This week Linda Coogan Byrne and Áine Tyrrell released their Gender Disparity Data Report on Irish Radio. The report compared Irish acts that made the Top 20 across 27 radio stations and found only 1 (RTE Radio 1) had 50/50 gender ratio across their playlists. You can read the findings here https://www.canva.com/design/DAD_kmfQraE/LacXD6V8n_UGaOkS3r1Giw/view
As of today, Wednesday July 1st, 5 stations have agreed to address the gender disparity found in the report. Also today, The Irish Women in Harmony charity single ‘Dreams’ for SAFE Ireland is the first Irish female act to break the overall Top 20 chart in Ireland in over 10 years and the first female act to reach No 1 in the Irish Homegrown chart.
Since the report was published Byrne and Tyrrell asked male Irish artists to comment of the results and the radio scene in Ireland as they saw it. This is what they had to say.
“The findings of this report present an opportunity for Irish radio stations to become a force for positive change in society. Radio has the unique position of controlling the measures of content which reach the ears of the public on a day-to-day basis. When this content is written and performed almost exclusively from the male perspective it perpetuates an industry which is already male-centric and it actively fuels the cycle of gender inequality in all aspects of the trade.
I’m slightly ashamed to admit that, as a 37 year-old man, I’ve had to really dig deep in the last couple of years to truly comprehend the privilege I’ve taken for granted; I did not see it in my 20s and early 30s because patriarchy and its psychological consequences are insidious and omnipresent and ignorance on such matters is rewarded. I’m still on that journey and I see this report as an invitation for one of our most important cultural institutions to do the same.
Mainstream Irish radio is a commercial enterprise but it needs to fully recognise its potential as a cultural establishment too; unfortunately that establishment is currently giving a voice to only half of the population and the societal ramifications of this, both conscious and unconscious, are monumental” – VILLAGERS, (CONOR O’BRIEN), Musician & Artist
“I’ve always been aware of how few Irish female artists there are on line ups, on stages and on radio and I’ve felt hugely uncomfortable many times realising I’m on an all Irish line up or playlist with not a single Irish woman on it, I’ve tried to call it out but it’s not enough.
The people in charge and all the lads benefitting from this need to talk about it and do more to change it, myself included.
This report highlights how unfair it is on the airwaves and its sad and It doesn’t make sense considering how many great female artists and musicians there are in this country” – Alfie, HUDSON TAYLOR, Musician & Artist
“There are so many really talented and exciting young acts in Ireland at the moment. We have had the opportunity to work with some very talented female acts over the past couple of years and fully support Irish women in music.” – Sean & Conor Price, Band
“A lot of my friends and peers are within the Women in Harmony project and I just wanted to show my solidarity. I wanted to say that while the results were disappointing, I am also sadly unsurprised. I also want to add that this statement is not intended to diminish the incredible talent and successes of the Irish men shown there. Their accomplishments are completely just and deserved. I have the utmost respect and admiration for them. This data however, as you can surely agree, does a huge injustice to the diverse and worthy talent that Ireland has to offer.
Ireland has been the face of real change and progress worldwide for the last decade or so, and the music pouring from this country needs to be represented by more than the straight white male.
I fear that radio stations believe that they can only play what is requested, but I think that that mentality insults the intelligence and tastes of the Irish population. Music has to be more than a straight white male perspective. It is a shame to not see more than one woman, Black/POC or a single member of the LGBTQ+ community on that list. We owe it to those exact people unrepresented, that they can one day soon see and hear people like themselves in Irish media. If you were to ask Irish men and women what their Spotify/Apple etc streaming artists were, I don’t think it would reflect what those analytics showed. This country has a wide and eclectic taste in music that spans far beyond what is presented to us.
