stand a chance until Irish radio gets on board and starts allowing music to be heard. STOP endless replaying, make a stand, do different and play some new music. NOT just for an hour once or twice a week.. on main playlists, day time, peak times!
Allow listeners to become familiar with new music from Irish women who create and work as hard as some high paid artists, only to be shut down due to an imbalance. I want to get a new song stuck in my head and I would love to be able to say “ You hear that new song from that Irish artist down the road! I heard it on the radio 3 times today and I can’t get it out of my head” Be THAT kind of station! The Irish music fans are missing out because of this. This is not what our young Irish girls need to see and radio won’t last long if it’s afraid to change. We see the cracks already” – Lia Lieghio, Artist manager
“I had enough waiting and begging for the day that Ireland really looked at this systematic problem, so when Linda asked me to get behind her findings – I was like HELL YES! Bring it!
It seems to be so ingrained in the Irish music industry that even when movements around the world towards gender equity in radio and on festival line-ups where happening, the Irish Music Industry as a whole just didn’t engage in the conversation or discredited those trying to bring this conversation up.
I mean it doesn’t surprise me, but it does, a man can literally achieve a million times more radio impacts than a woman can in a whole year. Where does the race start for a man and where does the race start for a woman in their music careers? It looks there is a different starting line. Linda’s findings and full report comes out tomorrow and I am gonna be loud about it. We won’t be ignoring the conversation anymore!! There are so many incredibly talented Irish women around the globe that are being left out of our national musical voice!
“Absolutely shocking to see the gender disparity jumping off this report! They say the rise of the DSPs has impacted radio but I think there are some intrinsic contributory causes that need to be address first.
Is the message here that the only artists that consistently put out the best songs for an entire year just coincidentally happened to be exclusively male? Or are we to say that the public coincidentally only prefer to hear male songs the most in the terms of demand? I think not. Radio should be for the people and supporting their own home-grown or foreign-preferred artists. It should be an unbiased medium that stays reactive to what the people want and one that echos the times and state of mind of a nation. That fundamental role cannot be fulfilled if you tell people what to like/consume without giving them a complete and unbiased, honest and accurate cross-section of newly released music and allow people the right to react.
This is why DSPs such as Spotify are emerging quickly to change the industry! They let demand decide visibility. The people decide. In summary, it’s hard to agree that the strongest 5 tracks/artists over the period reviewed in this review are consistently male. The world is changing to a more fair, equally represented classroom. We must do better. I have always loved the radio and discovered a lot of my favourite singers on the radio as a child. Let us keep the essence of radio alive. Let it be an honest, unbiased medium for the people” – Sella Reid, Project and Artist Manager, RBM LTD UK/Ireland
“There are a lot of people on the ground who really care about pushing women to the forefront of Irish music, but without being playlisted how do we stand a chance? Radio play results in ticket sales, ticket sales result in better fees, better fees result in us being able to sustainably tour and record and release more music. It makes it extremely hard to break through and continue producing music.
This issue for me has been highlighted even more as live gigs have dried up due to Covid19, my royalty payments have completely dropped because I don’t get any radio play. As we can see from this data, there is room for women on Irish radio, if we are given the chance. As we have seen from the amazing reaction to the Irish Women In Harmony project, there is an appetite for more diverse representation on Irish radio. I hope this report changes people’s minds and encourages those with the power to change things to finally make it happen“- Ailbhe Reddy, Singer Songwriter
“There is no shortage of incredible female acts in Ireland such as those listed in the above pages but they are not getting the airtime they deserve. We also have the same wonderful diversity that the UK has yet Irish radio stations are not showing support. There is also only 1 act in the entire list on the Top 20 who is from the Black community. Yet we have a beautiful diversified musical landscape in Ireland. If we look to the UK we see a diversity of breakthrough acts in the last decade like Amy Winehouse, Adele, Mabel, Dua Lipa, Jess Glynne, Jessie Ware, Raye, Jorja Smith, Sinead Harnett, Ellie Goulding, Rita Ora… the list goes on and on.
Where are our countries breakthrough female acts of the last decade? The last time Irish radio supported female acts it was the era of Sinead O’Connor, The Corrs and The Cranberries – whose hit song ‘Dreams’ was just covered by 39 of Ireland’s many incredibly talented female acts lead on by RuthAnne. In a Post-Covid world, it’s time to create a new normal as the old one wasn’t working for everyone, it was only working for the privileged exclusively white male steering the industry standards. It is time we stopped pandering to that outdated model. It is time for inclusivity and equality for all, and we want to stop hearing that women are strident when all we seek is equal opportunities” – Linda Coogan Byrne, Music Consultant, PR, Activist & Artist
“It’s clear from the overarching data, that there is systemic gender bias across support at radio for domestic artists. I would urge everyone to look at why this exists, particularly those of us working in the music industry and those who work within radio. What are the steps we can collectively take to actively address and stamp this out?
