Less than 2 out of 10 street musicians are women, global research shows
The assembling data has been shared by journalist Daniel Bacchieri, founder of StreetMusicMap, a 5-year world coverage on street music. Just 10.4% of the street musicians in the world geolocated by StreetMusicMap are female artists (featured on 150 videos out of 1,430 short films of buskers in 98 countries). The numbers are not so far up when it comes to The Busking Project platform: no more than 16.8% are women (767 female artists out of 4560 musicians).
“I wonder why that is”, says Nick Broad, founder of The Busking Project, program created in 2010 to ‘grow the busking economy and celebrate street performers worldwide’. “On busk.co/buskers some of our most popular artists on the site are female — Charlotte Campbell, Jaime Kopie (from Coyote & Crow), Katie Ferrara, Natalie Gelman are 4 of our most-liked musicians”, he informs. “I’m afraid I’d only be guessing at why this is the case. Perhaps something to do with perceived danger. Or maybe a cultural thing. I know a lot of women who’ve been messed with in the street, so perhaps abuse leads to them spending less time performing”, Nick states.
“I totally agree”, affirms Rachel Meir, from Busk in London team (project launched in 2015 by the Mayor of London with the backing of buskers, landowners, local authorities and other key agencies). “It is traditionally very male oriented and we realized that lots of girls felt intimidated playing on the streets. One of the key aims of Busk in London is the even out the gender inequality for street performers. What we need to ensure is that this translates to the streets. Are these performers trying out public spaces once they gain confidence and feel comfortable busking or are they staying on private land? I think we have made some headway but still have some way to go on this. It’s work in progress!”, Rachel proclaims.
Londoner street artist Charlotte Campbell believes that “women have to consider their safety on a whole other level to men. There is a risk factor when you’re a street performer, whatever your gender, because you’re drawing attention to yourself with money and sometimes valuable equipment on display. For women there is an extra vulnerability of sexual harassment and generally feeling unable to defend themselves, which most men don’t have to worry about to the same extent. So that certainly puts a lot of women off street performing. I don’t think there can be change until we address the huge problem in our society of women feeling quietly but certainly unsafe wherever they go; whether they’re walking home alone at night, on a crowded tube first thing in the morning or trying to make a living doing what they love, they are always at the risk of being assaulted or attacked and they will do their best not to make themselves easy targets”.
Cori Rose, a singer/songwriter who recently started to perform on the NYC Subway System, especially at the Union Square Station, says: “It is very difficult at times, being a street musician while also being a girl. You come across many different types of people, most of which are wonderful… but others can be a bit discouraging, and even make assumptions about you. I’m not going to get into any of the gender-specific comments I have received over time, but I can see how maybe the vulnerability from putting yourself out there as both an artist, and a female, could steer some away from it. Being a street musician requires you to assert yourself in a way, and things are not set up in this society for women to feel like the can do that without ridicule. I believe that if we are all more respectful and encouraging of one another, these ladies are more likely to bless us with their art.”
For Katie Ferrara, one of the most well-know street musicians from Los Angeles, USA, “change will happen when more women are aware that there are other females like them. I find that the internet and social networking sites like Facebook or live streaming is really great for connecting musicians, especially platforms dedicated to street music”.
Performing on the streets of São Paulo, Brazil, for the last 5 years, singer and composer Lucia Zorzi feels that “if it is less common to see a female busker, perhaps it has to do with the fear of what other people would say, I believe, because it is more delicate for a woman to expose herself in the streets. It is that old talk about male chauvinism. Because, at the beginning, I had a certain fear of what people would talk about me, what my family would think of, and also a certain fear regarding my physical safety. And today I feel safe because I got used to it, because I know what it’s like to perform in public spaces, and even though I’m not playing as much I would like to on the streets of São Paulo right now, it’s not the fact of being a woman that stopped me or made me hesitate to street perform. And yes: the risks are bigger in the streets, but it opens magical gates and, to this day, I have not seen a more genuine way of showing my work”.
Here's a playlist curated by StreetMusicMap featuring some of the most talented female street performers playing in countries like USA, UK, Germany, France, Brazil, Australia, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Czech Republic and Chile:
5 StreetMusicMap Radio's episodes (from a total of 7) presents female artists: Cori Rose (NYC), Lady Banana (Madrid), Jaime Kopie, Coyote & Crow (NYC), Katie Ferrara (Los Angeles), Alice Tan Ridley (NYC):