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Dublin: 9 °C Monday 18 March, 2019

50% of new guitar players are women and it's not because of Taylor Swift

Fender’s CEO dismissed the ‘Taylor Swift factor’.

All Points East Festival - London Source: David Jensen

YESTERDAY, FENDER RELEASED the findings of a new study that they had conducted with a sample of guitar players from the United States and the UK. 

The study revealed that exactly half of all new guitarists identify as women, and the results came as a surprise to the UK team, according to Fender CEO Andy Mooney. Strangely, some people thought the increase in female guitar players was due to the success of Taylor Swift (Honestly – when’s the last time you saw Taylor Swift playing guitar?), yet Mooney was quick to dismiss this idea:

In fact, it’s not. Taylor has moved on, I think playing less guitar on stage than she has in the past. But young women are still driving 50 percent of new guitar sales. So the phenomenon seems like it’s got legs, and it’s happening worldwide. 

Portugal: Haim Performs At The Rock In Rio Lisbon 2018 Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

As Rolling Stone point out, rock music has been slipping out of the charts in recent years to make way for hip-hop and other more popular genres. Despite this, more women are picking up guitars than ever before. 

Why is this the case? 

Well, we’ve probably got the internet to thank. Most guitar purchases made by women and girls were made online, as they felt “intimidated” by the atmosphere inside of shops that sold instruments. This confirms some of our suspicions from last year, when we looked at why there were so few women on Irish music festival lineups. 

The music industry is a boy’s club at every level. I know girls who are too embarrassed to go into music shops and buy guitar strings from male staff members for fear of being judged for not knowing what type they need. This isn’t just an issue in music, but across all male-dominated fields of interests and hobbies.

The internet has probably leveled the playing field a bit too. The hugely increased popularity of streaming services (and illegal downloading) over the last decade, means that we are all exposed to many more artists and musicians than any generation before us.

United Kingdom: Tash Sultana Performs in London Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Of course we don’t all take advantage of the endless options we have (plenty of people listen to the same albums over and over again, like many members of the CD-listening generations before us did), but it’s definitely easier for an upcoming musician to get your attention now than it ever was before.

The way that the music industry has changed over the last ten years means that women, who were previously at a disadvantage, don’t have to worry as much about getting airtime on the radio (although, it would be a great help, according to the Irish musicians we spoke to last year). 

Life Is Beautiful Festival 2018 Source: Daniel DeSlover

The increased visibility of women in music and on festival lineups is surely playing a part in the increasing numbers of women showing an interest in playing guitar. In 2017, just 33% of Electric Picnic’s lineup featured an act with a female band member, but this figure increased to 41% in 2018, and will hopefully continue to increase across major Irish festivals over the next few years.

British Summer Time Festival 2016 - London Source: Empics Entertainment

As pointed out earlier, women’s visibility isn’t just an issue in music, but in every male-dominated field of interest. As Lidl put it in their powerful new 20×20 campaign in support of women’s sports in Ireland, “If she can’t see it, she can’t be it.” 

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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