Shanna Delaney is a singer-songwriter for the husband-wife indie pop duo known as By Light We Loom based out of Cleveland, Ohio. Although the group founded in August of 2014, Shanna has been making music and playing in various groups for over ten years now.
Jenna Fournier is a singer-songwriter and guitarist most known as the front-woman for the shoegaze/dream pop band, NIIGHTS also based out of Cleveland, Ohio. The band is currently signed to both an American and Japanese Record Label.
Q: Have you faced any challenges being a woman in the music industry? If so, what are they?
Delaney: Yes, many. Where do I start... There have been several challenges, but the one that comes to my mind has more to do with music professionals, such as sound technicians and band managers, and their interactions with me. Sometimes I feel like sound guys talk down to me like I do not have knowledge of musical equipment or technology. Some will even be rude or try to tell me what I want or need on stage. I have found that I have to go in really confident from the start with them and, unfortunately, be a bit curt in order for them to respect what I am saying and what I would like. The greatest example of rudeness from a male in the industry I encountered was when we were opening for a rather big band (I'll leave out their name). The band was really nice, but their manager was extremely arrogant and rude. We had been at the venue for three hours, and we were two hours past our soundcheck time due to his inefficient methods. When we finally got on stage to sound check, he came up to me and told us he did not want us to sound check now and instead line check right before we played. Then he very rudely, and super slowly, started explaining to me what a line check was, indicating that he thought I had no idea what it was and this was my first time ever performing. I had been in a band eight years at this point.
Fournier: Venues will sometimes bill my band with other bands simply because both are female fronted. I wonder sometimes if they even listen to the music. I have also had stalker-types to deal with, and received inappropriate messages from both ‘fans’ and men who actually work with the band in one way or another, and often have men lingering at the merch booth not buying anything.
Q: Have you ever received any special treatment or privileges based on your gender?
Delaney:This may have happened, but I am not aware of it if it has. However, I may have had special treatment from the audience before, offering to buy me a drink or something like that.
Fournier: Sometimes men offer to help carry gear, but I prefer to load my own stuff so I know it’s accounted for. I don’t know if you’d call that special treatment though.
Q: Do you feel pressured to change your appearance or behavior because you believe it is crucial for your success in this industry?
Delaney: I would say yes and no to that. No in that the genre in which we are in is pretty open to personal style and attitude. I think if I were in the pop genre, there would be a lot more pressure on appearance for sure. However, there is pressure in general for a band to have what is called "a brand" by marketing professionals, and in that, there could be pressure to look a certain way depending on what the marketing firm has decided your brand should be.
Fournier: I don’t personally feel pressured to change my appearance, but I’m not interested in pop-stardom commercial success. I do believe that women in music are often expected to be young and attractive, and they will be picked apart for their looks. A male musician once told me that he gets angry when he sees a girl on stage in jeans and a hoodie, which made me angry to hear. I’ve also heard men comment about girls playing in mini-skirts, accusing them of using their bodies to sell their music. So, it feels like we can’t win. We will be stereotyped or judged however we dress. Woman are objectified in general, but especially so in the entertainment industry. As far as behavior, I do feel the need to demand respect, because it’s not always given to me, and when a woman is assertive, she is called a bitch. When a man is assertive, he’s called confident.
Q: What is the best part about being a “successful” female musician?
Delaney: The best part about being a musician in general is getting to meet and talk with people about their lives. I have also felt honored by people who have told us our stories mean something to them or that they do not know why, but my singing made them feel something. Emotional response is one of the reasons musicians do what they do. In addition, it is always fun to see little ones in the audience look up at you mesmerized, and it reminds you that they are watching everything you say or do, and in that moment, you are a role model for them.
Fournier: It’s amazing to me to be able to travel and share something I created with people all over the world. Music has been so therapeutic for my and brings me so much joy, and if I can inspire other people, especially young girls, to play or create, that makes my heart smile.
Q: In your experience, has the music industry changed for women in recent years?
Delaney: Again, in certain genres, I do not think so. However, I think with the increased popularity of indie music, the presence of a strong female lead who looks and acts the way that is true to herself has become more popular and accepted, maybe even admired. I do think the industry has seen some progress in the fact that we see more female role models in all areas of the industry: musicians, writers, producers, managers, sound engineers, etc., and unlike past decades, such as the 50s, 60s, and 70s, these women are being taken more seriously and receiving credit and admiration for their work.
Fournier: I think it has gotten better, but there is a long way to go before I would say it’s an equal playing field for men and women. However, women are able to get some recognition & exposure because of the internet, and movements like Riot Grrl, in a way that they couldn’t in the past. People are talking about feminism, and I hear men comfortably and proudly identifying as feminist. Female artists and all-female bands are making great music and getting noticed.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring female musicians?
Delaney: I think the advice I would give to any musician is to just stay true to yourself. It sounds cliche, I am sure, but it is true. Write the music that you want to write, the music that is in you, and perform in a way that demonstrates who you are and in a way that feels most comfortable and freeing to you. At the end of the day, you will have people that love you and people that are critics, but if you can look at yourself and be proud of your art and who you are, that is all that really matters. Truly.
Fournier: Stay true to yourself. Learn your instrument and all your gear inside and out, and keep challenging yourself. Be confident and just make the music you want to make and share it.