Who Run the Music? Girls!
Examining the Construction of Female Digital Musicians’ Online Presence
There is a new genre of female musician challenging the customarily male dominated world of popular music. Women are using a gamut of digital technologies to reach new audiences with their music, bypassing traditional production routes. Grace Y. Choi’s recent article published in Popular Music and Society studies the manifestation of the female digital musicians, their motivations and the influences on women’s portrayal in music.
As Choi suggests, her research is an extension to the theme of modern feminism and the article explores how women can use digital technologies to empower themselves. Mainstream female musicians sing of girl power but are frequently objectifying themselves with bodily exposure and provocative moves. For instance, Miley Cyrus has reached the dizzy heights but confirms the stereotypical image of women as ‘twerking’ sex objects, giving discredit to her musical talents. However, women are increasingly using digital technologies such as YouTube, Sound Cloud and Vine to post video, blogs and recordings of their performances with very positive effects. They are able to express their voices and skills whilst bypassing the usual constraints of record companies and professional production. Via the internet many women have performed to otherwise unreachable global audiences side by side with A-list musicians. Some have been discovered and achieved record company deals on the back of their online success.
In her research, Choi acknowledges this success to be more than accidental, highlighting how all performances are carefully crafted, produced and targeted to unwitting audiences. Via one-to-one interviews with 17 women digital performers she examined their relationship with social media, their drive and their single-handed creation of devotees with emphasis purely on musicianship. Performers were often motivated by their own passion for music, need for self-expression and desire to connect with others. The internet provides a cost effective means to large audiences with freedom to distinguish themselves from the mainstream, by an independent capability to produce their own sound. The participatory online music culture enables female musicians to develop their music and musical identity without adhering to established discourses and gender imbalance of what messages are produced to whom. Choi concludes “creating their presence online is a life process and gives birth to new identities. As they continue to engage in this activity and strengthen their musicianship, they will emerge not just as female musicians but also as musicians.”
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