The Overlook with Matt Peiken

The Song Remains the Same | Rebekah Todd Talks About Misogyny in the Music Scene

September 11, 2023 Matt Peiken Episode 86
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
The Song Remains the Same | Rebekah Todd Talks About Misogyny in the Music Scene
Show Notes Transcript

Rebekah Todd is a seasoned songwriter and performer who moved from Wilmington to Asheville two years ago. On Aug. 22, she posted a video to social media talking about unwanted communication from an unnamed festival promoter, the blame he placed on her for the festival's cancellation and the avalanche of backlash that came her way. Hundreds of people commented on and shared it.

Even before this episode, Rebekah made social media posts going back to March touching on other experiences she had with men in positions of power. Misogyny in the music industry is a difficult topic. Rarely do men address it, nor does the music press. But an Asheville music festival called Women to the Front happens Sept. 17. It’s founded by and exclusively featuring female artists. The timing seemed right to meet Rebekah and hear her story as a microcosm of what many women artists experience.

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Matt Peiken: I reached out to you because it seems like at least this calendar year as Born through your social media posts on Facebook that this hasn't been a banner year in terms of how people In the industry have come to you with your music.

At least some people. Can you give me a sense of I'll put this label on it. You correct me if I'm wrong. The misogyny you have felt coming in your direction. Is this something you've dealt with throughout your career as a musician, or do you notice a certain crescendo of it happening recently? 

Rebekah Todd: Good question.

Yes, I have felt it forever and I have felt the crescendo recently. In addition, as I continue to grow as a human I've been doing a lot of work with healing and therapy and learning how to be less of a people pleaser and draw stronger boundaries. And as I've been working on that, I've been drawing just the bare minimum boundaries that we should all have as humans.

And as I draw those I Have been noticing. I'm running up against a lot of walls in the industry where people are Offended that I have like very normal boundaries, 

Matt Peiken: elaborate on that a little bit What are you finding that's happening? Lately you said this is something that you've noticed throughout your career Give us a sense of the general, not that they should be ranked, but the sense of general misogyny you would feel on an ongoing basis as a female artist and how that has 

Rebekah Todd: evolved.

Yeah. It's funny. It's difficult for me. I don't know if it's PTSD or what, but when I try to make it specific, it's difficult because it's just everything. 

Matt Peiken: Does it come from all angles? Does it come from promoters, agents, other musicians, fans? Where is this all of that? Okay. So if that's happening and I imagine you must have conversations or have had conversations going back in your, through the beginnings of your career, noticing this with other female musicians.

So this isn't.

So if this is happening in a male dominated industry, where each of those agents, promoters, musicians, they're mostly men, the people responsible for furthering careers is mostly men. And I will add in their press, media who cover music as well. So talk about the general conversations you have with other women about how. On an ongoing level, you just navigate that terrain how you just get by day to day and shoulder it and deal with 

Rebekah Todd: it day to day. Okay. So the first thing I've had to. Understand in my personal life is the first step as a female, which I'm still growing into is just recognizing it because we've been gaslit from age two, in the world.

So you don't even see it. You, I, we take it personally. We think we are the problem. And that creates a lot of depression or low self esteem and you're constantly beating yourself up and you never actually realize that you weren't the problem after all. And more recently I've started looking back on situations over the last 15 years and going, Oh, that was, that was unprofessional of that person.

And I was not in the wrong. I was drawing a boundary. They got angry with me. And a lot of times in many ways.

Matt Peiken: Do you feel like that's a reputation that has been stamped on you in your 

Rebekah Todd: career? Absolutely. And any female who just has. You know, Any boundaries, they're difficult. They're the squeaky wheel. And give 

Matt Peiken: me a sense or give our audience a sense of the boundaries you erect that. You get this kind of blowback 

Rebekah Todd: from.

Some ideas of situations, some of it feels normal and a lot of bands go through this, male or female. But, at the end of the night, you have seen that the room has at least two to three hundred people in there. You're only getting paid for ninety. And then you say, hey, this is definitely incorrect.

Can we talk about this? Can we work it out? They get upset that you're. Judging them or calling them a liar or whatever, and they freak out on you. And then you have to hold your ground, which if the male population musicians did that, it would be just normal or expected and respected. But when I do it or other females do it, it's taken differently.

And I think part of that is this expectation that's put on us where. I just was listening to another podcast where a woman said I've had to learn how to be both masculine and feminine, which, that means different things for all of us. But I find that I don't want to be brash and aggressive and all this all the time I want to be.

