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Features March 8, 2024

We Can Do So Much More for Women in the Music Industry: Op-Ed

DEB SUCKLING
We Can Do So Much More for Women in the Music Industry: Op-Ed
Image: Supplied

“Where do we go now?” Quoting Guns N’ Roses might seem like an odd way to start a piece for International Women’s Day but that line means so much.

Growing up in regional QLD during the 80’s surrounded by a ragtag bunch of metal heads in revved up Mazda Rotarys was one of my safe places. I knew those guys seriously had my back. Fast forward to 2024, though, and gaining respect still seems a distance away.

That will never be an easy thing in our music industry: making one’s way through this industry often feels like trying to navigate a fleet of ships to a destination that only allows a couple of boats in at a time. The fight to the dock is brutal – it’s a battle most of us who have been here for a while know all too well.

In an industry with very few rules, support, outside our most trusted peers, can be non-existent.

Most women who have spent significant time in this industry either work for small companies or for themselves, trying to pay the rent and get the kids to school while also going on tour and making projects with little money, They use every single problem solving trick in the book.

Energy and time to change things, even though it is at the forefront of our minds always, is the last thing on the list as we collapse into bed at night and wonder if we should go and get real jobs (and a very nice haircut). But remember – none of us are in this for the money, right?

I absolutely applaud what Support Act are doing and the new initiative of Creative Australia, Creative Workplaces, both of which are excellent if you are in employment for an organisation or company, but for the majority of us who work for ourselves, we have no safety networks.

This is a harsh reality: support almost always falls on the shoulders of our industry’s experienced women, who lovingly give every second of their spare time to help the next generation.

But their shoulders can only support so much. They give and give and give – is it any wonder that out of sheer desperation we often turn to social media to try to right wrongs only to find we need a legal degree if we say the wrong thing? More fear. More trauma.

And then we have the statistics.

Almost 23% of young women in Australia are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. How do we support almost a quarter of young women who have experienced trauma entering the minefield of our music industry?

As a survivor, I know I wouldn’t be here without finding music – it gave me a voice and so much more. But when you have experienced trauma as a child or young person, it takes very little to trigger it. You still think you need to please people because your own self-respect was taken from you.

We need to have better strategies and support in place for our future, but we also have to talk deeply and clearly together. We lose too many of our greatest women in our industry who get worn down as their shoulders slump out of exhaustion. They make sure everything runs on time, but they also have to be counsellors and supporters and it ends up being a 24/7 job.

We need these women more than ever, but they need incentives and respect to stay.

These are the woman who have been mighty in changing our landscape for the better. They deserve to be celebrated for speaking the truth for so many.

There is no easy answer, but I do know that we can do better together.  After all, we spend most of our careers in our industry solving problems and making sure the show goes on. One of my most profound experiences has been working with First Nations musicians in this country – listening and respect means everything to them. I have learned so much from our first creators of song in this country.

The key is please, please listen. And believe. Music changes lives. Help us do it better.

Today is a fitting day to connect with people in the Australasian music industry. Check out Women In Music Australia (WIMA) and the NZ Women & Gender Diverse Music Industry Group.

Deb Suckling is a singer-songwriter/musician/producer/arts worker/mentor/manager/label owner and now a full time grant writer and strategic planner who has been working in music for the past 27 years. Based in Brisbane, Deb has a deep passion for working with women and young people in ensuring their voices are heard. She has been a part of every major women’s mentoring program across the country, and in her own program, BIG SKY GIRLS, has supported 36 young women from regional and remote Australia in finding their voices. She also works with a number of First Nations artists and organisations across the country in between having a household of teenagers making the next best beats for the future.

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