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Merit: the real equality in live music

Dmitry ‘Big D’ Zaretsky of Moscow’s female-dominated promoter, Pop Farm, plays devil’s advocate in delivering his opinion on the much-discussed topic of gender equality

22 Feb 2019

Dmitry Zaretsky, Pop Farm

For some years now, there has been much discussion on the subject of gender equality in the live music industry, either on stage or off. In a perfect world – and in my personal imperfect one – equality applies to promotion and profit based on merit and merit alone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever else.

Understandably, those discriminated against in the past want to catch up and prove that they are equal to the rest, developing careers based solely on professional and artistic qualities, for which I’d offer a standing ovation (no irony whatsoever). But sometimes, things go a bit too far.

Having heard criticism at various international festivals, especially Southside, that line-ups are short of female artists, my first thought was, what if there are just not enough female artists that:

  • Fit the mood of the festival?
  • Are available on specific dates?
  • Are just not good enough, and are far from my personal taste?

Undeniably, a festival promoter should book whoever they want, based on the quality of the music and the performance, with no regards to gender, race, sexual orientation or whatever else: ie on merit and merit alone. No act making bad music should be booked just to address balance – they should be chosen based on their music and performance.

Merit and merit alone – isn’t that what equality is about?

Similarly, everyone working on the business side of the music industry should be in positions based on their abilities. The overwhelming majority of people working for me, both full-time and freelance, are women, and this is because I see them as better qualified and more organised for the specific jobs they do. Merit and merit alone – nothing more.

The 21st century is discarding most stereotypes and the discrimination of the last 1,000 years, and the witchhunt for balanced gender, race, sexual orientation and anything else just for the sake of it has to go, too. Companies should not be ashamed of, or apologise for, having too few female employees – they should not hire people that are not good enough to do the position they are trying to fill.

Festivals should not be ashamed of, or apologise for, not having enough female acts, but they should apologise for putting together a line-up of artists who make bad music and don’t perform well.

Merit and merit alone – in the end, isn’t that what equality is all about?


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