Three women who met through working in music journalism decided to join forces and make their own music show focusing on women and nonbinary artists. Get In Her Ears has been running as a weekly radio show for 5 years now, and has extended into a website and bi-monthly gig night promoting and supporting artists that the founders believe should be heard and seen more. Encompassing a wide genre that umbrellas electro-punk and alternative fem rock, Get In Her Ears is celebrating music from a place of progressive action for change.
We sat down with founders Mari, Kate and Tash to discuss the ethos behind Get In Her Ears and what informs their decisions.
Sassy "Hello guys! Firstly, thank you for creating such a brilliant show and platform! What was the initial idea behind creating Get In Her Ears?"
Mari - We wanted to create a platform that was dedicated to female and nonbinary people. For louder female voices.
Tash - There's this concept of women being too much. That idea sprung true to all of us, that sometimes we're considered "too much". Being too much is something that's been thrown back into my face as a loud outspoken, queer woman.
M - With Get In Her Ears it's nice to be in complete control and express ourselves freely on this platform. Providing a space, be it at our gigs or on the website, for people to share their voice when they might not be able to be heard otherwise is important.
T - Music means the world to all of us, you feel the full spectrum of the world through music. Gigs should be something that you can go to, to connect with the band, be unified as an audience. It's an incredible experience to go to a gig and feel part of something, part of a movement. And that is what drives it for us here.
It makes you feel a lot less alone in an industry that often tries to pit you against each other, especially as female and nonbinary artists.
Sassy - How do you make decisions about which artists you want to represent through Get In Her Ears?
Kate - We have a general rule that any artists we represent have to have at least one female or nonbinary person in the band.
M - We're actively representing underrepresented artists. But also the ethos on the website and the radio show is we won't write about or feature something we don't like. We just want to promote them in a positive way, we don't want to write bad reviews. It's all about being positive!
T - Since we started this, nonbinary was something that was being grappled with at the outskirts of gender identity conversations. What we're really good at is evolving with the changes and the times. That's the whole point of us, we're an evolving thing that is supporting the wider movement, whether that be fighting sexual assaults at gigs, representing the underrepresented by playing them on the radio, or interviewing them or reviewing them. I think that's what we'd always want to be - at the forefront of that evolution.
Sassy- To people not in the know, how can you explain the flaws of discrimination and artists not being represented within the music industry?
T - Here's an example. We previously interviewed an artist called Tabs who was telling us how they had been signed with Polydor and other major labels working as a producer for big-name artists. Tabs left that world to have a break from music and when we asked her why, she explained she couldn't be molded into something that they wanted. She's a very proud butch, queer woman and happily presents in that way. She doesn't want to change and felt they didn't have room for her. So she's now making her own music, self-produced, self-funded, entirely by herself which is amazing but it's more like, what the hell!!
Sassy - And what about gigs and festivals? Are there problems there?
M - I've been going to gigs since I was 14 and had many experiences of simple things like not being able to see, to big men pushing down so hard on my head to push themselves forwards that I’ve passed out. That's why it's so great to be able to put on our own gigs and promote the ethos of it being a safe space for everyone, but especially for female and non-binary people. Trying to create the atmosphere that we've always wanted at gigs.
T - For me its a bit more complicated, I've had these experiences but I've also had the thing of always having to come out at a gig, I have to come out every time I walk down the street, every time I hold my girlfriend's hand. I've had a lot of negative experiences that have been about being female at gigs but also being a queer person at a gig, being jeered at in addition to the experience of being a 5 foot 3" (rounding up!) woman. Mari does an amazing job running the gig nights at The Finsbury to create a space where its not acceptable for any behaviour like that.
K - You have to try and be the change that you want to see. It's never been an overnight thing, the industry will change as long as we keep doing what we're doing and I feel positive about it.
It's so great to be able to put on our own gigs and promote the ethos of it being a safe space for everyone, but especially for female and non-binary people.
