Entertainment & Arts

Laura Mvula: 'Music industry is sexist'

Laura Mvula
Image caption Laura Mvula came fourth in the BBC's Sound of 2013 poll

Laura Mvula has described the music industry as "sexist" and "racist", saying we are living in the "Donald Trump time of music".

The singer-songwriter said she often felt "isolated and misunderstood" as a female recording artist.

"If you say anything with assertiveness or authority, you are often... labelled a diva," she told the Radio Times.

The Birmingham-born musician has joined the likes of Bjork and Taylor Swift in voicing her frustrations.

Accepting Billboard's Woman of the Year award last year, Lady Gaga called the industry a "boy's club" and said women faced pressure to "sell everything to be a star".

"I just really wanted to be taken seriously as a musician for my intelligence more than my body," she added.

Bjork said female artists often struggle to be heard, telling Pitchfork: "Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times."

Image caption Bjork said journalists often assumed she was "just a singer"

She noted journalists often gave her male producers a disproportionate amount of credit for their input.

"For example, I did 80% of the beats on Vespertine and it took me three years to work on that album... it was like doing a huge embroidery piece," she said.

"Matmos came in the last two weeks and added percussion on top of the songs, but they didn't do any of the main parts, and they are credited everywhere as having done the whole album."

Conversely, she noted an artist like Kanye West could work with dozens of producers on an album, "yet no one would question his authorship for a second".

Taylor Swift made a similar point in 2014, saying: "Females have to work so much harder to prove that they do their own things.

"If someone has studied my catalogue and still doesn't think I'm behind it, there's nothing I can do for that person," she told Billboard.

"They may have to deal with their own sexist issues, because if I were a guy and you were to look at my catalogue and my lyrics, you would not wonder if I was the person behind it."

'Lack of balance'

Mvula was speaking to the Radio Times ahead of her performance at the Glastonbury Festival next week. The magazine asked her about the lack of female acts at music festivals - Adele, Beyonce and Florence + The Machine are Glastonbury's only female headliners this century.

"I think that's sad and surprising and it highlights we have so far to go, so much to do," Mvula said in response.

"The music industry is sexist, it is racist, it is a lot of 'ists'. Take your pick."

Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis said there was "a lack of balance in the music industry when it comes to opportunities for female performers, but it is slowly changing and hopefully we're doing our bit to support the new female artists coming through".

Speaking to the BBC last month, she said the festival was making continued efforts to book female acts.

"We try to keep it as equal as we can. There are so many stages that you have to rely on all of the bookers across the site to consciously book women as well as men.

"Some are better than others but we do our best and it's really important that we represent both equally."

Related Topics

More on this story

Around the BBC

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites