Monday, 29 June 2015

Equal Opportunities For Female Musicians - Are Bloggers As Bad As Festival Bookers?

Over the last year the subject of the number of female performers at UK festivals has been questioned time and time again. A recent analysis by the Guardian investigating the gender split of artists, calculating the number of male and female performers featured on posters advertising festivals, found that there were 2,336 men on stage at the major festivals in the UK this year compared with 270 women. Anyone with a sense of fairness would see that that something is quite clearly wrong here. However, just calling out the festival bookers is only the tip of the iceberg. We think that Emily Eavis of Glastonbury hit the nail on the head when she stated “the question of why there are so few women needs to be asked further back than us…. We also need those female artists to be pushed through – by record companies, radio and the media.”

We agree. The music industry itself needs to take a long hard look at how it operates and why so few women have opportunity. 

People often comment about how many female artists we write about on the blog, as if it’s unusual. Yet here’s a reality check. Of the 10 artists we’ve written most about in Breaking More Waves 7 year history (you can see the full list here), if you include all the members of a band where the artist is billed as band, rather than just a solo act, and not just vocalists you’ll find that only 45% of the acts we’ve written about are female. Not so good after all huh? OK it’s close to being equal, but if we’re perceived as being ‘female’ heavy, what of other blogs?

Last week we did a quick straw poll of other blogs we read and their posts from the last couple of months. The % splits were generally far better than the music festival results (shout out to Just Music I Like who bucked the trend and had featured 71% female musicians in the last month) , but it was clear that overall, the bands being written about still contained more male musicians than female. Solo female artists featured more often, and in some cases it was hard to know how many people were in the band and what sex they were, but as a very broad guestimate the split was 70/30 in favour of males. Interestingly, some of the blogs that have been quite vocal on Twitter about the lack of opportunity for women in music didn’t do any better in our quick straw poll analysis than other blogs.

Leigh from the above mentioned Just Music I Like went one further last week and tried to analyse why it is that maybe bloggers do write about music that has more male musicians as part of the act than women. He analysed his ‘supply chain’ of music submissions, namely his email in box, in a snapshot survey and found that male artists accounted for 78% of submissions and females just 22%, and this was made up of acts that were male only (60.5%), female only (21.4%) and mixed (18.1%). So whilst this isn’t conclusive it supports the theory that more males are making music, or at least more males are making music and submitting them to blogs. You can read the full results of his study here. The big question of course is why is this?

The answer of course probably isn't one simple black and white solution. There's probably a lot of work that needs to be done to change things. We’re a firm believer in action speaking louder than words - there’s been an awful lot of words on the internet about this lack of opportunity and whilst the discussions and tweets are useful to a point, so much more needs to be done. We think it’s up to everybody to consider and change their actions where necessary, not just festival bookers, but anyone involved in music, right down the supply chain, back to music education at schools.  “Equal opportunity” doesn’t just mean treating everybody the same. It means adapting our ways to give everyone an equal chance. Clearly this isn’t happening right now. 

Of course if you think that women are being given equal opportunity in the music industry as performers, do let us know, and if you think they are, why? We're interested to hear your views via Twitter or in the comments below.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Breaking More Waves Is 7 Today (And Why We're Slowing For A While)

Today Breaking More Waves is seven years old. Happy blog birthday to us etc.

Here in order are the artists we've posted about the most over the last 7 years. Whilst we like to support new acts, we also continue to write about more established artists that we've covered in their early days, when they release new material, if we like it and time permits. This isn't one of those automatic 'post the first two tracks and then lose interest' blogs. That's why Little Boots and Ellie Goulding are at the top - we've featured them from demo stage through to more recent work. Alice Jemima who was close behind in third may have only released a single self released EP and featured on a song on Laura Doggett's EP to date, but keep your ears out for Ms Jemima as this year (and next) progresses.

The Most Blogged Artists On Breaking More Waves from 2008-2015

1. Little Boots 
2. Ellie Goulding
3. Alice Jemima
4. Marina & The Diamonds
5. Hurts
6. Stornoway
7. Charli XCX 
8. Slow Club
9. Curxes
10. Chvrches

7 years old is pretty old in blog terms. Especially as a 1 man d-i-y effort. In that time we've written over 2,500 posts. Really this blog should have stopped a long time ago. It’s as dated and uncool as they come. We still use an old school Blogspot / Blogger template, we still like the idea of writing some waffle to go with the music and we still like the idea of that waffle being about ideas, opinions, context, emotion and sometimes just stupid old tomfoolery. All of that stuff seems pretty out of fashion these days - but then we didn’t start this to be fashionable or cool, we started it to have a bit of fun.

