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NEVER! Music Awards Not Gender Bias

By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo

SONGSTRESS Sista Afia went all out moments after the 5th edition of the 3Music Awards came off, accusing music award schemes of thievery, unfairness to female musicians among other scathing allegations.

In a long post against award schemes on her Facebook page, Sista Afia ranted extensively on how female musicians in Ghana are given a raw deal, how most female acts have given up on the craft with more young, up and coming female acts wanting to give up too.

She also touched on how it is about time the voting mechanism for awards was scrapped and the awards given to deserving artistes and then she waded into the politics of the industry, claiming that women are placed at a disadvantage.

Candidly, Sista Afia’s assertions are borne out of frustration and highly misplaced.

Women at a disadvantage

Women are actually at a disadvantage, that is true but it’s not because of politics or any form of machinations from any award scheme. It is about the numbers.

Men outnumber women on all frontiers of the industry.  The percentage of male artistes is more than the females. The number of male acts who are dominant presently in the industry is more than the female acts and it’s been like this for years.

The scenario about numbers when it comes to gender is worse when it comes to the technical department of the industry. Fewer women are producers, sound engineers, songwriters, record label executives among others.

The percentage of women in music administration is also low. In the history of MUSIGA, GHAMRO, ARSOG and other groupings within the industry, the records depict an unimpressive percentage of women who have or are holding positions.

Interestingly, the situation is like that across the world in the entertainment industry and that matter comes with its own analysis with regard to the disparity in the numbers of male and female personnel.

Awards are not gender biased

Music awards schemes across the world have never been gender-biased and the situation is no different in Ghana. There is no form of favouritism when it comes to awards, whether they are awarding based on popularity, sales, charts or quality.

All of these awards come with their set of guidelines and none is tilted to the advantage of any gender. In fact, some awards do recognise the disproportionate numbers, so they have some categories for male and female acts.

The 3Music Awards, for example, with a clear understanding of the disparity in gender balance, formulated the Women’s Brunch event to purposely cater to women by awarding distinguished women in the industry, from all divides.

Award schemes present a fair playing field with regard to their respective criteria on how any artiste can gain a nomination and win.

Women winning on merit

“Last year Sefa was everywhere, is the industry saying if she doesn’t buy vote (airtime) she won’t be awarded? Scam. She held a successful concert in Ho and myself together with other musicians were there to support the event. Yet they will go ahead and pick someone else. As if women do not matter in awards, pathetic, Gyakie, this girl def need to pick up something at least from VGMA y’all can’t say you didn’t see her win in every angle. Both locally and internationally,” Sista Afia wrote.

In 2018, Ebony became the first female artiste to win the coveted VGMA Artiste of the Year and her win was based on merit. That year under review, she was adjudged as the artiste with the highest audience and popularity. In 2021, Gospel artiste, Diana Hamilton became the first female Gospel artiste to annex the Artiste of the Year and it was based on merit.

Both women competed with male acts on different occasions and after assessment by the Board, Academy and the public, they came up tops.

Beyoncé sits on the charts as the second most awarded musician at the Grammys, above a lot of male acts and she won all the laurels based on performance. Alisson Krauss is the third most awarded at the Grammys and she surpasses a tall list of male acts.

Taylor Swift is only the second artiste with the most wins at the Billboard Awards, after Drake and that achievement came at the expense of many male artistes.

Voting quandary

“Sometimes forget the “vote for your favorite artist by using this short code” and give the award to who deserves it,” she suggested.

Sista Afia clearly lacks proper understanding of how awards systems work and especially when it comes to voting.

Every award scheme has its mechanism in compiling, nominating and selecting winners and voting via short code applies to most schemes that utilise the metric of popularity as a criterion.

Once you have this basic comprehension on how such schemes work, some tantrums would not be needed!

Awards don’t define success

Sista Afia also lamented that “90% of the female musicians I came to meet when coming up in 2015 have all given up, the young ones too after me have started giving up already. Don’t blame them, the politics in this industry, purely witchcraft.

Awards are good as they offer some validation, appreciation while being a testament of the performance of the artiste within the year of eligibility of the awards – but they can’t be a guarantee of how successful an artiste can be.

The statement from Sista Afia on female artistes giving up in connection to the politics of award schemes is flawed.

Bob Marley never won a Grammy in his lifetime but he is regarded as one of the most successful and influential artistes even posthumously.

Sista Afia has no empirical evidence on the percentage of Ghanaian female musicians quitting the craft due to frustrations over awards and it is also a fallacy that young female acts are also giving up.

When artistes attain patronage, power, and influence and become successful to the point where they affect the industry and the society positively, awards become auxiliary and just icing on the cake of a good career.

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