By Jake Amy, Hugh Heller, Emma Volard and Ella Clair
“Diversity is central to ABC Jazz,” says content manager Toby Chadd, yet only 22.22% of audience favourites in this weekend’s Jazz 100 were female. Vocalists not included, that number dropped substantially to a dismal 7.25%. ABC suggested 536 artists to voters, drawing from “a range of sources including jazz history, previous information on audience favourites and album releases/airplay”, with a meagre 16.82% of those artists being women. Similar to other top 100 countdowns, these figures seem to ignore a plethora of female musicians who are of equal standard to their male counterparts. At what point do we stop accepting inequalities as they are and start to make sustainable change?
“It’s a sad reality that gender parity isn’t possible when compiling a long list of 500 artists that are best-known to audiences”, says Chadd. “When it comes to gender diversity, the Jazz 100 is a survey of where we are now rather than where we would like to be.”
Listen to the female artists from ABC's Jazz 100 here
Jazz has historically been a male-dominated artform. The lack of women musicians in the Jazz 100 is a symptom of a systemic issue, which is the lack of female visibility in jazz music. However, whilst the top 100 jazz artists may indeed be current audience favourites, ABC Jazz has the facility to challenge the historical dominance of males in jazz by including more women artists in their day-to-day programming. APRA award winner Lior Attar believes there would be a “greater appreciation of music and culture” if audiences were “repeatedly exposed” to marginalised music artists.
“The aim of the Jazz 100 is to celebrate the favourite jazz artists of all time, as voted by Australian audiences,” says Chadd. “We did include an option within the voting mechanism for the audience to nominate artists who weren’t on the [voting] list, ensuring that the final 100 isn’t limited to those on the long list.” 0% of the Jazz 100 included additional artist nominations.
When asked how ABC Jazz have combated historical gender inequalities, Chadd stated,
“If anything, the historical gender imbalance highlighted here reinforces our commitment to making a difference in this space. To a great extent, a radio station like ABC Jazz depends on the music that has already been recorded – the established jazz ‘canon’. But there are ways in which we can facilitate change, particularly in commissioning new recordings. Over 50% of the commissions under the ABC’s recent Fresh Start Fund, for instance, were from female artists. We also seek to support the work of the new generation of Australian artists: earlier this year, we announced the inaugural ABC Jazz Scholarship and we regularly program new releases by emerging musicians. We track gender balance in our playlists and look to increase that incrementally over time – including through focussing on acquiring new and old recordings from around the world featuring diverse performers.”
Chadd added that if there was another Jazz 100 in “10 years time”, ABC Jazz would love to have introduced their audience to a “range of new favourites, such that a top 100 list would be more balanced”. Though the initiatives mentioned here are a step in the right direction, Chadd’s statement suggests that male artists will continue to be favoured for the time being. Is this the best that can be achieved right now? Perhaps 10% of airtime currently reserved for jazz luminaries could be substituted with recordings by top quality female artists not currently on high rotation.
Listen to Attaboi's playlist of female artists not included in the nomination list here
Upon further examination of the Jazz 100, we found there to be approximately 44% representation of People Of Colour (POC). There were 0 POC from so-called Australia included.
Australian artists made up 21% of the list.
We would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri people who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection in our community. We would like to pay respect to the Elders both past and present of the Kulin Nation and extend that respect to other First Nations people who have read this article.