I am aware that this is all coming from a gay white male perspective who has been lucky to be played on the radio. But I also feel I have been given more opportunities than my female peers. I wish to send on my solidarity and support to the female artists of this country. We need to support our own and “our own” means everyone. We truly have the power to make tsunami level waves in the worldwide music industry. However, these waves need to be ones of diversity and inclusion” – Tim Chadwick, Musician & Artist
“The findings in this report are shocking but not surprising. It highlights an industry model that needs immediate reform. It is not acceptable that in 2020 this kind of inequality continues to exist on Irish radio. In fact, it is shameful. The Irish music scene is diverse and wonderfully creative. It is disgraceful that this is not reflected on air. Instead, a boring homogeny reigns supreme. We stand in solidarity with female musicians in their efforts to ensure equal representation on Irish radio.” – Jamie Coughlan, Overblown Magazine
“As an independent Irish record label, Rubyworks has long been aware of the challenges female artists face in the Irish music industry. The Gender Disparity Report provides a much-needed insight into one of those challenges. While radio is part of the challenge for female artists in Ireland, there is a wider context that also needs to be addressed, with a number of complex elements that dictate whether or not an artist will succeed. Rubyworks is committed to defining, understanding and overcoming these challenges to level the playing field for female artists in Ireland.” – Niall Muckian, Rubyworks (Rodrigo y Gabriela, Hozier, Hudson Taylor, David Keenan, Wyvern Lingo, Little Hours, Eve Belle, Ruby Sessions)
“Writing about gender equality in music from a male perspective is a strange feeling. Because in order to truly acknowledge the huge divide between men and women, as a man, I have to first admit that I didn’t notice it at all.
When I think back now, I wonder how that could have been. That’s what privilege is. I used to think that privilege was just some buzzword that people used in order to sound smarter, or to elevate a point. But I was ignorant then, and privilege is very real. Privilege is flipping through a music magazine at age 15, and not even noticing that there was no women in there. Privilege is thinking that its normal to place a band in a genre called ‘female fronted’ or to go on tour for 3 weeks. and to only ever play with one band with a woman in it, and then to sit there while guys have a discussion about whether women playing in bands is cool or not.
I allowed this to happen, and I stood by and did nothing. So before I can point the finger at the music industry, or at the radio, or at the whole system, I have to acknowledge that I too have contributed to this inequality. I have contributed to it, and I have benefited from it. Maybe this was unconscious, and it was conditioned by a system that’s setup in such a way that men are always on top. But nonetheless it happened, and it makes me sad that I spent a lot of my life not noticing that. I think the reason that Linda’s report hit so hard, is because when it’s presented to you in such stark analytical detail, it’s impossible to ignore. Its embarrassing for Ireland, and for all the amazing musicians both women and men.
The radio is dominated with male voices. The charts are dominated with male voices, and even when a woman’s voice is heard, often times it’s only a certain voice that the industry allows in order to shift units.
My Mam fought in the 90’s for equality in her sport. Women were not allowed to be full paying members in the club she played at. She fought hard for that, and lost a lot of friends over it, and had many arguments with men. But she fought her corner, because she believed that it was unjust. She set a great example for me to think about the world we live in, and how skewed everything is in favour of men. We have never had a woman be the leader of this country. That’s where the bar has been set for us by the generation above.
We have no choice, we have to change that right now. The gender disparity takes the magic away from the whole music scene. It’s uncomfortable to look at. But if it’s uncomfortable for me to look at for a few minutes, I can’t even imagine how uncomfortable it has been to live with that for your whole life. The problem with inequality, is that the person in a better position, can never truly empathise with the person in the worse position. So all I can really do is listen closely and promise to do better. All I can do is say today is that I stand with you, and that I am here to help in any way that I can. My inbox is open.”- NEALO, Artist, Singer, Rapper
“As a male musician, I’ve always known that there has been inequality ingrained in the Irish music scene. I work with a lot of female artists, and hearing their stories and experiences always upset me, because it often seemed like a different world to mine, which in reality it is. When I saw that there was a report on Gender Disparity in Irish Radio, I could have given an educated guess as to what it would contain, however upon hearing the sheer extremity of the numbers I was shocked. There’s very obviously an oversight here.
