A pattern is emerging. A quick flick through the last ten issues of NME and Q and I see that every cover artist is male and white. The same tired old face show up: Noel, Damon, Pete, Richey, Kurt. The British Musical Press is going out of business, if what we’re being told is true. There is a reason for this – it has stagnated into a 90’s-worshipping, stubborn pile of trash. The most alarming lack of modernisation is the absence of women on the covers and the stories of the music press. It’s not like there aren’t any women in any genre at the minute, just in case you think you need examples I’ve compiled a worthy list of women in music: Joanna Gruesome, Perfect Pussy, Speedy Ortiz, Grimes, Laura Marling, Florence and the Machine, PJ Harvey, Marina and the Diamonds, Bjork, Courtney Barnett, Sky Ferreira, Sleater-Kinney, Waxahatchee. I don’t need to add any more, it has become apparent that there are women in music and they are operating, touring and writing music. It’s not like the British Press can complain about not being able to access music from across the pond, there are thriving scenes in the UK and bands just asking to be put on a front cover and gain some popularity. But that’s hard when Noel Gallagher appears on the front cover of NME every few weeks with just enough controversy on his lips to get a quote.
Even when NME does this ’50 New Bands of 2015′ issue, guess who’s on the front? Only the whitest band in the UK – Fat White Family – priding themselves on being pictured half naked every time someone whips out a camera and playing up the depraved persona like their lives depend on it, but that’s an issue for another post. Secondary stories – The Districts, Public Access TV, Slaves. You name any Strokes rip-off and NME and Q have got it in surplus. There are articles about Bully and Hinds, both of which are very promising all-female or female-led bands, however these are the only two out of the ten ‘top-ten new bands’. Q doesn’t even bother to cover up, picking good old Noel (again), ACDC, Ed Sheeran, U2 and Aphex Twin as their cover stories (Kate Bush does get a special cover on the Aphex Twin issue).
More than twenty years ago, Bikini Kill revolutionised the position of women in rock to something more aggressive and arguably, more effective. They knew who their audience were and resisted those who took it upon themselves to diminish their role in third-wave feminism. They grabbed the headlines, they got the attention and they knew what to do with it. The new wave of feminism has brought with it forward-thinking groups such as Perfect Pussy, whose message is clear and precise. It’s a band with nothing to prove, but they do it anyway. It’s a band to be inspired by, but the music press won’t give them the time of day because of their genre or style.
Do the music press not want to publish front-page articles about female artists? Is it too much of a risk to put a woman on the cover? I understand that that circulation is already low and the magazines want to put the big names on the cover, but women do happen to fall under the big name bracket too, though this may come as a shock to NME and Q. Take a bloody risk, if that’s what you consider it to be, otherwise you’ll fall down the same hole as Melody Maker and The Fly. Still, if NME wants to continue interviewing Catfish and the Sexist Pigs until they go down the shitter, we may as well let them.