Singer Trees Marie posted the following to her Facebook page on April 30: “I bet the frequency of female musicians carrying gear into the venue getting asked 'Oh, are you friends with the band?' is much higher than the amount of male musicians doing the same. PS: No, I am the band.”
The singer, who leads the band Trees Marie and the Heavy Hearts, tells the Observer: "I’ve always made an effort not to apologize before I speak, but unfortunately, that’s what is expected of women. It’s bullshit."
We asked other female musicians if they had experienced similar grievances or anecdotes. Here are the highlights of their responses:
Poppy Xander (Singer, keyboardist, Starfruit, Helium Queens)
"I remember another key player offered to help me with programming, but the guys in my band said, 'He probably just wants to fuck you.' It made me feel like I didn’t really have value as a musician — or person. There was a lot of talk like that, and it had an effect on me for a long time. Occasionally a sound guy will talk to one of the guys in the band if he has an issue with my gear or setup instead of me, or some dude will tell me about 'real bass,' and even the great normie might make an inappropriate comparison about how big my keyboard is, but for the most part, I’ve discovered I can nip some of the awkward potential hierarchy problems in the bud by introducing myself and setting the parameters for professionalism."
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Teddy Waggy (Singer, guitarist, Midnight Opera)
"Being in a band with a man who can see sexism is interesting, because I find out about the things that don’t happen straight to my face. Like when we’re on tour and (bassist) Paul Alonzo tries to point a stage manager in my direction, and he watches as their eyes dart around me, trying to find the man they’re supposed to go and talk to. Or when they’ve been dealing with me all night and still try to hand the payment to a man at the end of the show. If only they'd known about my policy of giving every decent promoter and sound engineer a goodnight peck on the balls."
Melissa Tucker (Clarinetist, The Orange)
"I did get called a groupie maybe once. I guess always being with my brother seemed to deter sexist remarks."
Bronwen Roberts (Singer-songwriter)
"My boyfriend often helps me carry gear to the venue, so people assume he’s the musician. While I’m setting up, people — usually dudes — walk up to him and ask what kind of music he’ll be playing, when he’s going to start playing, or if I will be playing 'with' him. They always seem a little confused and deflated when they find out I’m the whole act. Never in these situations do they ever subsequently introduce themselves to me. They just scuttle off. The funny part is that I’ve often accompanied male musician friends to their gigs, and never once have I been mistaken for being the band or even part of it."
Sarah Sellers (Singer/songwriter, SARRA)
"When I stopped thinking the sexually overt comments the maitre d’ was making about what I was wearing to my regular lounge gig was cute, he went on a mission to get me fired. Unfortunately he won."
Claire Morales (Singer-songwriter)
"I bought an amp from Guitar Center and went to pick it up. When I got there, everyone kept asking me who I was buying the amp for. One gentleman even asked me if I was buying it for my boyfriend. This has happened to me at GC and other music shops multiple times, even when I’m just buying strings or picks."
Ginny Mac (Singer, accordionist)
"I was introduced to a club owner by a live sound engineer who thought I should play the club, and the owner asked me what I do, so I told him I was a singer-songwriter-musician. I’m standing there drinking a beer in a tight tank top and the club owner asks, 'Well have you ever been a bartender? I think you could make good money tending bar.' I chuckled and said no, I haven’t. We continued to drink and he said, 'So you play the accordion?' I said yes. He asked, 'Are you any good?' I looked him straight in the eye and said 'Yeah' without any hesitation. He chuckled and said, 'I like the way you said that.' And walked off."
Jess Garland (Guitarist, harpist)
"In reference to studying classical guitar in college, 'Let me see your nails,' so that I can really prove I’m a classical player, as if I need to prove anything to anyone. I’ve even had someone press on my nails to see if they were hard — only men ask me this one. When unloading, even though I have been given procedures by the venue, I’ve had a woman of no authority tell me where I can and cannot park, even though she was already out of her parking space and I had explained to her as she was approaching my personal space that I just pulled a harp out of my car. When going to Guitar Center, where I worked very briefly while attending SMU, unless it was someone who knows me, none of the men will ask me if I needed help; they'd rather talk to the man looking at a guitar with higher commissions who most likely isn’t going to buy the guitar. When going to Guitar Center and asking a woman at the counter about discounts for instructors, and she cannot comprehend that I’m an instructor who has her own nonprofit program looking for a discount. .... When loading in my car, most people want to help, but some like to mansplain on how to put the harp in its case and my car when I have a system and have done it countless times."
Francine Thirteen (Singer-songwriter)
"My band and I were rushing into a soundcheck and I ended up running into the venue with my drummer's throne and some other equipment in a bag. The promoter came over and told me how sweet I was to help my boyfriend be on time for his gig. My name and face were literally on the flyer for that show."
Taylor Rea (Singer-songwriter, Zhora)
" 'Oh, let me carry that for you.' As if I can’t carry heavy gear. I used to get upset when this happened. Nowadays it bothers me much less. Sure, you can carry my 50-pound crate down the street where I had to park because there isn’t parking anywhere close to the venue ever.”