Whereas many other blogs / bloggers have ambition to be bigger and better, or a desire to expand their passion for music further, through shooting their own videos, creating their own record labels, putting on their own shows, making their own podcasts and the like, we don’t have any of that. We’re just happy doing what we do.

We often see music blogs ending because the site has become all -consuming in the author’s life,  or they don’t have the time / enthusiasm any more as they pursue other things that have now become more important to them (the raising of children usually being the killer). We’ve never really had to do that, despite having a family of our own. The reasons, we think, are something to do with not having ‘blogger ambition’, not letting the blog become too important and quite probably being pretty organised and motivated in life generally. We’re not the sort of person to have lie-ins or spend a week just chilling watching mindless TV. We like to be busy.

Having said all of that, for the next few months Breaking More Waves will be scaling things back a bit. First, because we’re off to Glastonbury Festival, so whilst we’re there the blog will be silent. Once we return, Breaking More Waves HQ is likely to be relocating and we need to take a bit of time out with everything that is associated with that. Building works don’t get done without some labour.

We’re not stopping the blog completely though. There will still be some spare lunch hours at work, so we anticipate posting at least once a week in July and August, a little more than that sometimes.

But as you notice a slowdown in output, please don’t think this is the beginning of the end. We have every intention of posting our 8th birthday celebration next year. We still get enormous pleasure in adding to the digital trash on the internet, and all the time we’re getting that, we’ll make some time for Breaking More Waves. However, for  the next few months we might just be the blog putting the 'late' into latest music.

Right we're off to Somerset tomorrow - some family called Eavis has arranged our 7th blog birthday party in a field there.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Hurts - Some Kind Of Heaven (Video)


Hurts, the 5th most blogged about band on Breaking More Waves have just released a video for their new quite poptatstic single Some Kind Of Heaven, to follow on from the previously released You Tube audio stream. Imagine if a band just popped the video up online and didn’t bother with a staged release campaign - who knows maybe they’d save some money on their marketing budget? But of course that's not the way things work these days.

Anyway, the video is suitably weird and beautifully shot, with an almost David Lynch like feel to it. What’s it all about we hear you ask? We have no idea. Our interpretation is that Theo is attempting to escape from ‘some kind of heaven’ that may or may not be death, and that there’s no escape, he’s always going to end up back there. Watch out for the clapping on the thighs bit, it’s the most sinister thing you'll see all day.

This is worth watching even to just enjoy another popstar besides Ellie Goulding running, probably something you wouldn’t expect of the usually stationary Hurts, although in Theo’s case he isn’t wearing Nikes and sportswear - he still keeps a shirt on.

Hurts - Some Kind Of Heaven

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Glastonbury 2015 - Preview

Trying to write a preview of Glastonbury Festival (or to give it its full title – The Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts) is as impossible as trying to stifle a yawn. Not that there’s anything remotely yawnsome about the festival itself – except the punishing tiredness that may kick in after it’s all over. For Glastonbury is huge – you probably know that much. In fact the way we like to think of Glastonbury isn’t one gigantic festival, it’s like many festivals within one festival; and because of that every person who goes will have a very different experience as they search for pleasure. Some will just watch the big stars on the Pyramid and the Other Stage (the ones the media tend to focus on, giving in our opinion a rather sanitised and unrealistic view of the festival) some will take in a little bit of everything, whilst others will see very little live music all weekend, instead exploring the many other weird and wonderful attractions the festival has, from cabaret to circus to political debate to craft and so much more. We’d need to write a novel to cover everything and the internet is already full of stuff about the event. 

However, if you’re going this year and are a Glastonbury virgin we recommend you read our tips from last year (here) which still all hold true.

What we would like to tell you about, if you’re at all interested, is our own personal history with the festival.

Breaking More Waves first trip to Glastonbury was in 1994. It was the year that the Pyramid Stage burnt down just a few days before the start date and had to be replaced with an alternative structure. In those days there wasn’t the massive internet scrum there is now for tickets. In fact the internet didn’t even exist. We purchased our tickets by sending a cheque (£59 for a ticket) to a PO Box number and picked them up from a lady sitting in a caravan on the site when we arrived. 

