So, a heads up: this week I'm not doing a video. I decided I'd do a blog post that riffs off my instagram feed as it seemed to resonate so much with other people's experiences.
Here we go:
"You're Like A Piece of Meat That Just Hasn't Been Cooked Yet"
Yep, someone actually said that to me...
And don't get me wrong. As a female musician, misogyny is something I have come to expect from certain corners of the music industry (rightly or wrongly), but this encounter was beyond blatant! I couldn't believe I was hearing that sentence come out of this A&R guy's mouth, and that he didn't seem to register its sexist connotations.
So, what could I do to preserve any semblance of dignity?
Well, before I answer that let me back up.
I had actually initially gone in for this meeting with the hope of securing some London gigs after responding to a call out on gumtree (yeah, I know, dead profesh!).
I had heard back from this events company who said they wanted to have a face-to-face meeting, so I headed to their offices in Camden. This actually turned out to be the basement premises of what would have been one of those nice big London town houses - nothing wrong with that - but I could feel a kind of start-up-vibe, like things were only just coming together with this company.
Again, nothing wrong with that per-se, but the conversation that followed was at best, laughable and bizarre and at worse, truly offensive.
You see, while a totally oblivious Isobel had gone in for a meeting about a couple gigs, the person I was meeting had decided he wanted to sign me up to a production deal after listening to my music. The confusing part was, he hadn't told me that was his intention, he just thought I'd work it out as our meeting unfolded and that I would be so overjoyed I'd just roll with it.
But he hadn't reckoned on the fact that I was not be overjoyed - I was, in reality, just totally confused and repelled...
Now, the title of this blog post has revealed the most revolting sentence that came out of his mouth, but it is by no means the only distasteful one. After I worked out that he was hoping to sign me for a deal he then looked me up and down and said, "Of course, we wouldn't be able to market you on your looks, so we'd be mainly branding you on your music".
"Oh wow!" I thought "Sign me up!!!"
You know, it totally hadn't occurred to me up till that point that people might actually be interested in my music - I thought the main reason people would be interested in me was this bountiful, meaty, ginger realness! I mean, who knew!? (can you detect the sarcasm in my voice?)
When he asked me about where I was based, I told him that I was living in Belfast, to which he looked confused and asked me why. I told him it was because I was studying for a PhD in Sonic Arts. BOOOOOM 🤯
His response? "But why would you want to do that?". His suggestion was that he sign me up to a production deal where he would put me in the studio with a bunch of different producers (who all appeared to be his male friends) and together they could all make me into a star. And I thought, "Seriously?" You have a young woman here, who you say has great songs, who is doing a PhD in f*cking Sonic Arts and you don't ask, "What kind of music would you like to make?" or, "Do you want to produce your own music?"
So, I hope this gives you a little context as to why, when he came out with his killer line - the title of this blog post - I was just totally stunned.
My reaction? Awkward smile I'm afraid, and a "no, thank you".
I have no gutsy tale of how I totally obliterated him with my wit and intellect; or how I called him out on his vulgar sexism; or even how I laughed in his face.
You see, for me, in that moment, the most honest, real and dignified thing to do was to leave, without a reaction, and walk away (quickly without looking back!). Sometimes, people, who lack dignity themselves have absolutely no idea of how to treat others with some too. In fact, this person was not intelligent enough to even conceive of the pretentious and ignorant hole he was digging in his small basement office.
For me, dignity has always been highly linked to my professionalism and creativity as an artist and it doesn't come cheap. Once it's compromised, it can take a lot of work to get it back and I knew having it out with that dickhead would just leave me feeling, well... icky. There was no point in waisting my energy, time or breath having an argument I could predict would be tedious and inconclusive.
So, if you encounter someone much like the person in this story, please remember this:
Save your energy for your music.
At the very least make sure you have enough left over after calling an arsehole out. And you certainly do not even have to react in-the-moment if that does not feel natural or honest for you. There is no shame in choosing your battles.
Let me know if you have any similar experiences and how you reacted to them in the comments below 👇
It's a comprehensive, step-by-step 6 month plan taking your through everything I wish I'd known when I first started releasing music!