The Boston Music Scene's Burgeoning Sisterhood of Badassery
We all listen to music, and many of us love to see an amazing artist perform, but we may not be aware of the serious gender problem in the live music business. Just take a look at this data tracking gender balance among performers at major music festivals.
As a former music business professional myself, I must admit that gender equality was not something that crossed my mind all those years ago. I knew I loved to see a powerful woman artist on stage, but that was about it. If there were any women working behind the scenes in production, it was most likely in hospitality. That’s why I was so glad to speak with Kristina Latino, who works in Boston’s music scene helping musicians achieve their goals and producing creative events, to hear her insight on gender balance in the business today.
Latino got her start as a sound engineer at Cambridge, MA venue Club Passim and there worked alongside other women in production. It’s pretty rare to have a woman sound engineer, let alone several at one venue. According to Women’s Audio Mission, they make up less than 5% of the profession. Latino says, “It was a really cool experience to have that bond and experience with other women, but a lot of artists would come in and ask in very well-meaning way ‘Hey, any chance the sound guy is here? Can you introduce me?’ And there were some surprised reactions when I responded, ‘Hey, that’s me.’”
As for the gender balance represented on stage, that is a problem as well. Latino recently tried to call out growing music festival, Levitate. She wanted to attend, but her jaw dropped when she got a look at the lineup: “Of the 20 acts they had booked, only 2 of them seemed to even have women members. It was almost an entirely male lineup.” She reached out to the organizers to no avail.
Similarly, a colleague of Latino’s collected data on the gender split of booking in Boston area clubs, and her sample was shocking. Many more men than women were being booked for shows and there were frequent all-male bills at popular venues.
Latino thinks that building awareness (and counting!) can be a force for change. “There is a lot of mutual appreciation for the work that everyone does, but people aren’t as aware as they should be about gender balance when booking shows or producing events. And that’s something that needs to change.” She hopes to lead by example when she produces events by thinking about gender balance from the start to ensure that half of the artists are women.
Women in Boston’s music scene have developed a growing sisterhood driven by shared experiences and a desire to lift each other up. “Everyone has had a moment where their gender has impacted their personal opportunities in a negative way, and this is even more true for women of color. It’s a very shared experience among the women I know. So it is really inspiring and uplifting to see so many women doing a lot for each other on the scene right now. It’s important to have that sisterhood of badassery.”
Latino also participates in Women in Music Boston, a local chapter of a national non-profit that’s been around for many years but has seen explosive growth recently. The goal of the organization is to help advance women working in music, both musicians and industry professionals, by providing resources, opportunities, and help for them to forge more connections. They hold community-building events throughout the year and produce live shows.
Latino is optimistic about the future:
People are becoming more aware, women in the scene support each other, and I’m seeing men step up and engage with this issue. People are challenging assumptions about what women in the music business do. There are so many ways we need to improve, but it’s also a good time to be a woman in music in Boston.
As for how we music lovers can help, she says “Everyone listens to music and we all have a stake in the game. Pay to see women artists perform and buy their albums. If you go to a festival or night of music and you notice that the artists are mostly men, say something. Support the art that you care about. Your piece may be small but its important.”