There used to be a phrase that ran something along the lines of “if you can remember Glastonbury you probably weren’t actually there,” and it’s true that we remember very little of that year. Not because of some hedonistic attempt to get off our faces on drugs, but just that we’ve been to so many festivals since that they all blur into each other. Things that we do recall are that it was blazing hot, that we saw Pulp, Blur and Oasis (who were virtually bottom of the bill at that point) all perform stunning sets on the second stage as Brit Pop began to accelerate towards 90’s domination, that Bjork was an incredible bundle of dancing prancing energy and vocal brilliance, that M People captured a polished joy that demonstrated that Glastonbury was no longer a festival for just crusties and hippies, that on Sunday morning part of the site was shut off as there had been a shooting incident, that elsewhere we heard that someone died of a drugs overdose (the first ever death on site) and most importantly that whilst we were there the first cracks in the relationship with the person we were living with and thought was going to be our life partner appeared. By Christmas that year we had separated.

Since that time, we’ve been back to Glastonbury a number of times – not every year, but on average about once every three years. We’ve experienced some of the most apocalyptic weather and conditions we’ve experienced in a tent at Glastonbury. The mud of 1997 and 1998 in particular was horrendous. 

After Glastonbury 1997 the first ever Breaking Waves fanzine was published. It was 38 pages long and contained a 19 page review of the mud bath event in diary form. Reading back now it seems that our highlights were Daft Punk, Radiohead and Dennis Pennis having to fill for the The Prodigy when something went wrong with their equipment and they had to leave the stage. In 1998 we went with our new girlfriend, her first Glastonbury, and had to endure a river running through the middle of our tent. The fact that she didn’t complain once and just got on with things probably explains why she’s still our partner (and mother of our 2 children) now. 

In 2003 we took our children to their first Glastonbury and had a very different experience – spending the mornings relaxing in the sun in the kid’s field, with ‘headliners’ such as Bodger & Badger before catching the likes of REM, Radiohead (again) and the Flaming Lips on the Pyramid stage at night with our children drifting off to sleep in pushchairs. Everything about it was glorious and it was probably the first time ever that we really didn’t want to come home afterwards. That was the year we really found that ‘Glastonbury spirit’ that people talk about; a spirit of humanity coming together, co-operating and appreciating each other, whatever their views on the world outside. 

12 years on and with the children now teenagers we’re beginning to believe they are charmed – they’ve now been to over 20 festivals and have yet to experience any sort of major mud bath – in fact they’ve only had to wear wellies (because of wet grass more than anything) for just 1 of those festivals they have attended. They also seem to have found a little bit of that Glastonbury spirit themselves, being pretty empathetic kids who seem to be far more tolerant of differences than many people from generations above them. They give hope for the future.

More recently, Breaking More Waves was invited to become one of the music writer judges for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, for which we receive a complimentary ticket for the festival as thanks for helping filter through some of the thousands of entries that are submitted for the competition every year. The last two years this ticket has been a press ticket meaning that we’ve been able to camp in the reserved hospitality campsite on site giving us privileges such as showers, ‘real’ flushing toilets and a hospitality car park that is close to the site. It’s something we’re extremely grateful for, getting that bit older and having slummed it in some pretty horrendous conditions at other points of our Glastonbury history.

We feel like we’ve grown up with the festival. We’re guessing that this is not uncommon for those who have been going for many years. We’ve watched it get bigger and cater for the mainstream masses , and its undoubtedly become safer in many respects (not only in some of its main stage music selections but the actual site itself – the installation of the super fence may have alienated some, but when lives were being put at risk without it, it needed to happen), but at its heart the old fashioned alternative hippy spirit still resides there, or at least as close as you can get to it in these days of corporate greed, social media that’s often anti-social and lifestyles that in the main seem to be all about the individual rather than society. Glastonbury (in the main) brings us back to a concept of society – albeit one that is drunk, wasted and hungover.

If you’re going this year, have a fantastic time however you choose to experience the festival. Look after those you’re going with, and make friends with / keep an eye out for strangers there as well. 

Musical tips? Oh go on then. The Unthanks with an orchestra to wash away your hangover at 11am on Saturday opening the Pyramid Stage (streaming below), Kate Tempest (various stages) delivering her optimistic words and beats and of course, Lionel Richie if only to see if he starts with Hello. If he does, we'll probably cry and laugh at the same time.

The Unthanks - Flutter

Lionel Richie - Hello