You can get into the weeds here and begin to explain it away with phrases like ‘Industry wide problem’, but the radio stations have a brilliant opportunity here to lead the charge in making genuine lasting change. I would love to see the stations themselves make a report like this every 6 months, and really celebrate the change they are going to make. Its a win-win situation: The stations lead the charge in correcting the scales, and we all get to hear loads of class tunes from brilliant under represented female artists from one of the most vibrant music scenes in the world.
It’s time for the radio stations to turn this negative story into a positive one.” – DAITHI, Music Producer
“For too long we have accepted that radio-playlisted music runs in correlation to what’s popular. We now have proof that conscious & unconscious non-musical decisions are favouring the radio play of male musicians, to the detriment of our music scene. Despite what is said about streaming, radio still plays a huge role in our every-day soundtrack and there have never been more brilliant women making fantastic music across many genres.
It’s time for us men to consciously push their music and art because this is fundamentally a male problem, perpetuated by conservative choices and inherited biases”.- PAJ, Musician & Artist
“I would love to state that Linda’s recent report of the shocking under representation of female artists on Irish radio was eye opening, but unfortunately it wasn’t a surprise. The shameful shunning of the incredible female talent that Ireland has to offer, across the board, through every facet of the industry, is something that needs to change and change now. Women don’t deserve to be played on Irish radio because they are women, they deserve to be played because they are talented and horribly under represented” Dara Munnis, Music Photographer
“The report is shocking, and it is not. The only thing worse than the stats themselves are the badly theorised justifications I’ve seen from some men over the past week. It proves we have a long way to go. The best music in this country right now is being made by female artists and we’re not giving it a chance to blossom. The good thing is that it is easily fixed – Play more female artists on the radio. Today” Danny Groenland (Danny G & the Major 7ths) Musician & Artist
“Where to start with the results of this report? Unfortunately it’s no shock to me to read the findings, for far too long daytime commercial radio across this country has erred on the side of being ultra safe with a reluctance to promote Irish talent and when it does as the report cleary shows, that time and time again commercial radio plums for the same safe options which results in the sort of gender disparity we see in clear black and white in this report.
I’ve presented on commercial radio in the past so I know this to be the case all too well. The recent all-Irish trials by 2FM show that there is more than enough talent & high quality songs in this country (as I well know) without having to go to the same names everytime and certainly not as much as you see in the report – frankly the number of plays afforded to some acts is embarrassing, even if they were the most talented acts in music history – which allows no space for others and as the report shows especially if you happen to be female.
RTE Radio 1 have shown that there is a path that can be followed and I’d imagine that is down to their very knowledgeable producers and presenters that really care about promoting the wide and varied talent in this country, and of both genders !! I was very lucky to have a female radio mentor when I started off in radio and her guidance has stayed with me all these years later when looking at my own playlists for every show I do.
The likes of Ruthanne, ROE, Sodablonde, Orla Gartland, Ailbhe Reddy, Soulé, whenyoung, Emma Langford, Tolu Makay, Farah Elle, Ceev, Jess Young, Roisin Murphy, Zapho, Indian Queens (and many, many more besides) all deserve far more airtime than they currently get. It’s about time that commercial radio in this country began to wake up and reflect modern Ireland and all the wonderful variety of musical artists and flavours that are on offer in this country”. – John Loftus (presents Sounds from a Green World on 8radio.com and writes for goldenplec.com) was speaking in a personal capacity
“I had always been aware that there was a male bias in the music played on radio but – naively – had not realised it was as outrageously bad as this. I’m a pop act myself. Independent/unsigned. Male, Irish, white. I fully recognise my privilege. I can’t even begin to imagine how much bigger my obstacles would be if I were a woman.
First of all, where any broadcaster is in receipt of State funding – including by tax exemptions – applicants should be required to ‘equality proof’ their output. If France and Canada can successfully legislate for a 40% quota of nationally produced music on air, there’s no reason why Ireland can’t follow suit and – crucially – build a 50% gender balance into the requirements.
