The Danish musician, producer, writer and self-declared feminist Henrik Marstal, is coming to Boost. There he will try to enlighten us on why diversity should play an important role when forming a creative music scene. His latest book looks at the role of men in the gender debate. We had a chat with him about the gender imbalance in the Danish music industry and how we can raise engagement and awareness on this matter not only among women, but also men.
KODA is the Danish collecting society for composers, songwriters and music publishers. When looking at the numbers of male and female members in the society from 2011 to 2015, it is slightly shocking to read that more than 80 % are men*. The number has barely changed during that timeframe. What are your thoughts on this imbalance?
– It is definitely an imbalance, but I can't say I find it very surprising. In the past few decades of popular music, men's abilities to develop and express themselves through music has been favoured over women's. Also, the many gatekeepers of the music business have typically been men, not really looking at the imbalance as much of a problem. Another thing is that rock and hiphop especially, has derived from and is still heavily influenced by a masculine music culture.
Why do you think there's still a lot of female instrumentalists that experience prejudice?
– Unfortunately I've both seen and heard of episodes where this is happening. I think one of the reasons might be that our perception of quality is somewhat genderized. We are so used to seeing male instrumentalists, that we feel confused when we see a woman where we expect a man. Also, instruments like electric guitar or drums, have been defined from the very beginning as masculine bastions. For many instrumentalists it is considered a virtue to be technically clever, to play loudly, to take up a lot of space. Virtues that are often expected to be fulfilled best by men.
When participating at debates or conversations about gender balance in the music industry in Norway, there are often not that many men present. What can we do to engage more men?
–I recognize this problem from Denmark as well. I think one way of engaging more men is that the gatekeepers of the music industry and artists themselves take affair by acting more self critical. The music business should have a greater focus on what genders they are signing, booking or playing on the radio. It could be a good idea to get a few influential men in the music business to come forward with their considerations – how they bring the aspect of gender into their daily work and how the fact that they are men affects their daily practice. Another idea is to increase the focus on the few female role models that exist already. In Denmark for instance, it's been important to a lot of female musicians that Prince's bass player, Ida Nielsen, was a Danish woman. Luckily she's just one of an ever-increasing group.
*These numbers are gathered from direct e-mail exchanges with KODA.