Indie Pop Singer Ella Vos: Music Is a Man’s World

I​ ​didn’t​ ​realize​ ​that​ ​I​ ​was​ ​the​ ​only​ ​woman​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room.​ ​That’s​ ​just​ ​how​ ​it​ ​is​—​we’ve become so ​used​ ​to​ ​it. It​ ​didn’t​ ​click​ ​until,​ ​as​ ​we​ ​were​ ​walking​ ​into​ ​his​ ​office,​ ​a​ ​powerful​ ​music​ ​exec​ ​said​ ​that​ ​he​ ​would make​ ​sure​ ​to​ ​“bring​ ​some​ ​girls​ ​in​ ​the​ ​room.”​ ​Unsurprisingly,​ ​he​ ​never​ ​did.​ ​Afterwards,​ ​it​ ​was​ ​clear​ ​to​ ​me​ ​how​ ​misogynistic​ ​the​ ​music​ ​industry​ ​was​—​how​ ​it​ ​still​ ​is​—​and​ ​how​ ​the men at the top are ​acutely aware​ ​of​ ​it.​ We’re​ ​still​ ​“girls”​ ​to them. We’re​ ​on​ ​the​ ​outside,​ ​unless​ ​they​ ​invite​ ​us​ ​in.​ ​ As​ ​a​ ​female,​ ​I’m​ ​terrified​ ​of​ ​the​ ​industry​—because​ ​of​ ​my​ ​age,​ ​because​ ​I’m​ ​a​ ​mother, because​ ​I’m​ a wife.​ ​None​ ​of​ ​these​ ​things​ ​are​ ​issues​ ​for​ ​men.

In​ ​addition​ ​to​ ​feeling​ ​the​ ​need​ ​to​ ​prove​ ​ourselves,​ ​women in the music industry are ​also​ ​accustomed​ ​to​ ​having​ ​our​ ​looks prioritized.​ ​A​ ​male​ ​exec​ ​has​ ​never​ ​commented​ ​on​ ​my​ ​music​ ​without​ ​first​ ​commenting​ ​on my​ ​appearance.​ ​In​ ​my​ ​first​ ​management​ ​meeting,​ ​a​ ​well-known​ ​manager​ ​said​ ​to​ ​me,​ ​“If​ ​I​ ​looked like​ ​you,​ ​I’d​ ​be​ ​taking​ ​photos​ ​of​ ​myself​ ​all​ ​the​ ​time.”​ ​Sometimes​ ​I​ ​naively​ ​interpret​ ​that​ ​sort​ ​of thing​ ​as​ ​a​ ​compliment,​ ​but​ ​in​ ​reality,​ ​it’s​ ​a​ ​“checkbox.”​

​What’s more, I’ve​ ​also​ ​felt​ ​like​ ​people​ ​doubt​ ​if​ ​I​ am serious, ​ ​or​ ​if​ ​I​ ​really​ ​ “want ​it”​ ​because​ ​I​ am​ ​a​ ​mother. The idea ​that​ ​a​ ​career​ ​in​ ​music​ ​might​ ​not​ ​be as​ ​much​ ​of​ ​a​ ​priority​ ​for​ ​me​ ​as​ ​it​ ​is​ ​for​ ​a​ ​man​, even​ ​though​ many ​have​ ​kids themselves, is absurd. Will​ ​there​ ​be​ ​a​ ​time​ ​when​ ​female​ ​artists​ ​who​ ​are​ ​‘exceptions’​ ​become​ ​the​ ​norm?​ Maybe this an archaic definition of ‘making it,’ which I need to stop measuring myself against. If so, where else should I look?   ​

“Earlier​ ​this​ ​year​ ​we​ ​had​ ​a​ ​thirty-one​ ​week​ ​streak with​ ​no ​woman at​ ​number one.”​ ​

Recently, I’ve been trying ​to​ ​write​ ​down​ ​my​ ​business​ ​and​ ​life​ ​goals​ ​for the​ ​next​ ​ten​ ​years.​ I’ve looked up every​ ​female​ ​artist, searching ​for​ ​women​ ​with​ ​the​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​success​ ​I​ ​want and ​analyzing​ ​how​ ​they got​ ​there.​ ​For​ ​many​ ​of​ ​them,​ ​it’s​ ​hard​ ​not to​ ​attribute​ ​their​ ​success​ ​to​ ​their​ ​youth,​ ​their​ ​sex appeal,​ ​or​ ​who​ ​they’re​ ​associated​ ​with.​ ​But,​ ​on​ ​the​ ​other​ ​hand,​ ​I​ ​can​ ​go​ ​look​ ​up​ ​any​ ​male​ ​artist who​ ​is​ ​achieving​ ​at​ ​the​ ​moment,​ ​and​ ​they’re​ ​all​ ​over​ ​the​ ​map​. They’re​ ​not​ ​all​ ​young, beautiful, or​ ​under​ ​the​ ​wing​ ​of​ ​another​ ​achieving​ ​male.

Yes,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​obvious exceptions​, ​but​ ​that’s​ ​exactly what​ ​they​ ​are—exceptions!​ ​And​ ​even​ ​these women​ ​aren’t​ ​consistently​ ​topping​ ​the​ ​charts.​ ​Earlier​ ​this​ ​year​ ​we​ ​had​ ​a​ ​thirty-one​ ​week​ ​streak with​ ​no ​woman at​ ​number one.​ ​Given​ ​the​ ​amount​ ​of​ ​talented​ ​women​ ​in​ ​the​ ​industry,​ ​it​ ​feels​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​off.​ ​Is it​ just ​a​ ​coincidence,​ given ​almost​ ​every​ ​gatekeeper​ ​is​ ​male?​ I’ve​ ​read​ ​a​ ​slew​ ​of​ ​articles​ ​this past​ ​year​ ​about​ ​companies​ ​making​ ​an​ ​effort​ ​to​ ​be more​ ​diversified and ​gender-balanced. ​But how​ ​long​ ​will​ ​it​ ​be​ ​until​ ​this​ ​takes effect at​ ​the​ ​top​ ​level?

​It’s​ ​hard​ ​to​ ​have​ ​hope​ ​when​ ​the​ ​meeting​ ​ends​ ​with,​ ​“Let’s​ ​open​ ​the​ ​door​ ​so​ ​the​ ​‘girls’​ ​can​ ​hear.” So, what​ ​I​ ​really​ ​want​ ​to​ ​know​ ​is: ​ ​Can​ ​you​ ​make​ ​it​ ​in​ ​the music ​industry​ ​as​ ​a​ ​female​ ​artist​ ​if​ ​you​ ​aren’t young​, ​unattached, society’s definition of beautiful, and​ are unwilling to ​sign​ ​your​ ​life​ ​over​ ​to​ ​major​ ​labels that are dominated by men? ​ ​I​ ​guess​ ​I’m​ ​about​ ​to find out…

Ella Vos is an indie pop singer and songwriter based in Los Angeles. She is set to release her deeply personal debut album titled Words I Never Said on November 17. Her music has an explicit political and feminist angle, touching on taboo subjects like postpartum depression (“White Noise”), abortion and women’s reproductive rights (“You Don’t Know About Me”), and messages of hope and empowerment.

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