With just 2% of the songs played on the radio fully written, performed and produced by women, it was important to Scottish singer-songwriter Linda Harrison, better known as Elle Exxe, to collaborate with an all female team for her latest single Queen. The track was written and directed by Elle Exxe, mixed by Olga Fitzroy, mastered by Katie Tavini and edited by Alicja Romanowska.
As well as working with an all female team, the music video features many different women including sportswomen (Olympic medallists Rebecca Adlington and Beth Tweddle, Paralympians Hannah Cockroft, Menna Fitzpatrick and Jen Kehoe and Commonwealth Games medallist Louise Sugden) and TV presenters (Gabby Logan and Clare Balding).
The shocking stats are:
- Only 22% of the 600 most popular tracks from 2012 to 2017 were performed by women
- Of those only 12% were written by women
- Last year only 17% of pop chart artists were female – a six-year low
- Only 2% of producers across the top 300 songs were female. That’s a gender ratio of 49:1 male to female!
We had a chat with 27-year-old Elle Exxe, who won Best Female Solo Artist at the Unsigned Music Awards in 2016, to find out more about the project and what the motivation was behind it.
What made you decide to have an all female team for Queen?
It was a combination of lots of things. I can count on one hand how many girls I’ve seen in the studio. I started co-writing with Jessica Sharman last year and we were saying stuff which just wouldn’t have been said if I was in the studio with a guy.
I was invited to Imogen Heap’s house last year for a PRS women in music event where I became aware of how bad the stats were. I couldn’t believe that less than 15% of the songwriters at that time were female and that just totally blew my mind.
Finding out that the majority of the music I was hearing on the radio or just in public spheres was made by men got to me a bit… There’s no reason why a women couldn’t be doing that kind of thing and I was shocked because I didn’t recognise it before.
When I wrote Queen my manager said ‘we have to get this mixed.’ I said ‘well, it has to be a female mix engineer and mastering engineer.’
‘This needs to be an all female team working on this because we’ve got to start changing the statistics. The only way we’re going to do that is if we actively try to do it.’ When my manager is looking for a mixing engineer, loads of guys are getting in touch but it’s actually reasonably difficult to find women until you actually look for them. They’re out there but their voices just aren’t being heard the same way that the men are.
When they were looking for engineers and mixers they had to resort to Twitter and reach out via the Girls I Rate network as her manager wasn’t having much luck through his usual contacts.
What type of things were you talking about in the studio that you felt you wouldn’t be able to say in front of a guy?
We talked about female pleasure. There’s a lot of guys out there that are womanisers but they don’t know how to pleasure a women. We were talking about how that’s important and we need to get guys celebrating that kind of thing… stuff you’d never say in a studio with a guy ’cause you might offend them or something like that, but in a female environment, you’re free to speak your mind.
Sexual songs on the radio are often so derogatory about women and [you] even [hear] women degrading themselves. I think sometimes it’s because they are in a studio with a man and they feel they have to talk a certain way.
You have an extensive all female cast including TV presenters and sportswomen. Why did you decide to get so many women involved with the music video?
I thought if we created an all female video we’d be able to start that change by showing women uniting and working together. People were really positive about being involved. It was a really amazing experience.
On your website you mention that the mainstream media wasn’t really listening to or picking up the story. Has that still been the case?
It has… The response has been that the celebrities are too old and not trendy enough. That’s been really upsetting because the point of the song is to beat all of those things.
I love that there’s so many female based blogs and stuff coming up, but it’s frustrating. Some of the press have redirected me… I feel like they’re just trying to shove us off to this female only place were we’re only talking to other women. It’s the men in my life who’ve had a huge reaction to this and have wanted to share it and wanted to celebrate it as well.
I feel men and women need to unite in getting more women into the industry. It’s both men and women’s responsibility to change this. It’s frustrating that it is the way it is but it’s not stopped me from fighting for it. The song and the lyrics have inspired me to keep pushing and hoping that we can make a change. I’m convinced that we can change it. I keep meeting young girls who feel their careers are already over in music because they’re 25 or something like that… It might feel that way now because the industry can be less supportive of older women, but I feel like that’s all going to change soon.
What are you hoping to say to the industry with Queen?
We can be the generation that make a change… We have to consciously choose to work with women, talk about it and document it so we can show the world what it’s actually like and break the preconceptions.
Visit elleexxe.com to keep up to date on future projects. Elle Exxe will be gigging from September 2018 and plans to release a new album next year.