We have a brand-new government now and Ministers will shortly be appointed to oversee the arts, justice, equality, broadcasting. There may be overlap in some of those roles, depending on how Departments are divvied up. They can write and progress such a bill quickly. Yes, there will be pushback from luddite broadcasters but a cogent, transparent, unequivocal and public argument should be required if there’s some attempt to evade balance. Where these guys (and, let’s face it, they will be guys) expose their bias, they should be publicly challenged. They’ll blame the punter, of course. But they already tout themselves as taste-makers: so let them influence public taste so that an artist’s gender is never a barrier to a career. If RTÉ Radio 1 can do it, so can they.
Clearly, the gender imbalance on radio is replicated in festival line-ups and, to a large extent, in print media/blogs. I’m convinced that a greater gender balance on radio will help improve this organically. But it shouldn’t be left to chance. Again, the terms and conditions of State grants/supports need to be proactive. It would also help to create a climate that also improves the gender balance of our radio and TV presenters” – Tony Kavanagh- Musician & Artist
“In response to the recent light Linda Coogan Byrne has gave us all I feel the need to further that light as a male songwriter. The statistical percentage of radio play for the women in our industry is disgraceful but what was more heart breaking was seeing comments by these exact women saying “Disappointed but not surprised”.
We are absolutely blessed in this small country that the Irish music community is tight knitted and extremely supportive of the talent that goes beyond our individual counties so its baffling that these individuals don’t get the radio play and opportunity that is adequate to the time, effort, professionalism and money it takes to be a functioning artist in this modern age let alone thriving.
There IS room for us all in this industry, it’s not a competition for radio play, we are all carriers of unique stories and backgrounds and differences, but the stories and backgrounds and differences of our ladies are not getting the chance to be heard. We are a country of immense diversity, culture and acceptance so let us be that for the women that are setting unbelievable standards of talent and music. See the figures, then change them” -Conor Doyle, Musician & Artist
“For anybody who knows even one Irish female artist – even just one – it’s simply inconceivable to think for even a second that Irish male artists are as vastly superior in terms of quality as this report reveals Irish radio to believe. It’s impossible. It’s just not true.
The depth of creativity and expression of Irish female artists – as songwriters and performers – is on a par with female artists anywhere else in the world. That Irish radio is not recognising this, and therefore not even coming close to giving female artists the same support via airplay as their male counterparts, is a huge problem.
It may have been unproven up until now, but it’s not in the shadows anymore. Linda and Aìne’s report shines a light on what is as much an injustice as it is an imbalance.
The answer to the question of why this situation is, and has been, the reality for female artists is definitely one that needs to be found. But perhaps more importantly at this stage, and in this moment, is finding the answer to the question of how this situation can be addressed as soon as possible so that airplay on Irish radio more accurately reflects the brilliant music that so many Irish female artists are – and have always been – creating.” – Anthony Sullivan ‘On The Right TRAX’ columnist, Tullamore Tribune/ Midland Tribune
“As the co-founder of Andrson, a company that fundamentally believes every voice deserves the chance to be heard, it’s disappointing to learn just how severe the gender disparity is in Irish radio. Music is the beating heart of Ireland, and we owe it to ourselves to make that heartbeat as strong as possible. That can only be done with fair representation and a far-better balanced gender distribution.
To my mind, that requires a rapid switch in mentality, from creating more intentional programming to pushing back on playlisters and media owners. And it means meaningful representation: putting deserving female artists and female-led bands in rotation, not just spot playing. “….For a female [or Black, or Asian, or LGBTQ] artist” is not a phrase that should ever act as a justification for quality or inclusion. Worthwhile music knows all genres, creeds, races, orientations, and certainly genders. It’s time Irish radio showed up for our female artists” – Zach Miller-Frankel, Andrson.
‘In many ways, this report is confirmation of the suspicions of many people: there’s been progress, but Irish music media still harbours problems with representation in many ways, and gender disparity is outlined in stark, uncompromising terms here. ‘As this conversation opens up further in the coming weeks and months, and so many of us would be well-advised to examine our attitudes in this respect, this report will hopefully be something of a turning point’ – Mike McGrath-Bryan, Music Journalist