LISTEN: Get Your Voice Heard

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LISTEN: Get Your Voice Heard

A year ago, after reading a book about Melbourne’s underground music scene, Evelyn Morris posted a Facebook status about the inherent patriarchy that exists, not just in literature, but in Australia’s music industry at large. “So tired of male back-patting and exclusion of anything vaguely ‘feminine’ in subculture,” she wrote. “We get it. You think you’re all awesome and we’re all just kinda average. Unless we sound like you. Ladies of Melbourne… Let’s please reject this culture.”
650 comments later, LISTEN was born: a group dedicated to breeding a safe space for women and gender-diverse members of the Australian music community. Now expanded to include a record label, listening parties and conferences, LISTEN has fast become one of the most respected feminist groups on the Australian arts landscape.
LISTEN’s Facebook group – peaking at over 2000 members – is set to shut in the next couple of weeks. It often happens in online forums that constructive conversations become lost in seas of comments, and remarks made in haste end up offending. In this case, some transgender members felt they weren’t being adequately represented.
“It doesn’t make sense to have a forum where you’re supposed to be able to discuss sensitive things, but is actually kind of a hostile environment,” Morris says. “There needs to be an understanding of the amount of justification particularly trans people have to put up with every day. It’s just an area that requires a lot of sensitivity at the moment, and that space wasn’t particularly conducive to that.”
Despite curbing the Facebook conversation, LISTEN’s constructive discourse is otherwise expanding. Its founders are hoping to bring greater crowds to their public events, where conversations are more productive than when faces are hidden behind computer screens.
“We’re hoping that what will happen is not only that we’ll have lots of discussions in person at conferences, but also that people will direct their energy to writing stuff for the website,” Morris says.
The testimonials submitted to the LISTEN website, which have been discussed at their public events, were quantified last month in Music Victoria’s report Women in the Victorian Contemporary Music Industry. Statistics such as the gender pay gap in the music industry increasing by 3% over the past year; just 28% of senior executive roles being held by women; and evidence of a confidence gap that pushes women out of the industry are sobering to read. However, they’re no surprise to Morris and her LISTEN collaborator Antonia Sellbach.
“It’s always a shock having a look at just how shitty things are, but I guess it’s what has been reflected to me since starting LISTEN,” Morris says. “It’s nice to have that information collected so we don’t have to spend time trying to legitimise what we’re doing.”
LISTEN has just hosted a two-day conference as part of the Darebin Music Feast, which they’ll follow with a variety of women-focused events during Melbourne Music Week. They play a huge part in Melbourne Music Week with female-dominated gigs, panels and DJ nights happening throughout the week. The biggest LISTEN event is an evening at Southbank youth centre Signal on Friday November 20.
“We’re really trying to encourage younger people to come along to this, Morris says. “We have to figure out how we can cultivate the next generation of gender-queer and female performers – we’re up against so much when we’re younger, it’s hard to get past the bedroom walls.”
LISTEN will present an all ages, free entry panel discussion and gig, featuring KT Spit, Grace Anderson, Empat Lima and Habits, at Signal, Southbank on Friday November 20 for Melbourne Music Week.
Written by Matilda Edwards