With this week's Life during quarantine playlist Nick Triani discusses changing attitudes and gender equality at the record label Soliti
As I often keep finding out nowadays, my expectations toward others lead to disappointment. A recent narrative on a friend’s facebook feed was a case in point: a conversation between mostly middle-aged white men about music soon descended into a mansplaining marathon and victim blaming indignation. It was the classic “I respect #MeToo, but...” scenario.
A newish strand of internet rage can now go under the label of ‘music gender tribalism’. My own comments were pretty aggressive too (I’m not proud of it), but when having to condemn racist attitudes and sexism one has to be forceful. You can’t let these things slip, whoever you’re talking to, as in the past I regretfully often have.
Change has been extensive in the way we talk in recent years. Since the beginning of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, discussion has begun of the need for more equality in general terms, between genders (in all their varieties) and so-called races. This has led to feminist cultural analysis infiltrating the mainstream. The rise of movements like Black Lives Matter and an awareness of Trans issues are now part of our everyday discussion. For certain white middle aged, right-onish men these issues have induced a privileged response and a resistive attitude to change. Those men who don’t like this new world order, feel the previously unheard voices challenge their cosy, middle class superiority, and threaten their position – a world where their opinions are always on the right side of the patriarchal canon.
TRYING TO LEVEL IT UP
And how am I any different? I’m not really. And what the hell am I actually doing to make a difference? After all, here I am every week shoving my musical taste down your throats and extolling the virtues of my own favourite music, the ultimate in middle-aged mansplaining.
I’m trying. It’s small steps. My partner has had almost 20 years to inform me and show me the juvenile tendency of my errant ways. It’s been the most enlightened and open time of my life. Acceptance to new ideas not born out of the learned gender norms. But here’s what made the difference: I’ve been willing to listen and understand, to try on new shoes and take on new perspectives not usually associated with my gender. I have been forced to.
I’ve tried to make a difference through channels I can influence. I decided a few years ago to address the gender imbalance amongst the roster on the record label I A+R and generally take care of, Soliti. The label made its name initially (especially internationally), with a bunch of white boy guitar bands playing various alternatives of indie music. Of course there were exceptions, but in general terms, the label was a very male dominated exercise and this was something that really began to bother me, especially as ideology-wise, things were moving on from such simplistic gender distinctions, even within some areas of the music industry (though not so much in Finland). It’s important to point out that I still stand by and love all the music the label released at that time.
Over the last five years or so the gender balance at the label has evened up, so much so that by the time this year came round, nine years later, we finally have a gender equal roster representing more than cis and hetero communities. Of course no one really knew the intention here, but it has been quite a deliberate move to have a gender equal label roster. This new equality has manifested itself with the realisation that overall, I prefer working with women.
On a more practical level, it’s been very difficult finding women artists that fit the aesthetic and musical direction of the label. But as has naturally happened, the label has changed (thankfully) – and it now feels like a broader church for musical styles – of course all under the independent aesthetic that Soliti has established itself under. That change is attributable to the women who have released music for the label. And yes, balance is still present, as Soliti still releases white boy indie guitar music too.
Next, I would love to sign BAME artists to the label. Please, send me music!
Nick Triani is an editor and contributor to One Quart Magazine.