The Best Advice to Women in Music from Female Musicians


Examining the statistics concerning women in professional, creative fields can be a depressing endeavor. A recent study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University indicated that only 9% of directors of the top 250 grossing Hollywood films in 2012 were women — a number that actually increased 4% since 2011, but still shows the scales are heavily tipped.

The same study applauded the number of women working in the indie film sector, which is a trend that runs parallel with female-fronted bands or solo music acts. Looking at the industry at large, only eight of last year’s top female earners ranked among the world’s 25 highest-paid musicians. The reasons are complicated, and the results can be disheartening, which is why we wanted to collect some of the best advice that female musicians had for their fellow artists — like the tongue-in-cheek list Pretenders frontwoman, Chrissie Hynde, wrote to “chick rockers” that we spotted on Dangerous Minds.

See what wisdom women have offered each other as they navigate a male-dominated industry, share their artistry with the world, and try to stay positive and inspired, after the jump.

Chrissie Hynde

  1. “Don’t moan about being a chick, refer to feminism or complain about sexist discrimination. We’ve all been thrown down stairs and f*cked about, but no one wants to hear a whining female. Write a loosely disguised song about it instead and clean up ($).”
  2. “Never pretend you know more than you do. If you don’t know chord names, refer to the dots. Don’t go near the desk unless you plan on becoming an engineer.”
  3. “Make the other band members look and sound good. Bring out the best in them; that’s your job. Oh, and you better sound good, too.”
  4. “Do not insist on working with ‘females’; that’s just more b.s. Get the best man for the job. If it happens to be a woman, great — you’ll have someone to go to department stores with on tour instead of making one of the road crew go with you.”
  5. “Try not to have a sexual relationship within the band. It always ends in tears.”
  6. “Don’t think that sticking your boobs out and trying to look f*ckable will help. Remember you’re in a rock and roll band. It’s not ‘F*ck me,’ it’s ‘F*ck you!'”
  7. “Don’t try to compete with the guys; it won’t impress anybody. Remember, one of the reasons they like you is because you don’t offer yet more competition to the already existing male egos.”
  8. “If you sing, don’t ‘belt’ or ‘screech.’ No one wants to hear that sh*t; it sounds ‘hysterical.'”
  9. “Shave your legs, for chrissakes!”
  10. “Don’t take advice from people like me. Do your own thing always.”

Ani DiFranco

“I turned 40 two days ago. I think that 15 years ago, I was not as clear. After struggling to get back to myself, I saw that the more you care for other people and put them next to you and provide an atmosphere where everyone is fulfilled, the more that atmosphere is created for yourself. Being benevolent and kind for someone else is doing it for yourself.” [via]

Joan Jett

“When I first met Joan Jett, before we were signed to her label, I asked her about being a woman and doing this and she said to just focus on my craft and be myself. I think that’s really all there is to it. It’s just like anything else you want to do in life, you have do decide you’re going to do it, work really hard and then go.” — Kelly Ogden, The Dollyrots [via]

Jenny Conlee, The Decemberists

“If you act like there is no difference between you and your male counterparts, there most likely won’t be.” [via]

Cherie Currie, The Runaways

“Protection and good management. Just make sure that you’re with someone that’s on the up and up.” [via]

Alice Glass, Crystal Castles

“We need an army, because the mainstream hates women.” [via]

Laura Ballance, Superchunk

“Do it because it is fun and personally rewarding, and try not to think of it as a way to get famous or even make a living… Take it for what it is, and keep it fun. Keep your day job.” [via]

Suzanne Vega

“Figure out what your strengths are and put them forward.” [via]

Exene Cervenka, X

“Don’t get married, because there’s a dynamic — and I don’t care how hip you are; I don’t care if you’re walking around barefoot and you love your girlfriend, and she’s the coolest singer and songwriter in the world — [that] once she starts working full-time devoting herself to her work, problems start.

I’ve never seen it not be that way. I’m not saying anything about men; I’m just saying our society has a dynamic where women that are working really hard on their own thing get guilt-tripped and side-tracked and thwarted, and they end up not being who they should be. If you want to be a musician, singer-songwriter, artist, painter, whatever it is, you’d better devote yourself to that.

That’s my number one piece of advice. You can call me sexist, you can call me anything you want, but my advice is do not get married.

I am an artist. I should be able to do anything I want any time I want without anyone telling me, ‘No, that’s not a good idea because it doesn’t work for me.’ No one should ever be able to tell you as a woman, as an artist, ‘No, you can’t go on that tour because I’m scared you might meet a guy.'” [via]

Regina Spektor

“I try not to write about my not-so-important life and instead represent characters and situations and people using my own real emotions.” [via]

Tori Amos

“Study your mythology. In that are ancient secrets and rites and mysteries that you probably aren’t taught by your teachers and parents. In the different mythologies of cultures, you begin to see mirrors and possibilities of what might be lurking in your soul. Some mythologies won’t resonate with you so you observe them, respect them, and move on. Once you begin to resonate, it’s probably telling you something. A clue to the vastness which is your soul. When people talk about girl-power, I think a parallel thought to go with that is women’s wisdom. That is not something you can buy at the store. That is by learning from your experiences and being awake enough to not pretend they never happened. All these little experiences are your diamonds, which become your wisdom if you choose.” [via]

Erykah Badu

“Do some ho sh*t.” [via]

Photo credit: Oktopoesdesign

Beth Tacular, Bowerbirds

“Women have more power now, and more of us have grown up with mothers and other female role models who were creative and who didn’t allow themselves to be dominated by the men in their lives… I just watched what the women did who I admired, and tried to learn from them.” [via]


“You just need to figure out what’s in your control and what isn’t and be okay with it.” [via]

Shirley Manson, Garbage

“The most powerful thing you can do as a woman in music is be authentic. How you present yourself is nobody’s business but your own. The stylists have an opinion. The hair people have an opinion. The fans and the management have opinions. Ultimately, you have to trust that you are the safe-keeper of yourself. Talking like that makes me want to vomit all over myself, but it’s true. There’s nothing I’ve done that I feel a lot of regret over because I stuck to my guns, even when it got uncomfortable — and it will get uncomfortable because you’re going up against the wall.” [via]

Fiona Apple

“I don’t want to give any advice to a 19-year-old, because I want a 19-year-old to make mistakes and learn from them. Make mistakes, make mistakes, make mistakes. Just make sure they’re your mistakes.” [via]


“Keep your legs closed. That’s not going to get you a better deal. Get in where you fit in. Learn the game… Know every aspect of your career. Know the terms in your contract to a T.” [via]


“You have to really believe in what you’re doing. I think having a good job and having work is hard to come by, and being able to do what you want to do with your life. First of all, you have to be really passionate about what you do and really believe in what you do, because there are a lot of fights and battles and struggles along the way. So my best advice is to really believe and love what you do. At the end of the day, you always have to fight for things that are worth it. Put your boxing gloves on.” [via]

Cyndi Lauper

“For me, I just kept going. I just kept trying. If this is not an inroad for me, I said, ‘That’s ok, because I’m gonna find another inroad.’ If you can’t go one way, there’s many ways to get where you’re going. So you just take a step back and see beyond the wall. Now there are a lot of women rockers, but I’m sure they come up against the same brick walls.” [via]

Liz Phair

“My aim has always been to be heard, and to log on as a female living my life, with all its ups and downs, because I’m appalled that for so many centuries we’re just invisible. We don’t have to get it right, we don’t have to be perfect, we don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations, we just have to be there.” [via]