T - I think things like the #MeToo movement have helped the voice of these conversations become a lot louder because they sent a shockwave through western society, people started to feel a bit shaken and scared by it and through those cracks, organisations like ours that are in place started to get a bit more light shined on them. Like conversations about sexual assault at gigs - I spoke to a journalist from the guardian about it because they acknowledge that we're representing women and nonbinary people. This is always the way, that activism and underground grassroots projects are already running and then the media catches up later. But the cracks are there and you just have to keep pushing. Small steps, it is changing.
M - There's still so much that needs to be done within the industry in general, even though it’s gradually moving forwards - for example, the PRS Keychange initiative being introduced, aiming to make line ups at festivals 50:50 in terms of gender by 2022. There are a lot of organisations that are doing similar things to us, like Loud Women, Who Run The World, Wxmb2. But we need the bigger organisations and festivals to take notice. People saying the reason for not having female headlining acts is that there aren't enough female artists out there is just frustrating, it's simply not true. There are so many, they’re just not being given the same opportunities as their male peers.
T -It's embedded sexism. The reason there are no female headliners is because no one's giving them the chance to get to the headlining stage".
K - Even in the DIY community, I think its a confidence thing. You could be an amazing band but you just don't have the confidence or contacts.
T - And that's because of the way they've been treated in the music industry! The number of artists we've interviewed who reference turning up at gigs with their guitars and presumed to be a helper or the backing band just because they're females. Or they'll be asked who produced their tracks and they'll say how they did it themselves and the person will be like "No, but who really produced it?".
Sassy - How do you feel people and artists respond to the way Get In Her Ears focuses on female and nonbinary people?
K - With Get In Her Ears, we have a strong idea of what we want to be seen as. But it's hard, I've heard it from some band's PR companies that they don't want to be featured on Get In Her Ears because it's too much about women and they just want to be seen as a band. And I'm all for that - being seen as a band, as a musician, not as your gender identity - but I think it holds you back if you're refusing to be seen as women in music, you're denying a part of yourself.
T - That's a complicated answer though because there's complicit behavior in that. If you say you're just a band and you don't want to be recognised for your gender then you're not standing up for the things that are happening to your gender. Because you aren't recognised just as a musician. You are seen as a female musician so until we move to a point in society when we don't perceive and make perceptions about people based on what they represent, be that gender or sexuality, you have to acknowledge it.
Until we move to a point in society when we don't perceive people based on gender or sexuality, you have to acknowledge it.
Sassy - Yes, and everything you do in Get In Her Ears is a championing of the female gender...
T - ...in the agenda! But so much so, that you then don't have to talk about it! (breaking into laughter)
K - And that's what people who we interview like about us because we don't ask the question 'What's it like to be a woman'. We tend to have artists tell us how nice it is to be asked interesting questions rather than just how it feels to be a female in a band. Or the fact that we've actually listened to their music.
T - Which in our eyes is just a reflection of other people's poor journalism, let alone the feminist undercurrent of that.
Sassy - So which interviews do you feel have impacted you the most?
T - For me, it was a recent interview on air with Big Joanie, an all-female black punk band. It was amazing to listen to people who are tackling so many forms of discrimination; heavily embedded racism, issues within the music industry about punk as a genre and the lack of recognition for female punk artists. There was a heavily represented black punk era that happened in the 70s but this is something which is not talked about. It was interesting hearing about the intersectionality of this and they speak about it so well. They're nailing it, pushing those boundaries.
K - We were so impressed, these women are doing incredible stuff and they're really nice. I think sometimes people come into the studio a bit nervous and apprehensive and we're a bit nervous and apprehensive because we know so much about the guest but as soon as you start talking to them it all melts away and it's nice. It makes you feel a lot less alone in an industry that often tries to pit you against each other, especially as female and nonbinary artists. I also think that it's really important in interviews to not interrupt people. I find that most people know what they want to say and I don't need to talk much or validate their points.