Light and easy and myself and not be taken advantage of but females are put in a place a lot of times where if You are sweet and kind and generous that is immediately understood as we can take advantage of this person 

Matt Peiken: Do you think that this happens and not to remove it from a gender based element?

Do you think it happens to artists in general that the people who not certainly not everybody, maybe not even most people, but the people who are responsible for bringing business to artists and furthering artists, lifting them up are in an advantageous position in a way and that they leverage that. So again, not.

Trying to remove the gender element, but do you think there's some of that just people look to get any angle on business and think that people in the arts, musicians, perhaps in particular, aren't business savvy and they're going to take advantage of them? 

Rebekah Todd: Yes. And a way to tell a quick story that is maybe a little less gender based.

I was. Called several, many years ago, maybe five or six years ago by NBC's The Voice. They had seen me on YouTube and they said, Hey, we like you. Why don't you come to Atlanta? You can pass the line. Just come on in, do the. Whatever performance for us. And so I went to Atlanta, did the performance.

They said, great job. You're going to LA. Boom. Next thing I know, three weeks later, I'm in LA. And I just felt it there. There were about 150 of us and we were just these artistic vessels to be sucked dry by LA and I did the next tier. Made it to the top 60 or whatever. They handed me a contract and I have a Unfortunate, story both my parents have passed and they had cancer and cable television loves this, right?

They want to make a sob story out of it and I told them my little story and they said oh, yeah Okay, cool. Go get your VHS tapes. Bring them back to us here in LA. By the way Here's a 40 page contract if you don't mind Filling that out. No problem. Luckily I had an attorney read it and the attorney said to me, you do you, whatever you want to do.

But if you sign this contract, it says very plainly right here that they will own your life story indefinitely. Meaning they can take every image from those VHS tapes you hand them and they will paint their own story and they will sell it and make money and you will get zero. You will get some moms from Kansas liking your Instagram, and that's about all you're going to get from NBC's 

Matt Peiken: The Voice.

Wow. So, When it happens on that level, that must be so disheartening to read. And obviously, you bowed out of that at that point. Yes, I did. Okay, so that is an example, a stark example of how it happens to artists in general, yet the misogyny is unmistakable, that you're talking about it.

It happens at every level. What did you see evolving? What has changed in the last couple of years or and in particular, and maybe you can tell me if you were posting about these kinds of things previous to 2023, but in 2023, going back to March and August, and, this month, You've had a number of posts.

What, what's evolved? Thank 

Rebekah Todd: you for asking. And I have, I don't, I'm not sure exactly what has evolved because, I can't see the forest for the trees right now, but maybe I'm pushing against it more, or maybe people are becoming more emboldened. And I think we all know, like there's an alarming aggression happening towards trans people of color, you know, all kinds of women speaking out.

It's all happening and it's very alarming. And I've been seeing it in my personal life on the road at the venues with the agents. People are emboldened to Speak out against anyone pushing back and it's becoming scary, you know 

Matt Peiken: What were you pushing it back against specifically?

Yeah, I know you don't want to name particular names You don't want to name particular festivals But there were some incidents in which you dropped out of at least one festival because of something that happened Give us a sense of without again naming specifics. What happened 

Rebekah Todd: to you? Yeah I was invited out to a space and I got a contract filled out.

Everything felt okay. At first, the person's personality wasn't my favorite, but that's just how life is. So we got a contract, everything's all good. And then I continued to get phone calls, texts, DMs and emails inviting me out for lots and lots of private events on the weekend, like as if we were buddies and I'm not buddies with this person.

And I. didn't really want to hang out. And also was put in an awkward position where I didn't want to have to hurt the person's feelings to say no either. And maybe that's me being too soft. Like I didn't want to hurt his feelings to say no, you know? and then finally I started saying, would you mind, please just corresponding with me about this.

Event only and maybe let's do it through email said it kind of soft at first and I started saying it very You know clearly in writing Please only correspond with me through email that upset the person because there's the boundary, right? and then it got bad enough where I was being completely disrespected and Just straight up said I'm gonna have to back out of this.

The vibe is not there Disrespected how over and over saying, and I mean, back to back texts, please, can we do this through email? Okay. Thank you for the information. If we could just move this to email. Once again, I'd like to move this to email and just completely ignored. And then I realized, and this is something I've been realizing a lot, thanks to therapy.

By the time you get to that place where you're backed in the corner. You've already allowed it to go too far. And I was in the corner and I went, oh, my bad. I went too far. One thing 

Matt Peiken: that I, tell me if I'm wrong on this, but the person who was promoting this festival or booking you into this festival, once things got to a certain point, this person decided to cancel the entire festival?

