The experiences of Canadian women in popular music: “even on the worst sick no gas freezing Canadian middle of January rockie mountain or Halifax breakdown there is nothing better to do for a living”
MacKay, Robbie J.
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This study examined the personal and professional experiences of Canadian professional female popular musicians. The researcher gathered data in two phases. In phase one, 85 female musicians completed a 105-question on-line survey. In phase two, the researcher interviewed four musicians to expand and elucidate survey data. In keeping with a critical feminist approach, the researcher’s voice is prominent in the report. The study reveals a complex combination of personal and professional circumstances that both compel and impel women to become musicians, and then to cleave to or to abandon careers in the music industry. Families, peers, role models, and teachers all have some effect on personal and professional choices that musicians make. Gender stereotyping and sexual harassment prevail in both music education and the music industry, making these contested sites for women musicians. However, respondents’ identity as “musician” is a powerful force, in both personal and professional realms, making both education and industry also sites of triumph. Important findings include: respondents’ reflections on what makes for a successful pop musician; data revealed no essential biographical precursors for success in pop music; respondents’ opinions about the importance of music lessons are divided; and, along with credible technical music skills, musicians need to develop strong personal, social, and business skills.
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