A FREMANTLE booking agent is so tired of all-male gigs she’s launched an agency to help female and minority artists in WA.
Maggie Bochat booked bands for Mojo’s for two years, and initially only booked male acts because it was the established culture and gigs were well-attended.
But her outlook completely changed when she went to see HUSSY, an all-girl band at the time.
“Standing at the front of the dance floor, we were all feeling so empowered and so happy and I thought this is the sort of experience I want people coming to my gigs to feel,” Bochat says.
“Before that gig I didn’t think there was space for me or other women to have our voice up there.
“So I put on Gals who are Killing it, but interestingly, the more inclusive the gigs got, the more focused on the gender of female, the less money the gigs made, the less drinks were sold, and the less people were coming.”
Ms Bochat says bookers need to take risks, but gig-goers also need to be encouraged to attend different types of concerts and support diverse artists.
Her new promotions company, Recycled Rainbow Records, will work to get more women and minority groups on stage, and she plans to create an online database with a diverse range of artists, so “I didn’t know anyone”, is no longer an excuse.
“The dream would be to have Indigenous, male, female, trans musicians, all on the one lineup,” Bochat says.
“We need to empower women and minority groups to have the confidence to play, and then we need support from the community, and the bookers for significant gigs, where they can go ‘Yeah I’m being taken seriously in this, I’m gonna pursue it’.”
Fremantle muso Jennifer Aslett says that a lot of schoolgirls play music, but on reaching adulthood they stop because of a perceived lack of opportunity.
“The more women that are on stage, the more women there will be on stage in the future, just because there’s an increase in role models,” she says.
“You can’t be what you can’t see. I think that they [bookers] are unaware, overlooking or not acknowledging the systemic barriers that women face toward having a career in the music industry, which is something that really needs to be addressed.”
Lack of gender diversity at gigs is not just a WA issue, with this years Falls Festival in Byron Bay criticised for only having nine women across 36 different acts.
At the festival, the all-female Melbourne band Camp Cope sang “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up a tent, it’s another fucking festival booking only nine women”.
In December, more than 300 Australian female musicians signed an open letter to the music industry, as part of the #MeNoMore campaign.
“In the face of uncountable discrimination, harassment, violence, and the general menace of sexist jargon, we have gritted our teeth and gotten on with the job. But today we say, no more,” read the letter.
This year’s Laneway festival in Fremantle had a more gender-balanced lineup, but festival co-founder Danny Rogers says, “We don’t consciously book any act based on their gender.”
“We base acts on how much we think they fit Laneway’s line up—that often finds a natural balance.
“How good the music is, when it’s coming out, and always, always, that they can deliver an exceptional live show.”
Meanwhile, gigs in Fremantle are being held to promote more gender-diverse lineups, including Women on Fire at Mojo’s on March 14, and South Freo singer-songwriter Stella Donnelly recently voiced her support.
by ALICE ANGELONI