Rebekah Todd: Yes. And I was not made aware of that by that person. I found out online from other angry bands Who now were saying that they weren't gonna get paid and people were lashing out at me like wow You really mess this up for a lot of bands and of course that was devastating to open up Social media and find out that I have now according to other bands harmed an entire scene of people and at first I was I sat and I went into poor self esteem mode, gaslit mode Oh no, I made everybody angry.

But then of course, moments, hours later, a few close friends were like no, this isn't right. Like you didn't mess anything up. You should be allowed to hold your standards. And the thing that's difficult here is a lot of people have been saying this person's a really nice person. You mistook them.

And I hear that. However, they mistook me as well. And we as a collective have to try and understand as little or as much as we can about other people's. Experience, you know, and there's a reason people drop boundaries. There's a reason I drop boundaries. When I was 18, the first gig I played out of state, I'll never forget it.

I was in Boston, played a gig, it was time to get paid. The venue owner walks me into the back room. It's far away from the stage, far away from the other musicians I was with. He closes the door and shows me a picture. Of someone giving someone else a blowjob and asks me if I'm into that. That was my first touring experience, how does that 

Matt Peiken: not color and stain your, how you enter this? You must go into every interaction with a male in power wondering. Is this going to be one of those times? How do you avoid, and maybe you don't, having a certain cynicism with every interaction? If this goes back to when you were 18, just starting your 

Rebekah Todd: career.

Yeah, it takes time. There are many venues and many humans that I absolutely adore and love working with, and they make me feel very safe. And I respect them and they respect me. And you can tell immediately if someone is. talking to you, Rebekah Todd, or talking to a female musician.

And I, I mean that, in a way, like they look at me and see what their idea of a. Female musician that they can a femme musician that they can take 

Matt Peiken: advantage of 

When this festival got canceled. You didn't know about it at first, you came to the narrative late in a sense, right? That the person who canceled the festival was already writing the narrative. Yes. About what 

Rebekah Todd: happened. I came late, you're 

Matt Peiken: exactly right. 

You didn't know it got canceled initially you found out on social media that the entire festival was canceled because of your singular interaction with this promoter that must have been frightening to?

Get a sense of what was happening. Like anybody who's probably doxxed through name your social media channel, what were your initial feelings and how did you think to 

Rebekah Todd: respond? Yeah. The initial feeling was shame. Deep deep shame because, I know how social media works and most people just see it and absorb it.

They don't really question it, which is the next big thing that I've faced. So many people not questioning. Which seems pretty clear to me, you're telling me a whole festival got canceled because someone who wasn't even on the poster put up a boundary? Yeah, I was just 

Matt Peiken: going to ask about that. It wasn't like you were the headliner.

Rebekah Todd: I wasn't. I was like a little 60 minute acoustic set, which also was whatever. Yeah, 

Matt Peiken: how did you being blamed for this stick with other musicians? Why couldn't they see through that's 

Rebekah Todd: bullshit? That's where the misogyny comes in and it maybe became very clear.

So many angry white males on Facebook and I haven't personally felt it in that large. Of a, ugh, blast, but it was rough. It was a lot of people calling me names that I just, I'm not those things. And I couldn't believe that they were just saying them as if they were fact. And everyone was jumping on the bandwagon.

Were these 

Matt Peiken: musicians or some of them in our local scene here? 

Rebekah Todd: No, I don't think there were any Asheville People, 

Matt Peiken: thank God, that was what I was going to get at because you're still trying to build a reputation in this town. Yeah. Right 

Rebekah Todd: now. I mean, Plenty of them saw it and I don't know what their thoughts were.

I'm sure that some thought, whoa, some of them probably use their brain and said, no, that's not correct. That can't be correct. The experienced musicians understood. Absolutely not. That is not correct. But The one, I don't know something I faced was all of the mean people just jumping on the bandwagon and then there were all the quiet people.

Those quiet people spoke so much more loudly in my mind than the loud angry people. How, so what happened? What do you mean? It was a deafening silence of I got an incredible amount of support on social media from strangers that I'd never met. A lot of different communities came in, swooped in hard on support, but a lot of the people that I hold close and dear did not in any way.

Matt Peiken: And so you eventually took to video, you made a long, very eloquent, impassioned post about what happened speaking as specifically as you could without getting. Uberspecific. How did that video help you immediately just in terms of you being able to express yourself and what feedback did you get from corners of the public who you might not have been hearing from previously 

Rebekah Todd: to that?