This includes tracing it right back to the root of the issue. Are female artists being invested in, to the same level as their male counterparts? Irish Women In Harmony has helped to highlight a worthy charitable cause, and as a by-product has shone a light on the sheer number of female artists coming out of this country right now. I hope it’s an education to those at radio who may have been unaware of the quality of homegrown female talent we have. And I hope it signals an active response from those in power positions at radio, to aim for these stats to look more balanced within the next year” – Gill Dooley, Former Director of Digital & Business Development with Universal & Artist manager
“Wow. All I have to say is be fair, be proud, support Female artists by playing them on your Radio station, not 5% or 10% but 50 / 50 like RTE Radio 1, there are so many amazing female artists making incredible music in all genres, for all age groups in Ireland. There are amazing female artists who should be played!” – Aoife Ahern, Festival Advancer & Tour Manager (Beyonce, Jay-Z, One Direction, Arcade Fire,Chris Brown, The Waterboys , Billy Ocean + more)
“The music industry is a cesspit of misogyny.” Joni Mitchell
FairPlé really welcomes this report and is delighted to see some more robust research in this area. This is shocking but hardly surprising given that these statistics mirror most events and programming in Irish music. As an organisation that promotes Irish traditional and folk music it would be lovely if not imperative to include these voices as well.
It is fabulous to see the twin weapons of the patriarchy silence and shame being rocked to the core, on Twitter, on stage, backstage and at festivals and sessions. After two and half years of campaigning for equality and fairness for women it is evident to FairPlé that the tide is rising and turning.
The only way to really root out the systemic and endemic sexism is to stand together in solidarity with our sisters of all colours and creeds. Rise up women”– FairPlé
“This is a notoriously difficult topic to broach and it’s taken a strength in number approach like this to give people the courage to speak up. A few months ago I was asked to contribute to a piece in a national news paper about the gender gap in Irish music. The request came in, I agreed, and I went about answering the questions. As I read back over them I found myself feeling extremely uncomfortable and anxious. I realised that there was no way for me to contribute to this piece without seeming to be reductive about the successful male careers in Ireland and certainly no way to not sound bitter or ‘hysterical’. So I made an excuse and pulled out of the interview. I was too nervous to speak up and scared I would lose the little bit of support I had.
In 2015 I signed a major UK record deal after a song and video I released went viral. When I was signed, a big part of the conversation was them wanting me to have a top 10 radio single in Ireland. If we got that, we could go into new territories armed with that success and ask for support. I knew I would never achieve top 10 radio here. One of the songs I released under them got top 20 radio here, then I got dropped by my label. Across the singles I have released both with a label and independently, I have had some decent radio support. I was working under the assumption that my stats were good. Seeing this report really puts this into perspective. My stats were good for a female artist. I was scared before now to say that the support I got just wasn’t enough and if I’m honest, I feel like I should have gotten more based on the songs and the public reaction to them.
You are fooling yourself if you can look at these figures and not see that there is an issue. The male acts that are doing well at radio are deserving of all their success. Like all of us, they work hard – anyone who is in this line of work will appreciate that. We are not asking for you to replace the guys on the radio, we are asking that you make room for the girls” – Stephanie Rainey, Artist
‘We strive for quality throughout our music schedules on RTE Radio 1. We really are spoilt for choice as there is so much wonderful Irish music out there right now. Nevertheless, we are acutely aware of, and remain very mindful of gender-balance and diverse representation across the music that we schedule. Ultimately, all of our presenters play a pivotal role in bringing a wide range of music to our listeners chosen for its distinct quality, and I’m delighted to see that quality represented equally in both female and male artists. Going forward, we will continue to strive towards equal representation across our music schedules’ – Martina McGlynn, RTE Radio 1, Senior Producer and on the playlist committee
“As I read the list and saw the percentages, I was shocked! I’ve seen the gradual support I’ve been given with each song I’ve released but seeing this list left me quite discouraged.
I knew there was a gap but not to this degree. The fact that this only takes account of 1 year and shows there are radio channels where 100% of the top artists played are only male!! that is another form of silencing and it signifies how women in Ireland doing music are undervalued/ not valued. Out of the 20 radios mentioned only 1 had an equal percentage.
What’s scary is this only takes account of the gender disparity, think of everything else. Change is now and these percentages should not repeat itself in the future. It’s discouraging”~ Tolü Makay, Artist
“Following reading this report, I feel disgusted and physically sick to my stomach at the blatant disregard and, more strongly, disrespect, for Women in the Irish Music scene. I’ve obviously been aware of the lack of women played on Irish radio but had no idea it was as bad as this. Being a folk artist in Ireland, I’ve wondered in the past has there ever any point sending music to other radio stations other than RTE Radio 1, who have always been a great support network for young musicians trying to make it in the Irish Music Scene.
I know now, that my reluctance has proven to have reason, and feel we need to change this ridiculous state of affairs…now! I for one am ready to fight for women to be heard on Irish Radio. Because if we don’t fight then what will become of the new generation of women in music? We need to leave them a legacy that they can look up to. If not, I dread to think of what will happen to the voices of the young women of Ireland” – Aoife Scott, Artist