On January 21-24, the colorful and rowdy crowd that attends NAMM overran Anaheim, CA once more.
It’s a festive weekend; old friends and band mates meet and catch up, new gear is ogled, and deals are made. Parties run late, and alcohol flows freely.
In the midst of the revelry, this reporter set out to see if she could get the scoop on where the concept of “women in music” fit into the landscape. (NAMM tends to bring both ends of the spectrum into the forefront: You can find scantily clad, well-endowed girls shilling for products at one booth, and no-nonsense, business-suit clad exhibitors displaying gear at another.)
Traditional interviews with stock questions tend to result in scripted answers that yield no real revelations, so I decided to forgo the notepad and voice recorder for a beer and an ear. Here’s what I learned.
Almost immediately, I ran into April Duran of Raghouse Records/Radio and Lisa S. Johnson of 108 Rockstar Guitars. I am a huge fan of both these women.
My band has appeared on April’s show and found her to be warm, engaging and sincere in her purpose. Recently she posted a photo on Facebook of UpBeat Magazine with the caption, “So people ask why I do what I do? I received this awesome thick mag this morning at my hotel, and women in music are only mentioned a few times. Lots of work to be done.”
I interviewed Lisa for GGM a few months ago, and she is as passionate about her work as she is skilled at executing it. Her photography of iconic guitars is second to none.
Lisa S. Johnson of 108 Rock Star Guitars with the Spider Accomplice
and April Duran of Rag House Records
Both ladies were extremely busy and having a very productive weekend, so that seemed to bode well. I went from there to the Daisy Rock booth, which was significantly smaller than it had been in previous years, so much so that I was almost unable to locate it. However once I did, I was delighted to find a lot of sparkle and color in the product represented.
At this point, I looked up some other female-focused exhibits and found them to be few and far between, and often crammed into obscure corners. So, I decided to find out why.
I spoke to musicians and exhibitors, male and female, who overwhelmingly wished to remain anonymous. Mostly, because they felt that what they had to say was controversial.
A talented female guitarist sat down with me and expressed her view. “Why do we need to quantify? Can’t we just be ‘musicians’? Why must we specify that we’re ‘women musicians’? I feel that we’re segregating ourselves when we put these labels on things.”
Another female artist rolled her eyes when I mentioned the weekend’s events that were geared towards women. “I don’t really go in for that,” she said. “I don’t want to be in that pigeonhole.”
I chatted with a male exhibitor who indicated that the majority of clients that approached his technical company are men, and that for a woman to come speak confidently about engineering with him was “rare.”
So…. Are we creating a divide amongst ourselves? And have we almost shoved women into a self-created ‘niche’? Do women shy away from technical knowledge, or are we assumed to be ignorant by chauvinistic gearheads?
I left feeling that I had more questions than answers. Over the years, I have met, messaged, and worked with many great women, who are working FOR women: Tara Low, Madalyn Sklar, April Duran, and the list goes on. Their results prove that their work is valuable and productive.
But what of the seemingly pervasive attitude that women’s organizations are somehow marginalizing us, simply by differentiating us from our male counterparts? Is it somehow lessening our accomplishments to brand us “female musicians” when men are simply “musicians?”
It seems there are no hard and fast answers, but that these are conversations that are clearly worth having. What do you think? Is there a solution? Or is this a manufactured problem? Tell us your position in the comment section!