Female performing singer-songwriters

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I’m curious about women’s experiences as performing singer-songwriters, especially if you’re juggling day job and family as well.

I just don’t see many people who fit this bill in my travels on the local circuit. My experience is that often I’m a demographic of 1 at open mics and such, as a Vietnamese-Australian woman of reproductive age Biggrin Open mics tend to be older men, in fact the one I was at on Sunday was exclusively so. I wondered if this is a feature of my area in particular or if it’s a more widespread thing.

That's an interesting question, and interesting to ask. I do allot of observation in my area and others and consider what's "going on" for various reasons. So you're profile says your "particular area", -- for which I'd have no idea, but glad to now learn something about it.

In my area, there are very few "open mics" and if there are, they are almost exclusively "Covers Only". In that regard it brings out a very (very) diverse partaker of the event. It seems it's mostly as "fun" for fun sake and I guess beats the alternatives for families today (?). So, you'll observe all that with it too.

In my area my "working-working" friends insist, Covers pay, and original does not. And by pay, it can be significant, -- pending how you define it. However, at the upper levels you'll need to *really understand the "rules" and when they specify *seconds *between songs and run it like a live studio set for broadcast (for e.g.), they mean it (or you won't be back). So, it's *work, not necessarily "fun".

Another thing you may find interesting (?) is that, within ad hoc conversations in varying situations, -- one is not allowed to easily "cross-over" from Cover to Original work. I don't get why, but was told unless you can do both same time, leaving one makes you re-prove yourself again, and again...

I think imo/ime is that "Covers" are defined in various ways; and if doing "that", know all the ways that can be. You will become a VERY proficient "musician" if hold up within it.

Original work is, well, how you want it. Ever try to get someone to "do" you favorite song, *you wrote, your way? Wow, that's when you learn "Flat Picking" really is not the *easy way to go... up/down/sync'd as sub-beat, sub-melody. Aye?

-- Cutting this off from to much a "rabbit trail"... I wonder too why your situation is how it is and in the way that you describe it.

I infer a "negative"?

In my very young, dish-washing days at venues noticed that folks as you describe yourself, were very very *happy for it, -- a positive (?). Why? Well, they became, in a manner of speaking, (esp if "younger"), everyone's "daughter", if not Diva! Smile Then not happy when a bit more "daring" edition came by it seemed.

But, that's just my ad hoc observation of it. I have more Smile but, well, branches off to much as to what works where in what region, how and why.

-- One thing is, (as a positive note), I am always happily surprised it seems when I get somewhere and expect it to be "unfriendly" then wish I brought my book Smile 'cause it's very very friendly. Then wish I had a well setup guitar, not borrowed with 1/4 inch string action with cheese hanging from the strings Wink hahhh!!

With more than a few colleges and universities in my area, it's saturated with musicians, singers and songwriters. Busking is illegal, karaoke is the only open mic (and if you sing better than the jockey, they cut off your mic), and the only clubs with bands are in the casino. Also, I'm a single parent of a disabled teen with little support, so I don't get out of the house much. I have been thinking of performing live on social media. I believe online is the new live venue.

I live in New England and yes, the open mics tend to be older men, I am more able to attend now that my kids are getting older, but I have been the only gal from time to time. But, if I go to an open mic in a more populated area that appeals to younger folks, then there are plenty of young girls who don't have a family. I used to go to an open mic with a young couple and after they had kids, haven't seen them since. It is difficult in art because of the hours and it doesn't pay enough. I belong to an art collective and you hang your art in the gallery and then have to work in the gallery as an agreement in exchange. Those hours leak into the special needs bus schedule and I can't do them and cannot hang my art, they refused to adjust hours to fit my schedule and I have two special needs kids. So, I know what you mean and I see it here as well.

