With the duet "Just as you are," the singer and producer Lary celebrated her German breakthrough in 2015. She talks to DW about her experiences with sexism and how #MeToo changed the male-dominated music industry.
DW: Only 29 percent of solo artists in the German album charts are female. Why are women still underrepresented in the music business?
Lary: Because the decision-makers are often just men who maybe just don't have the vision or the perspective at that moment to really let something in and let something grow, which they might not really understand or see at first. We simply have a fundamentally different perspectives on life. And that's why it's so important that men AND women are included everywhere.
Have you personally had experiences with sexism?
That happens all the time. In my first album, for example, I showed a lot more skin, a lot more sex than usual. A lot of it resonated. It struck me that I was automatically taken less seriously than an artist as a result. I found that somehow unfair. After all, I wrote all my songs myself and perceived myself as an artist. But then I was often reduced to sex. Because the theme was very loud in the music, but also because I dealt with it a lot at that time. I found it a shame that I then had the feeling I had to censor myself because I was not perceived the way I would have liked to be.
The #MeToo debate is still very present, especially in the film industry. Is sexual harassment also an issue in the music industry?
I don't know any woman who hasn't already had a #MeToo moment. But that's a conversation you've only had among women so far. And a lot has changed in the meantime. I mean how we perceive ourselves, the feeling we have and what we can dare to say.
Has the #MeToo debate changed the industry?
It's good that a dialogue has started about it. Now, nobody can talk their way out with "Yes, I didn't know that," or "Oh, don't be so silly, little one. I'll give you a pat on the back." And a few years ago it was really quite different. It was normal for you to be called a "mouse," "little one" or whatever — all those things that are not meant to be "bad" but are totally part of this story and just annoying and degrading.
You once said that you could make more mainstream, radio-friendly music, but it's difficult for you as a woman. In what way?
Lary: In many cases it's just that because you're a woman it's about how sexy you are. There's no requirement at all that you say anything in your lyrics or that you bring some kind of personality with you. I always thought that this was totally strange. Of course it's about me and about my stories and my personality.
What would have to change to make women more visible in the pop music industry?
I think it's a problem that will settle itself over time as the people who are now in positions of power are mostly male and relatively old. And that's why not a lot of new things happen. I think that will take care of itself in the next 10, 15 years. Apart from that, I have the feeling that women are already pushing hard and that the music industry is trying to change and somehow open up. That's why I see it very positively.
You deal openly with your own sexiness in public life. Doesn't that play into the hands of people who insist you have to be sexy to succeed in this business?
When I feel like talking about sex from morning till night and being naked in every one of my videos, it shouldn't undermine my integrity any more than when I don't. I find women who act sexy can be as intelligent and as great artists as women who don't. It's a pity that this sexiness and this sex thing always has to mean something.
What advice would you give to young upcoming musicians?
It's incredibly important if you want to make music as a woman and go into this business, you have to know what you want, how you do and don't want to sound. You have to know what you're up for and you shouldn't stumble naively into it. Otherwise, other people will make the decisions for you. And they are mostly men.