This week I feel like I have been burned by the music industry again. And each time it happens, it seems more difficult to pick up the pieces and start again.
After spending several years as an independent musician in a capital city, I recently moved rural. I’ve still been releasing music and videos to my fans, and have maintained my 1000-plus loyal followers across social media. The move has made it difficult to get gigs – there are only a couple of music venues here and none of them seem to cater to the indie, original artist market.
I was really excited to see that Triple J was extending a hand to one local artist from my area to open for the Groovin’ The Moo festival. This presented a huge opportunity for me, so I got cracking and wrote and produced a song especially for the competition. I kept an eye on submissions and noticed that nobody from my area seemed to be entering!
I submitted my song on the last day of the competition. I posted it to social media and the results were super positive. Friends and fans shared the song around. I got some blog features and reviews and I was starting to feel good about my entry!
Over the next week I kept checking the website and happily realised that there were only two songs (that I could locate) entered from my region – and that my song was the only one that had been reviewed by fans. I worked harder to get friends and family involved, and by the time Triple J announced the winner, I actually believed I had a 50/50 chance.
I wasn’t picked. And I can usually handle this. Sometimes people don’t like your music, and that’s OK. But the winner from my area also wasn’t the other entry I had found. I checked out the actual winner’s profile. Their entry was submitted AFTER the closing date. I clicked on their Facebook profile. They hadn’t done a gig or posted anything in 4 years, and had less than 100 followers. Their song itself had only been listened to 17 times. Across two social media platforms, my song had about 550 hits at the time.
How did they win? Was it because their song was so exceptional that it broke all of the competition guidelines? I don’t think in any sphere of reality that this is the case. In a competition supposed to help independent artists with a strong performance track record – the winners were a group of guys who have clearly done little to develop their music career. And more importantly, I followed the competition rules, and they had not. What special bias did they awaken in the judging panel that allowed them to transcend the rules? It was then I noticed that of all of the 16 musicians selected as winners in this competition – only one was a female.
I’m not saying that I think Triple J sits around and purposefully excludes female musicians. But if the competition itself is unfair, how can I ever compete? It is already hard enough as a female artist. Platforms like Triple J are almost the only way forward for independent artists in Australia, especially in a rural area. I’m not demanding to win all of the awards because I’m a female, or even that my music must be liked – but I DO want a fair go.
The whole experience has taken the wind out of my sails and gets me thinking that maybe music isn’t for me. Content-based rejections I can take. But when a rejection feels like it has happened because of something inherent to me – it hurts just a bit too much.