Everyone knows that ‘sex sells,’ but for an independent, female musician looking to discuss sexuality on her terms, this old adage couldn’t be further from the truth.
A thought piece for International Women's Day.
Words Mark Knight, Right Chord Music
Aren’t we the liberated generation?
We find ourselves living in a world where 120 million people visit PornHub everyday, over 200m have watched the lyric video for WAP by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion and almost half of 18-29 year olds have used an online dating site. It’s easy to assume we are the sexually liberated generation.
But despite all this it's rare we talk openly about sex. The ‘sexy’ and ‘sexual’ agenda is largely still set and controlled by men, for men. But when a women wants to use ‘sex’ or be ‘sexy’ on their own terms, the barriers go up.
Banned and Censored
Later this month independent, female musician Zaritza plans to release her latest single ‘When I Want It’ a track about the taboo of female pleasure. Without the backing of a major record label or mainstream radio, Zaritza follows a route familiar to independent artists the world over… she makes video content and creates Facebook and Instagram ads, encouraging people to listen on Spotify.
Self serve advertising platforms present a huge opportunity for independent artists. No longer reliant on cost prohibitive magazines, outdoor or TV ads, they give musicians the chance to share their music with anyone of Facebook’s 1.69bn users or 1bn Instagram users. Finally a chance to get your music heard, or so you would think?
But within 30mins of ad creation, a notification appears from Facebook to confirm Zaritza’s ads have been banned for falling foul of their adult content regulations, one of 20 different reasons why Facebook can ban an advert. Check out the banned ad below and ask yourself whether it’s static / animated style contains anything that would offend the liberated generation described above.
Zaritza’s ad was deliberately set to only target 18+ adults in Western markets including the US and UK. Naturally she omitted muslim countries where religious sensitivities remain. It's not the first time she has suffered at the hands of the censors. Her music video for Slot Machine was also banned by YouTube and Facebook ads targeting adult audiences. Is there anything in this video that shocks an audience that have grown up watching Kylie Minogue spinning around in her gold hot pants, or Christina Aguilera in leather chaps in her video for Dirty?
Facebook Your Cultural Censor
It raises the question, should we be accepting of Facebook’s self appointed role as our cultural censor? Should they really be able to decide what adults can and can’t see? Aren’t musicians supposed to be the ones that set the agenda, push the agenda and rip up the status quo? Isn’t music supposed to be about sex, drugs and rock n roll? Sadly Facebook and Instagram didn’t get the memo.
It's not only Zaritza who is falling foul of the censors, we’ve heard from other female artists whose ads have been banned for far less including a naked shoulder, a plunging cleavage (Have you been on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok lately?) or even a simple kiss. When it comes to music, it appears ‘sisters really can’t do it for themselves’ with Facebook or Instagram advertising.
Creative Freedom For Independent Artists
International Women’s Day feels the ideal time to highlight this censorship issue. Wouldn’t it be great, if Facebook changed the rules allowing music ads to be reviewed through a different lens? Shouldn’t adults, actively seeking interesting and challenging music content be able to see what they crave? Afterall, when you are Ben Cook, the boss at Atlantic Records you find a way for your artist Cardi B to take WAP into the mainstream.
Recent Spotify data shows the share of overall Spotify streams generated by major label artists is falling, down 4% percentage points to 78% in 2020 from a high of 85% in 2018. It’s clear the indie artists are coming, now let's give them the channels they need to promote their art.