British Club Stops Booking Bands Fronted by Women
Doctor Brown's, a pub in Middlesborough, England, has come under scrutiny for refusing to book bands featuring women. The venue's manager has defended this move by saying that it comes after listening to her customer's complaints.
“We had female singers on in the past and customers just didn’t like it," Paula Rees told the Northern Echo. "We’re a rock bar and they don’t think that women should sing male rock songs. It’s nothing to do with me, it’s the pub’s regulars who come in every week, they won’t come in if there’s a female singer.”
Hannah Sowerby, who fronts a pair of local bands, talked about having her gigs canceled because of the club's policy. “I haven’t been allowed to play because I’m female, despite the fact my band can draw a crowd," she said. "You wouldn’t get people saying they don’t like male bands, because not all male singers are the same – just like not all female singers are the same. It is a sexist attitude from the regulars and there’s no excuse for it in 2017, you’d think we’d be past this by now."
Another singer, who did not want to give her name, said that the ban is a microcosm of what women in bands have to go through on a regular basis. “Unfortunately, it’s true that many don’t think a woman can sing rock well and this is one of the reasons it’s extremely difficult for a woman to get anywhere fronting a band," she said. “We have to work twice as hard as men to achieve the same thing – it saddens me that some places won’t give females the same chance as men because I’ve seen male singers who aren’t very good either."
Rees added that the bar is considering allowing one band with a female singer to play, and they may also look at other acts that can guarantee a good crowd. But she insisted it's all up to her clientele. “We have got to keep our regulars happy," she said. "I’m not a rock fan so can’t judge myself but I’ve been told that some women can sing and some can’t, but they can’t sing heavy rock. If we put a poster up and our regulars know there’s a woman in the band, they won’t give them a chance - they’re my bread and butter and we can’t risk nobody coming in.”
“We have been investigating the seeming lack of female artists on festival line-ups," a spokeswoman for the Musicians Union said, "but this is the first time I’ve personally come across a booking cancelled explicitly because of the gender of the performer and the assertion made that audiences aren’t interested in gigs featuring women. Sexism in this regard is damaging both to the local music community and to the wider industry. Audiences are generally receptive to a diverse programme of music, and we would strongly contest the assertions made."