Posts Tagged ‘women’


Women, digital distribution, and visual image

August 26, 2010

Another crosspost, this one from Music Think Tank Open; it was written as a companion to the zed equals zee post, “Women in Music: the lost generation.”

As a fan, I’ve been excited for the rise of digital distribution and for the direct interaction of artists and listeners because it means I’m more likely to hear great music that I like. It means that I get to decide what I want to listen to, rather than having a slew of A&R folks and radio programmers make the decisions for me.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about how record labels are not only gatekeepers for the music itself, but also for the visual image of artists.

I get it. Artists are performers, and looks matter.

But it’s pretty clear when you look at Top 40 artists that the standards for successful female artists and successful male artists are not the same. Music industry executives are predominantly male, and their professional tastes are, frankly, boring. So female artists have to be conventionally attractive, but male artists can look like Nickelback—middling-attractive guys (whose videos are then stuffed full of women in bikinis).

Deviate from these norms, and you face opposition. Roadrunner tried to get Amanda Palmer to re-edit her “Leeds United” video; because it contained a shot of her exposed belly that didn’t conform to the taut, airbrushed Britney-Beyonce-Lady Gaga standards. (She and her fans rebelled, and ultimately won. If you haven’t seen the video, go watch it. Amanda Palmer is undeniably hot, whatever her former label thinks.)

How many awesome female artists are there that didn’t get signed or supported because they didn’t fit the narrow visual criteria of the guy on the other side of the desk? Janet Weiss, of Sleater-Kinney, talks about how photographers wanted the band to look playful and sweet, and to dress them up like they were dolls. She says, “We wanted to look like the Stones, to be cool, to be tough, to be heroes. Why don’t women get to be heroes?”

I want female artists to be heroes. Or anything else they want to be. And I’m delighted that it might finally happen.

This post is adapted from one at zed equals zee, a music, technology and culture blog. debcha is a music fan, academic, and geek (not necessarily in that order). She also writes the zed equals zee companion Tumblr, and you can follow her on Twitter.


Electric Laser People in Nike campaign

February 3, 2009


While we’ve previously discussed the role of advertising in getting new music heard here at zed equals zee, it’s just come surprisingly close to home. Nike decided to use a riff from the song “Guilty,” by Boston band and z=z faves Electric Laser People for their “Be Transformed” campaign. The song is part of the soundtrack for an ad called “Punching Bag,” which features Hong Kong volleyball player Sonia Kong working out with a heavy bag, which then transforms into an animated monster. The whole ad campaign is really interesting, actually – it’s for Nike Women, and it focuses on women transforming themselves through sports and competition. Given that its target market is Asia and the Pacific Rim (including countries like India, mainland China and the Philippines), it really does send a strong message to cultures that haven’t traditionally valued women.

You can read more about it at the ELP blog and at TrashBagAesthetics, where you can also watch the ads. Or you can see them in the wild at one of the Nike pages, such as this page for India.

Because Electric Laser People are super cool, you can download their whole album, Straight Talk on Raising Kids, at their site (it’s free and under a Creative Commons license). Also, you should go check them out live at the All-Asia Cafe in Cambridge, MA on February 27, and if you are an MIT person (or enjoy hanging out with MIT people), they are playing The Thirsty Ear next Friday, February 13th. More tour dates at their blog.

MP3: Electric Laser People – Guilty [buy CD]