Ageism in the Music Industry
The holidays are here, it's unseasonably gorgeous outside here in Texas, and as always I'm sitting at my computer contemplating my career and the millions of things I need to do next. I was catching up on my magazine reading this afternoon and read Taylor Swift's article in the November issue of InStyle. The poise and elegance that Taylor possesses is refreshing for a pop star today. She made a statement that got me thinking, yet again, about being a woman in this industry and the giant clock that seems to haunt us the closer we come to the age of 30. "Count the number of women who are able to maintain relevant music careers over the age of 30. There aren't many [Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce to name very few], and I wish there were more." says Taylor.
When I was watching the AMA's the other night it wasn't surprising to see the typical slew of pop stars grace the stage, but one pop star in particular caught my eye...Ms. Jenny from the Block herself. Whether you like her music or not, or approve of her dominating sexuality, you cannot deny that the 45 year old pop star is better and more gorgeous than ever. She took command of the stage with her boldness and talent, overshadowing hip hop's princess, Iggy Azalea, who joined her for their song "Booty".
In a recent interview Lopez was speaking about the box that our culture and the media try to put women in and to me it's absolutely tragic. The system of pop music seems to get younger and younger, enforcing a message that youth and sex are the key to making it in this industry, specifically in the realm of pop. The tragedy in this model is, as women, we are viewed in our prime at the tender age of 18, 21, 25. Once our quarter life crisis hits it's all down hill from there...right?
I loved my 20's. I partied my ass off, got my college degree, vacationed with girlfriends, explored who I was, and married a beautiful man...and at the end of the day I still had no idea who the hell I was. Now this is my story. There are plenty of young women who have a strong sense of self at a young age and go on to take the world by storm. I'm not trying to alienate those women, just simply start a conversation.
I lived my life in my 20's, I sang all over the place, I had a record deal, auditioned and appeared on reality TV shows and was scared away from the industry because of fear and insecurities. It took me almost a decade to come full circle and own this talent of mine and the reality that this is the only thing I want to do with my life.
Something magical happens when you turn 30. All of a sudden things become a little clearer and that young, crazy 21 year old girl seems like a distant memory. So at the tender age of 30 are you done? Should you pack it up and say adieu to your love, Mr. Music, because you're past your 20's? Life seems long at times. I sit and talk to my parents, still working, still navigating through life and still wondering what they should do at this stage. They still listen and buy (thanks mom and dad) music, go to concerts and dance in their cars to their favorite tunes. Music doesn't end at 29. It transcends age and time and our culture should embrace music no matter what your gender, race, or age is.
I was contacted by a small independent label in Nashville last year who absolutely loved my look and sound. They started asking me a ton of questions about my past and my music, they wanted to set up a time to meet and talk, but once they started listening to my story the question came up..."so how old are you, around 25?" I told them my age....radio silence. Not a response, not a thank you have a good day...nothing. I was done, dried up and dead in their eyes. Nobody would want to hear my music because I'm "past my prime". It's a shame that unless you're targeting the youthful pop market most labels want nothing to do with you. You're on your own, trying to create and reach millions of people without the support that a label can provide...money, contacts, etc.
I could open up an entirely different conversation regarding the state of the industry and dying model of labels signing and developing artists, but the reality is, as artists we still need the marketing support of a label. The model is disrupted, flawed and completely broken. I do and can continue to have a career in music. I make a modest living as a musician, doing what I love. I create music, play live shows 3-4 times a week, sing jingles for major brands, and whatever else I can do to expand this career of mine. But I have bigger dreams, bigger aspirations and to be told my age or sex is getting in the way is ludicrous. My voice is stronger than it's ever been, I'm writing better than I ever have, and I'm more confident. This is my prime. This is my time to live my life the way I've always dreamed. And I see people connect with my music. I have supporters that come up to me and are excited about what I'm doing and they can't wait to hear more music. What about them? Should they only be force fed the next 15 year old pop sensation? It's completely unbalanced.
If you've read the most recent article from independent artist Pomplamoose, it really sheds some light on the challenges we face when we are forced to do it all ourselves. But what's the alternative...stop? Change our careers at 30, 35 because a broken system says you're done? I refuse to accept it. I will probably never see super star status but that's not why I'm here. I'm here because that 6 year old child is still inside of me that realized she doesn't love anything like she loves music. I will continue to have a career, to entertain, make music and connect with people who need the beautiful outlet of song. I would just encourage women and men, no matter what their age, to not let fear stop them from living the life they've always wanted. As long as there's a song within me I'll find a stage to let it out!