She Rocks: Meet The Women Who Run Rock'n'roll

“We tell bands: you’re not allowed to bring real blood to the festival,” says Vicky Hungerford, who books Bloodstock, the annual metal shindig in Derbyshire. She’s contemplating the particular problems that can arise when you add black metal bands to your bill. “You’re not allowed to sacrifice animals or bring carcasses. We have to say that. Watain turned up to the festival with a dead pig, with organs or blood, which they were told they cannot use for health safety reasons. They ignored it, and the next thing you know there’s pig blood all over the stage. It all has to be disinfected. Then they defecate on each other before they go on stage. It’s part of a ritual. It’s like a contest to show how evil they are. But then you’ve got Behemoth, who are so level headed, and Nergal’s asking if I’ve got any strawberry jam he can use to replicate blood.”

When Hungerford talks about the problems she has faced in the music industry, those are the kinds of issues she wants to talk about. Pig’s intestines. Or the veteran metal star so up himself he demanded an extra £5,000 10 minutes before he was due on stage, the one who also demanded he not be looked at, so had to be taken to the stage with a towel over his head and screens on either side. “He was vile. When he got offstage, I said to the crew: ‘He can sod off and he’s not welcome back.’”

What she’s less keen to ponder is whether being a woman has caused people to react to her in ways they wouldn’t were she not female. “What frustrates me is the people who say, ‘You must have found it really difficult being a woman.’ And I’ve never looked at it like that. I’ve only ever been a woman! I’ve never looked at myself in any other way. Would having a penis make the job easier? I can’t say it would.” She says there are some older booking agents – the people she has to negotiate with to secure bands for Bloodstock – who came into music 40 or more years ago who “struggle with women in the industry”, but that’s as far as she goes. “It doesn’t even cross my mind,” she says, firmly.

There’s no doubt, though, that it is still easier to be a man in the music industry than a woman. Being a man is still considered the natural state of things. When she first started managing the Australian psych-rock band Tame Impala, says Jodie Regan, “everyone thought I was their mum. Which was weird, because that would mean they were brothers. And they look nothing like each other. If I had been a man, would anyone have thought I was their father? No. They’d have thought I was their manager.”

One doesn’t have to rely solely on anecdotal evidence, either. In the UK music industry, only 30% of senior executive roles are held by women, according to a study by the industry body UK Music. And while women make up more than half the music industry workforce between the ages of 25 to 34, that drops to just a third of those between 45 and 64. It’s possible that reflects the changing face of the industry, and that in 10 or 20 years’ time, there will be many more women in the upper age range; it’s also possible that it reflects women taking career breaks to have children. But still, as Tara Richardson of Q Prime management told the Guardian last year: “I’m embarrassed to be in an industry with those statistics.”

Sexual harassment remains an issue, too. Early in 2016, a series of tweets by Amber Coffman of the band Dirty Projectors about the behaviour of the American publicist Heathcliff Beru led to scores of women in the music industry coming forward to complain they had suffered similar experiences, some at the hands of Beru, many from other men.

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She Rocks: meet the women who run rock'n'roll
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