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Making Music Fair for Everyone: An Interview with Campaign Group Popgirlz Scotland

8 mins read

Popgirlz Scotland is a campaign group set out to “support, inspire and celebrate” female musicians. 

In an interview with Brig, co-founders Jo and Rachel spoke about their latest campaign for playlists to be more equal for female and non-binary musicians.

When asked how the Popgirlz Scotland campaign began, Rachel started off by explaining how it came about by total accident:

“I had known about the playlists for quite some time as I had been releasing music under The name Kohla and I had never got any editorial playlisting.

Any new piece of music I released wouldn’t get played on these playlists so I think over that amount of time I certainly grew more dissatisfied

Nothing was happening, nothing was being said so just at some point I got so mad that I went through it and I looked.”

Calling out the Playlists

After looking at research from the leading universities in the country, Popgirlz Scotland is calling out the main editorial playlists on Spotify. They are hoping to increase diversity within Scotland’s most popular playlists “We Are Glasgow,” “Made in Scotland” and “Scotify”

On October 14 this year, the collective posted a series of statistics on their Instagram page, showing just how little representation there was of other genders within these Spotify playlists. 

(by @popgirlzscotland on Instagram)

When asked about this, Rachael went on to say: “I didn’t realise it was that bad until I saw it visually and I think having that really changed things. We actually go through the stats every couple of months just to double-check on it.”

Jo continued: “We started it in October but we had the PRS article come out in March so we can trace back to the stats from the first quarter of the year and then again from October onwards so we have a really good comparison. 

We have been taking note of them since 2020 but we managed to get it published this year and then did a second campaign. You can really see a good comparison of this year in particular.”

“Has Popgirlz Scotland made anything change?”

“It’s a mixed bag as to whether it’s improved or not. I mean, it’s been two years since the campaign and it [Made in Scotland] is still terrible.

When we think about how much new music is released by independent artists every single week in Scotland but they are giving up all this space to the same acts rather than helping out the new artists who are writing and could really benefit from getting on their first playlist but have not been given the chance.”

Jo then commented on the issue of multiple songs from the same artists appearing on playlists. 

 “One thing that was good about Scotify was that after our campaign, they dropped the amount of multiple songs that bands were getting. That was a real positive because the multiple-song thing is so dumb. In ‘We Are Glasgow,’ 69 songs out of 100 are actually bands having multiple songs on the playlist.”

Popgirlz Scotland
Image Credit: @popgirlzscotland via twitter

“What are Popgirlz Scotland’s plans for 2023?”

The campaign group will be guest lecturing at Lund University in Sweden Monday, January 9, 2023, and share how they feel about this opportunity.

Jo: “Spotify started in Sweden and I feel like Sweden is the home of pop music. The lecturer at the Swedish university has been so nice, so when we have had really enthusiastic people who are male ask you things it feels like we are getting somewhere. The lecturer from Aberdeen when we first met him, he wasn’t sure who we were but then at the end, he was coming up to us. As soon as men are interested that’s when people listen.”

She went on to say: “looking at things as male and female is a very binary way of seeing things but there is a reason we went for very girly logos and a really gilt branding style and it’s because it’s we are both women in pop music. 

I feel like I grew up in a certain era of Britney and Paris Hilton, bimbo, blonde attitude towards women in the 2000s when we were growing up so I kind of feel like Popgirlz retaining a very girly branding does feel important. It’s like we are making a statement.”

“What is the next step?”

Popgirlz Scotland is a volunteer collective so do not make a lot of money for what they do. Rachel and Jo expressed their concerns about this and hope this changes.

Jo stated: “We really only get paid for doing the lectures and the number of emails that we get coming in, we just can’t keep on top of it. There are only two of us going into the inbox and stuff. I think for the amount of time that we put in we should really be put on full-time salaries.

We want to put money into the collective as well because myself and Rachel make money from the lectures, but there’s a bit of unclearness with what we do with that money.”

“It covers our travel to the uni and back. We’re not making bank.”

Rachel said that the payments they receive sometimes don’t even cover their travel.

“As going more internationally, we did Cork in the Republic of Ireland back in November. Then we are doing Queens in January which we are getting flown over for. They are really flying the flag for treating us.”

Jo then said: “We get better treatment for the lectures than we do as musicians. We would never get offered a gig in Belfast and get flown over and given accommodation. That’s not happening. We’ve spoken at more universities in the last two years than gigs we have played.”

Popgirlz Scotland has many plans for 2023 and continues to bring awareness to issues like equality within the music industry.

More information on the group can be found on their social media pages.

Featured Image Credit: @Popgirlzscotlnad on Twitter

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Music Editor of Brig Newspaper. 3rd year film, media and journalism student.

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