Let's talk about diversity in music

International women’s day was yesterday, and I noticed something a lot of people seem to forget. A lot of people seem to appreciate and recognize the achievements of women on this day. The unfortunate reality, however, is that many people fail to do this for the other 364 days of the year.

In particular, it seems that venues and promoters don’t always showcase femme musicians within the Calgary scene.

There is a myriad of reasons for this, and many stories have been written about the topic. Take, for example, CBC’s take on Pemberton’s 2016 lineup. The bill of 165 artist contained only 16 women. The story cites lack of funding and an infrastructure that simply doesn’t support fostering and growing musicians who aren’t white-men.

If you look to the Juno Awards, one of the biggest award ceremonies for musicians in Canada, you’ll find that in 2016 only 32 percent of its nominees were women. The Globe and Mail article also discusses the idea that there aren’t a lack of women who want to be artists, or produces, or otherwise involved in music. Rather, it’s about whether or not the opportunities are available to them.

In Calgary, it comes as no surprise that many people would tell you the music community is tightly knit. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, and the latter is especially true when you’re trying to break into the scene. Beyond that, many struggle to even find opportunities to join bands or learn how to play instruments.

Not Enough Fest Edmonton brought a solution to that, allowing otherwise underrepresented groups (aka not white-men) to learn instruments, form bands, and generally broke down the barrier to entry for many individuals. The festival is now growing roots in Calgary, hopefully aiming to break down the barriers here.

It’s fair to say that I want to see people like me in the Calgary music scene, and generally Canadian music. I want to see queer women making music because I can relate to what they create. I also want to see non-binary, transgender, POC, disabled, and other people represented in music because it makes for a more interesting experience.

Femme Wave, a local music festival that aims to promote underrepresented artists, is an excellent example of this idea. When working on another story, one of the founders once told that you should check out the festival if you want to see something new, interesting and different. Diversity is captivating, and it’s important to understand that art allows us to understand the world. How can we do this completely if we can’t even see everyone represented?

If all else fails, think about the diversity of ideas. When you get diverse people in a roundtable discussion about an issue, you are more likely to come up with new and innovative solutions because of their different backgrounds and experiences. Everybody can enjoy some white-boy indie rock, but wouldn’t it also be cool to listen to something else?