Who’s in charge here?
Nobody really. But, HEY! I’m Jen Miller. I’m an (music) artist + activist, and I founded Girl Gang Music.
Here’s some of my backstory for context. Growing up in Ohio, I played sports (soccer, track, basketball) during most of my free time, but that all came to a grinding halt after a few knee injuries, and I began teaching myself instruments, which drove me to turn to music and the people around me. I obtained a degree in political science and psychology while touring on my own music during the summers.
Although I studied political science and psychology at Wittenberg University, I now sit here typing this on Jan 1, 2017, with a career that blends political communications and advocacy with songwriting and music production. After a few years in D.C. working as a strategic communications consultant (read: that’s mumbo jumbo for ghostwriting, branding, and communications for Fortune 500 companies, high growth start-ups, and non-profit organizations, as well as their executives), I had an “a-ha!” moment. No matter what industry fell into, there was always a discussion around gender disparity. And a whole bunch of dudes named John. I noticed every academia-driven industry (health care, science, humanities) seemingly had some think tank or group working to serve the marginalized groups and women in the industry. And in music? Whew, buddy. There’s another routine playing out behind the scenes.
So, I decided to build a Girl Gang of women, nonbinary, and LGBTQIA+ people in the music industry who help each other for no reason at all. Just because we can.
When I first started playing live music at the age of eighteen, I realized something fast: I was often the only woman in the room, and I was often assumed as there for someone’s consumption. How I acted, dressed, spoke, etc. did not change that. And a few gigs into one of my first tours with friends from Ohio, I realized I would have a routine at all my tour gigs. It looked like this:
I was asked who in the band I was f***ing. I was asked who actually writes the songs. I was propositioned for sex for masters of an EP. I was told my A&R that my image needed to be “sexier” or feel more like the “girl next door”.
None of these stories feel shocking any more after the number of discussions I’ve had with women with similar experiences. Because they’re super familiar.
This routine gets tiring for women in all industries. And it was, ultimately, the reason I paused touring and playing live music for awhile after I came to the consensus that the industry would ultimately make me unhappy if I was approaching it from a stage.
I was just too young to realize it wasn’t just the industry, it’s the power structures we’re operating under.
In an era where I feel truth must be fought for harder than ever, let’s skip the part where we argue and go straight to the numbers:
- Less than 5% of the people creating the sounds, music and media in the daily soundtrack of our lives are women.
- There are so few women in music production, that no one has bothered to count.
- Thirty-two million people attend music festivals every year in the U.S. Over half (51%) of those attendees are women. But on stage, the demographics are very different. Women make 10% of the acts on the music festival circuit.
- Only 22.3% (46 total) of the 206 songs in the Top 40 were sung by women.In 2016, 37% of songs (76 total) had at least one woman credited for lyrics, and women made up just 10.8% (96) of the total number of songwriters used (886):
ALRIGHT, but why Girl Gang Music?
We’ve got a lot of work to do. I want to help do that work. Girl Gang Music is a curated community and network of women and non-binary humans within the music industry. We are songwriters, artists, producers, journalists, photographers, managers, agents, instrumentalists, and innovators within the industry.
The main thought behind the creation of GGM was that I’d be no where without people who help for no reason. And I want to convene more people who help others for no reason. This is a great place to do that.
Girl Gang Music’s mission is to promote female inclusion in all aspects of the industry, to celebrate women who are already thriving in music, and, ultimately, to develop a pipeline for girls and young women to confidently get involved in music through mentorship and community.
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