T - You find that when artists meet you, they are apprehensive and defensive because in their eyes you are a journalist who is trying to find the dirt or you're trying to find an issue with the sound of the gig. Which is the complete opposite of what we're doing, so it's about creating that gentle rapport with them, you can get to know them as people.
Sassy - As three white women what level of responsibility do you feel in representing POC in your work?
K - We recognise that being white women allows us a certain privilege. And for Mari and myself, to be a straight white woman allows for another layer of privilege, so it's important who we choose to promote, making sure that across our radio show, website and live nights, we have an array of voices. Two or three years ago, I wasn't fully aware of who had what privileges, whereas now, I am more clued up. Since joining Get In Her Ears, I recognise my own privilege and I try to use that to support others who don't have the same opportunities.
T - For me it's about educating myself, not expecting others to teach me about their life experiences. Like listening to people like Big Joanie and hearing what they have to say about the experiences they have. And creating a platform where people who are battling other types of bias, inclusive of racism, ableism, ageism as well as transphobia. These are all experiences that I don't have but I stand strongly against all of them and so I want to be part of a platform where those peoples voices are heard and so for me, the way I, and others, can do that is by speaking to them, inviting them onto the show, to have their say.
Since joining Get In Her Ears, I recognise my own privilege and I try to use that to support others who don't have the same opportunities.
Sassy - In our mind, a lot of your ideas and what you stand up for correlate to our Sassy concept of feminism. How would you explain your understanding of the term feminist?
M - The word feminism is frustratingly often associated with being a man-hating angry woman. For me, it means equality for everyone, regardless of gender and race, including trans women and men, everyone however they identify. Your feminism should be truly intersectional.
T - As humans, we are so restricted by language and its actually really ignorant not to be aware of the changing definitions and what feminism is. Feminism has had a different definition throughout the history of years. The first, second, the third, fourth wave of feminism - they all have their own definition and there are people out there who will call themselves feminists and I would categorically disagree with their ideas. I echo what Mari said - it's about being someone who stands up for underrepresented people, who stands up for equality, for everyone and anyone, you stand for women's rights. And women, in our world, include transwomen and anyone who identifies as a female. So fuck anyone who thinks otherwise. I get so angry about it!
Sassy - What has creating Get In Her Ears taught you?
K -The value of female friendship. Between the three of us, but also with some of the bands. When you have 200 emails in your inbox and you're freaking out, you start thinking "maybe I'll just pack it all in", but then you get an email from a band who played for you the previous month saying something really positive, and it helps you remember why you do it. I feel like you can trust and rely on women to do anything really.
T - For me, the bond that music can bring into one's life and the experience you can bring into that. I know I've grown a lot within the organisation. I've always been active and vocal in standing up for my rights but I feel there's something so much stronger when you are doing something about it. And we always say "Don't agonize, organise!"
K - That's our motto. We didn't make it up, it's a quote by Florynce Kennedy (Laughing)
We are doing it for ourselves, for our communities, for underrepresented communities and that makes me really proud.
T - There really is something in saying "I don't agree with this" and then trying to change it. We get loads out of running Get In Her Ears. We are doing it for ourselves, for our communities, for underrepresented communities and that makes me really proud. It's helped my self worth and confidence.
M- Yeah, I get so much out of it. A few years ago, I would never have thought I’d be able to be spending time promoting music I love with two other incredible women. I feel so grateful to have this opportunity to be able to discover and spread the word about so many amazing bands and artists, host these gigs, and be part of such a supportive community. Through Get In Her Ears, I’ve learnt more about the importance of female and queer voices, and am continuing to learn more each day. I’ve learnt about the importance of making your own voice heard - in the words of Margaret Atwood - “Don’t let the bastards grind you down”!
You can catch Get In Her Ears every Thursday Night on Hoxton Radio or listen back to their shows on the Get In Her Ears Website where you can catch interviews, reviews, and epic playlists.
Be sure to catch Get In Her Ears Gigs at The Finsbury - more information on their Instagram