When the 1975 won the best British group award at the Brits on Wednesday, singer Matty Healy used his acceptance speech to quote from an article by the Guardian’s Laura Snapes about misogyny in the music industry. The next day, the two of them sat down with Chris of Christine and the Queens on Matt Wilkinson’s Beats 1 radio show to talk about their personal experiences of sexism in the business, the need for male allies, where the industry should go from here and how soon we can expect its #MeToo movement.
Here is the transcript of that discussion:
Matt Wilkinson: For me, the biggest talking point of the Brits last night was when the 1975 won their first award, and, Matty, you got up, and your speech was a direct quote of an article that Laura wrote about misogyny in the music industry. I was sat at the tables, and I have to say the whole room went quiet. The tone totally changed in the auditorium during the ceremony. And Chris, you tweeted about it as well, saying this was the best moment of the night. Matty, when did you decide to do this?
Matty Healy: [Wednesday] morning I’d read it. It was such an amazing piece. So then, I suppose I was like, what do I say? I’m not doing anything like that to be a woke king, or to earn brownie points, it’s just that it was the best thing that I’d read. It didn’t read to me as an opinion, it read to me as a truth. It was all I was thinking about that day, so I just thought that everybody else should think about it. Laura had said it better than I think I ever could, and I think it’s important that we hear a woman’s voice over a man’s voice. It felt like the right thing to do. So thank you so much for the words.
MW: I kinda looked at it almost as if you were using your platform as a vessel to get a wider message, a bigger message across.
MH: Of course, yeah. And it is frustrating, being in that room – if I was to speak about it, I wouldn’t be speaking from ideology, I’d be speaking from experience. Every man in that room knows a woman in that industry who has been at one time subject to misogynistic behaviour by a man when professionalism should have been at play. End of story. You have one of those anecdotes, I have one, I’m sure everybody here has one, and it still happens. So that’s a question that surely everyone, all men have to ask ourselves in our industry: why? It must be [because it’s] permitted, somehow.
MW: Do you guys think, and I wanna bring all of you in here, that we’re heading towards a bit of a snowball moment in music and we might be seeing what happened with #MeToo in film finally happening in music?
LS: I’d like to think that it might start happening. I had a Damascene moment the day after the Ryan Adams news. When people say, “Why hasn’t #MeToo happened for music?”, I think it’s reasons like power isn’t concentrated in individuals like Harvey Weinstein – there’s not a big power broker like that – and also, as I wrote in the Ryan Adams piece, the myth of male genius props up music, and people are loth to pull that down.
MH: It’s so true, man.
LS: But then I realised, I work at a national newspaper. We’re in a position to do something about this. And I spoke to Joe Coscarelli, who was one of the authors of the New York Times’s Ryan Adams report, and he said that, they sometimes lack the resources to do that kind of story, and most mainstream newspapers don’t consider music a news item. I thought, we have to be the people who consider these stories a news item and go after them.
MW: What you’re saying, Laura, is exactly right. People slag off music journalism and say it’s not as good as it used to be, but for me, it’s better than it’s ever been and it’s getting to more people than ever before.
MH: Our relationship, for example – there was a time when I said something wrong, just outright misinformed. I apologised for it publicly because I just said something that was a bit ignorant. Laura called me out on it and we had a dialogue behind closed doors about it. It seems that there’s part of this relationship where if you accept that if you’ve not done anything wrong, you’ve not got anything to be scared of, and you shouldn’t avoid criticism from those who have objectively different experiences than you do in things that probably you’ll be less informed on. What’s cool is that we’ve established this dialogue where we’re kinda like mates, but we’d hold each other accountable for stuff.
MW: The other important thing that I wanted to say to you guys, Chris and Matty, is I think we need more musicians taking a stand and using their platform to get this message across. That doesn’t really happen enough, in my opinion.
MH: Chris is the ultimate example of it.
MW: Also you’re so eloquent when you talk, you have great ideas. They’re normal ideas that everybody really should have, but you put them across very, very openly. As do you, Matty.
