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.
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