An independent survey by LIB Life confirms downplay of female artists in Liberia’s Music Industry
A three-week survey conducted by this paper has corroborated J. Glo and Angie Tonton’s claim of an increase in gender inequality in Liberia’s music industry.
The issue of gender inequality in the industry came to light after Liberian R&B recording artists J. Glo and Angie Tonton broke their silence and complained that inequality has increased in the industry at levels that have never been seen before.
The study monitored at least 50 top radio stations and clubs in and out of Monrovia by assigning people to get information on how many songs by females artists were played during the three-week period.
The field reports revealed that women are chronically disadvantaged in the Liberia music industry, and that out of every 10 songs played, only one was by a female artist. For nightclubs, it was discovered that it is rare to hear songs from female artists being played – representing 1% – making it difficult for them to get exposure in the industry.
This has prevented female artists like Sweetz, J Glo, MZ Menneh, Queen V and Angie Tonton, who all released great songs last year, from getting their full and proper attention, and pushing them to the bottom, or almost out of the industry.
In addition, the survey discovered that women are seriously underrepresented in positions of leadership in the industry, holding just 0.01 percent of senior leadership roles, despite women being high consumers of music in the country.
When it comes to music production, the gap is even wider as male producers or record label owners don’t mentor women who are interested in the field, thereby killing their passion and dream of becoming producers.
This lack of mentorship seems to be the reason why there are no female producers in the industry, although new male producers are coming out daily that have been mentored by top producers.
The survey also revealed that female artists receive significantly less industry awards than their male peers; they don’t get major nominations like ‘Artist of the Year’ from Liberian awards organizations. Furthermore, they are still underrepresented on top radio stations’ weekly or monthly top 10 lists.
Before the survey, my personal snap surveys of the 75 most played songs on commercial radio in 2017 revealed that less than 10 were by women, with the most played songs coming from Da Vero and Pillz, whose songs were in great demand – although other female artists produced better quality songs than songs from their male counterparts that became hit songs.
When it came to the issue of pay, the survey showed that the gap is very wide, with women artists earning less than their male counterparts. Case in point: the two Lonestar Cell MTN beach jamborees organized in 2017 that brought Flavour, Tekno and Kcee to the country. Considered the biggest shows in the country last year, they only featured one female artist – Da Vero, who was paid less than US$500, while the least paid male artist took home between US$600 and US$2,000.
The survey uncovered that the increase in gender inequality started late 2016, due to what can be termed as a cultural war to maintain male dominance and make female artists second class in the industry.
Due to this, no female artist in the past three years has been able to organize her own show as the men who control the industry prefer them to be opening acts for male artists; and even when they do organize their own shows, they find it difficult to make them successful due to lack of sponsorship or support from the men who control the industry.
On bookings for interviews and features in newspapers and magazines, women don’t get a fair share and are booked fewer times than their male counterparts, with male artists (85% more) getting more bookings or appearing in features than female artists.
The most shocking revelation of the survey was that even female radio DJs prefer playing songs by male artists and booking them over their female compatriots, thus literally killing their chances at a career.