Chris: I think also the violence is systemic. As a musician myself, I encountered many, many, many moments of misogyny, also because some of the key technical places were occupied by men who couldn’t see me, for example, as a producer. My whole career is made of moments where I had to fight five times more than maybe a man to say, “Actually, I can use my own computer, actually I am writing the tracks and I can produce them.” I think it’s really exhausting when you’re a female trying to navigate in that reality, and I think sometimes it can be scary to take a stand, especially at first, when there were very few women talking about that, because then you’re immediately pinpointed as, “Ugh, she’s going to be the bitchy one who always opens her mouth.” And then you’re reduced again and you’re made to maybe shut up more. So I think that the great thing is that with more allies that can actually help make this a problem for everybody in the industry, not just women, it gets more and more comfortable to speak about those things because it becomes more a safe space for everybody to express themselves.
MW: This is what I mean by the #MeToo thing happening in music – even if I look back to your original article, Laura, in 2015 that came out, that was a different world back then. Things have moved on, it seems like we’re in a better place now. We’re not there.
C: Not really.
MW: But it feels like [we’ve taken] one step in the right direction?
MH: It so speaks volumes, doesn’t it, that everybody, woke Twitter, everybody gets together on this statement that’s very now and part of hopefully propping up some movement. But you’ve been saying this for four years!
LS: I’ve been saying this for 10 years. Something I wrote about in that Ryan Adams piece: on one hand you’ve got #MeToo-related issues and you’ve got sexual harassment and direct examples of misogyny in the industry, but then you’ve got all the systems that prop it up. I was saying these things nine years ago in my first job, and they didn’t make me popular. You would point out that a bloke that we were potentially going to cover had a dodgy reputation, and you’d be the person in trouble. We would still continue to cover the guy, and you’d be more than in trouble.
C: That’s the problem, also.
LS: And the thing that I really worry about at the moment is, the Brits is patting itself on the back over the fact that it’s got 50-50 gender representation in its nominations and they seem to think that’s enough. But it’s not. If you look at the Brits last night, most of the women who were nominated, especially in singles categories, were guest vocalists on male producers’ songs. And you have Calvin Harris who’s winning best producer – in the entire 27-year history of that prize, only two women have ever been nominated for it and, obviously, they’ve never won. It’s great that we have representation and gender equality but we have to think about the behind-the-scenes roles and how women are actually being allowed to use their voices. Spotify has made it so that this trope of the male producer track with the female guest vocalist on it – that’s what pop music is now, and so it’s refashioned A&R, and that’s what people want, it’s what labels want, it’s what female artists are being forced to do and it means that their voices are being heard, but they’re only ever an adjunct to men. It stifles creativity, and it’s demoralising, I think. For artists, I’m sure, as well as listeners.
MW: It’s systemic, it’s exactly what you said as well, Chris – it goes through the whole of music, and it has done for the last 50 years. It was a good moment last night that Matty, you used your platform, to actually say, “You know what, I’m not gonna go up and just say, ‘Thanks to the label, thanks to whoever’. I’m gonna say this, I’m gonna walk away and leave everybody who’s watching to make their own decisions [and think:] ‘Wow, what was that, where did that come from?’”
LS: Especially as, at last year’s awards season, with Time’s Up and the white roses, women have been making these comments at awards ceremonies – which is great, and I never want to underestimate that. But when women talk about misogyny, people don’t listen, and so, like Chris was saying, having a powerful male ally who is willing to do that is important. It depresses me that that’s the point [at which] people listen, but it’s important that it happens.
C: It’s useful, definitely.
MH: And my point, also, is that women need to be listened to. If it requires men to say it outright, that that behaviour is not tolerated, then there you go. It’s not alright.
C: It becomes everybody’s problem. It was great yesterday because of that. It was a real subject for everybody in the room, which was perfect, and the fact that you quoted the exact words of Laura was also respecting the original source of the voice, so it was the right thing. I think it felt right for many women in the room.