Tina, your observations ring true. I've played, busked and done open mics in Europe and Australia and the majority of performers are male. They seem to be divided into two groups - the 20 somethings and the over fifties. Often the latter guys tend to have a lot of disposable income and have expensive guitars The young guys though are usually a great bunch of musos. Regarding women singer songwriters, I've seen a fair number of very strong and gifted performers. For example, here in Perth, Scotland there are several very talented women who perform their own songs and receive huge acclaim. They are super confident and talented. Maybe it is due to the presence here of a University degree course in music performance, the graduates all collaborate with each other and are hugely proficient and skilled. I do despair when an open mic host introduces a female musician as 'The lovely ......' but honestly this is becoming very rare. Here we also have a large number of open mics that are hosted by women - something that has to help. In my second home in Blackheath in the Blue Mountains in Australia, the main open mic is run by two women and they regularly feature female musicians. I maybe over optimistic but I have the feeling that the days of old men dominating the local music venues might be coming to an end. However, is it possible that there is a teeny weeny bit of male chauvinism still alive in parts of Sydney? Who knew? Smile That's my optimistic view regarding gender; in terms of ethnicity, I'm less positive, open mics and fesitvals, etc., seem to be exclusively white - and it's a battle to make them more diverse. To be honest, I don't think that most open mics are truly open. But all it takes is for all of us to keep pushing for diversity and we will succeed.
There's scope for a PhD topic on the relationship between men and acoustic guitars that would be very fruitful.

This has definitely been my experience, both as a soloist and in bands. I have been the token woman at many musical event.

Hey @3tdoan - I just reread your original comment of the thread, and wondered if "woman of reproductive age" Smile meant that you would be happier if the men were "young" Wink ?

Online, with "onlineguage", allot of what one gets as response is how the person "reads" it and may miss actual meaning, -- negatives, positives and opinions tends to be the first fleshed out. It's why I commented observations in my region without evaluation.

So, that makes this an entirely different conversation if the meaning, -- finding "friends" within this path of music.

-- That, would be an interesting thread to read Wink

I see this a bit. The open mics that I attend regularly are run by women though, so I don't see it as much as I used to. More than that I find difficulty getting gigs. I enjoy working at renaissance faires and have tons of experience (I was in the cast for a big one for over 10 years), but as a female solo artist, there's very little interest. There's interest in solo male artists, and mixed groups, and female groups singing bawdy songs or what I call "sexy young things in their tribal outfits," but jobs for someone like me are few and far between.

It's not very unusual in Buffalo to see female singer-songwriters of all ages; however, I don't see them often getting the best gigs in town (except for Ani when she's in town). It's really more accepted and easy to do here than being in an all female band, as I've learned from personal experience and that of many musical acquaintances. Overall, there's a generosity among musicians here. There are some well-established coffeehouses and open mics; I know a couple that have been around since I started playing out in the mid-80s.

On a side note, what open mics would you recommend in the Buffalo area? I keep meaning to check some out when I'm up visiting family, but I never know where to go.

Thanks for sharing your experiences. Snorted a bit at @katpiercemusic's "sexy young things in their tribal outfits" Biggrin

I guess the conclusion is that there are still some barriers to women performing - and the "of reproductive age" thing was deliberate. I haven't got a family yet but planning one in the next few years, and wondering how that will change things. I think mothers with young kids are probably the rarest birds. I can think of only one or two that I've seen in my travels. Venues and times aren't particularly kid friendly - my friends came to one of my gigs and were thrown out because their 5 month old baby was underage, despite our checking this point beforehand!

I wonder if there's a difference between the amateur and pro/semi-pro scenes - I'd say I see more women represented in the latter, for sure. I have a theory that women have a higher threshold for putting themselves out there.

Good point @Roddy about who runs open mics- 95% men in my experience. I'm in a mailing list and only one of the Sydney open mics are run by women, as far as I know. Lesson, we gotta step up for ourselves! Have been invited to a couple of all-women gigs by women I've met at open mics, so it's happening, just a bit ad hoc. There is one great standing event, Chicks with picks, which happens every month and features (intimidatingly) high quality talent.