Lily Taylor (Singer-songwriter)
"Sound guys across the country who worry that I can't use all the pedals I've brought, who try to tell me I've set things up incorrectly, but it's really the mute button on their board that's the problem. I get off stage and a lot of times there is one guy who wants to tell me I should really get a band, that it's distracting that I play instruments while I sing. I've gotten that from a reporter before, too. I’ve asked a bunch of guy friends if they get weird feedback after performing and most don’t really get what I’m even talking about. I've been told to lose weight. I've been told to get dancers. I've been told to twerk onstage. As a booker, I had to make sure the guys knew right away that I understood how the PA worked, that I was the person they had been emailing with, not the door guy or the bartender. I found that people really wanted more emotional responses from me in my email correspondence; I'm not your therapist, I'm booking your act. And of course there is nothing like being introduced by your 'progressive' guy friend as, 'This is Lily, she does some of the booking at yadda yadda,' when I did all of the booking. I was followed to my car, pinched, groped, grabbed, hugged and kissed on, regularly. After 'Drupf' was elected we’d get starched-white-shirt shitbags in. One grabbed a handful of cherries from the bar. When I said, 'We don’t do that here' he responded with 'I don’t have to listen to you, you’re a woman.' Such a bummer."
Chelsey Danielle (Drummer, keyboardist, Pearl Earl, Helium Queens)
"One of my favorites is a couple of months ago after I played a Helium Queens show. I was taking my drums off the stage and a girl came up to me. She looked at me and her eyes got really big, then she said 'Wait, you're a woman?' She said 'Oh, I thought you were a man because I have never heard or thought a woman could drum like that.' I told her, 'Yes, I am a woman, and yes, women can drum like that.' "
Yaya Lion (Singer, SuperSonic Lips)
"I think sexism will always be there. Especially in the rock scene that’s mostly dominated by men. I think that’s the fun part for me. It gives me a reason to be just as good or even better than any male singer."
Brianne Sargent (Bassist, cellist)
"'Can I help you carry that?' 'No, I'm fine. I do this every day.' 'That looks really heavy, though.' He fails to carry it due to excessive weight. 'Thanks, but I got it.' "
EV Borman (Singer, bassist, Atom & EV)
"'You play bass guitar great, for a girl.' 'You have a great voice, for a girl.' 'Did you write the song yourself?' Trying to get gear off the stage in a hurry right after a set some usually older guy: 'You should wear more makeup/wear less makeup/wear shorter dresses/show less cleavage/do more covers/ writing original music is a waste of time.' Me to the sound guy: 'This amp has an output right back here. Sound guy: 'Does this amp have an output anywhere?' "
Jordan Henderson (Singer-songwriter, The High Moons)
"The sexism in the music industry isn’t just saved for those making it big. It may be argued that it is worse for us local gals trying to come up. Being the singer of a female-led band for the last five years, I’ve had my share of instances, like musicians who pursued my band to collaborate and book shows with us just to find out they were suddenly uninterested after I denied their sexual advances. I’ve had a male sound man argue with me at a spot in Deep Ellum about me needing to get away from the stage because I wasn’t in the band. When I said I was in the band, he argued because his contact to my band's name is 'Jordan,' and God forbid that be a girl's name. I literally pulled my ID out and showed him, and he stormed off like I was the asshole, and it was the worst sound we ever had during a live show."
Christy Ray (DJ)
"This has happened a couple times actually: I’ll be DJing and there will be a dude, whether a boyfriend of mine at the time or a friend, with me at the booth or table and someone will come up and give a handshake and/or tip to whoever the man is next to me along with praises of a job well done. It truly boggles my mind every time. I’m the one with the headphones/DJ gear who has been playing the music for you people all night. I’ve had more than a few instances of sound men — they are the worst — just be super condescending to me because they think that because I’m a girl, I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t know the lingo, et cetera. I have proof of a couple of other DJs who hired me with the full intention of sleeping with me afterwards."
Ursa Minor (DJ)
"Being told to wait outside is the most hilarious and humiliating one for me, but I played A3C a couple of years back and some dude greeted the male DJ setting up next to me and told him he was doing great ... when I was the only one hooked up and playing. Countless times of sound guys telling me I don’t know what I’m doing or offering to set my stuff up 'cause I don’t know how to do it. There’s also a very passive-aggressive 'Oh, you actually know what you’re doing' from male DJs who see female DJs mix. Like surprise, surprise, we can do the same job. It’s horrifying."
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Rat Rios (Singer-songwriter)
"When people assume Rob (boyfriend Martinez) makes my beats. A, they’re not “beats,” they are fully written and produced songs. B, Me, not Rob, punk."
"I had a male friend stay on my couch for a few months when I first started performing as SUDIE, so it's safe to assume that I was playing a show pretty much every weekend, sometimes multiple shows in a weekend. In exchange for shelter, my friend became my roadie. As a solo electronic act, I had a considerable amount of gear for my live shows, which by myself would take three to four trips to load in. So it was nice to have a helping hand. I would say about 95 percent of the time they would talk to my male friend first, asking what their setup was, if they needed help carrying gear, if it was just him performing, et cetera. When my friend would redirect them to me, the attitude usually changed into annoyance, assuming that I didn't know what I was doing. Ninety-nine percent of the time after I was finished with my set, I would get a somewhat backhanded compliment, insofar as emoting surprise, shock, disbelief that a young woman such as myself could put on a good show."
Becki Howard (violinist)
"I’ve gotten stopped, asked for ID, told I needed to pay a cover, et cetera. There was one time when I was helping load in and set up that I kept feeling like some of the dudes working the venue thought I was some over-enthusiastic groupie. Eye. Roll."
"I found that the only way I was able to overcome that superiority vibe in the venue, the studio, public, setting up, et cetera was to keep my cool no matter what and most importantly be very purposeful at all times, know what you're doing, and if you don't, ask questions and show you're more interested in learning than anyone else and overall work harder than anyone else. Be the last one at the practice space, record one more take, get to the venue first and never settle for anything less than your perfect show. All this does is distract people from your sexuality; they can't think about your body when they are too busy trying to keep up with your superior intuition for sound, which I believe most women have because we are the ones always listening to men, calculating the perfect time and tone in which to speak our thoughts."