The first thing I did after I, I had a whole day in bed where I just cried. Just straight up. It happened. And that's okay. I needed it. And then I thought about it and after the Sadness came some anger and I didn't lash out because I knew this is not the way but I did create via text. I thought, who are the most powerful women that I love and respect in this state and in this region?

I started a text group with them and I said, ladies, if you haven't seen it yet, please go see what's going on. It's not just happening to me. I know it happens to you too, but this time I have. on it. We can prove it this time because it was all in writing. So I need everyone to get with me on the bandwagon.

I need to know that I have your support. What do you think I should do? And several women in that group said, we think you need to do a Open statement, we think there is a lot of misinformation being spread around, which tipped me off that they had already heard from others in the scene who were confused and might even be agreeing that I was being self righteous in cancelling a festival, dun dun dun, you know.

So, I had some help with women in this community and they helped me write something very nice and eloquent. I put it in my words first and there were a lot of bad words. 

Matt Peiken: Oh, really? So you had a small committee editing 

Rebekah Todd: what you wrote? I literally had an 

Matt Peiken: editing committee. 

Rebekah Todd: We crossed out some bad words and we crossed out some specific names, of people and venues because those are legal lawsuits waiting to happen.

And I was just so angry. I was like, ah, let's burn it down, and they were like, okay, we're going to do this. We're going to do it the right way. And we're going to do it in a way that makes positive change. That's the thing. A lot of people have asked me, name them. Let's burn it down.

And that makes me happy that they feel what I felt, but. Burning it down hurts the whole community in a way. I'm not the biggest fan of full on cancel culture because we all make mistakes. We're all somewhere on our journey and maybe I'm being too soft. This is a character flaw, but maybe.

We can learn maybe we can grow maybe someone will think about this and be like, you know what I was an asshole Can I guess on 

Matt Peiken: this? And I think a lot of people in this era of Awakened awareness about the plight of women that I think people think of it solely as Well, did anything physical happen?

Exactly. And if not then what happened, 

Rebekah Todd: yeah, let's take it even further there was a lot of misinformation that was clearly being spread. There was a lot of harassment on the back end that was not visible to everybody else. I was getting scared.

I also was getting a lot of comments and messages from people who seemed very right wing and they scared me just straight up. I'm from Benson, North Carolina, where the Klan rolls very deeply. I have seen the KKK march down my main street where I grew up, so I know how bad it can actually look. I've seen so I am aware how dangerous it can get.

So I tried to take out a 50 C thinking that would protect me. And I was told immediately by a lawyer, this 50 C while it does clearly stay, say state. Harassment here. It's not actually going to do anything for you. And if you take this to the court, it will probably be denied.

Once it is denied, they will have copy of your denied restraining order. They can then take that and make fun of you. So rather than that, why don't we? Try and get both parties to agree and sign something saying I agree not to mess with you anymore And that's the best I could do. Is 

Matt Peiken: that happening or has 

Rebekah Todd: that happened?

It has so Hopefully everything's okay

Matt Peiken: Okay, so in a way it's an agreed upon I, I will restrain myself from, is that, is that what that seems to 

Rebekah Todd: be? Cause it turned, yeah, exactly. So let's think about that. What actually happened is the system turned it on me and they did say to me on paper because you received support after your statement, it could almost be seen that you harassed them.

Matt Peiken: Wow. Yes. Gosh. That's the gaslighting you were talking about a little bit. So now tell me how is this affected or are you able to compartmentalize that this is the bullshit that I have to deal with if I'm going to be a professional musician that I just have to put up with a certain level of it and I'm going to deal with it.

And then I can put that out of my mind and be a musician and write my music and perform. Are you able to do that? 

Rebekah Todd: I had my first challenge of that this weekend. The band was out with several gigs several festivals. And at one of the festivals, someone walked up to me who I was positive knew about the situation very closely.

And they just said, Hey, Rebekah, how you been? And I was like, Oh gosh. They know this, and they said it in front of a lot of musicians, and I almost had a panic attack and cried right on the spot. However, I didn't. I walked away, smoked a little CBD, took some breaths, and then the set began. And the stage, for all artists, we hope, at least, that the place where we make our art is our tiny safe space.

And the day that that is no longer my safe space is the day I'm out. I'm out, but the stage is still my safe space and the fans are still my safe space. So that's the thing. There's this crazy disconnect. We're all living behind the curtain. The fans and the art out in the public are safe, but everything behind the curtain is not safe.

And that's where I'm living right now. I just lived there two days ago. 

Matt Peiken: How has this hardened you or changed you this episode and this year? How has that changed how you go about conducting your business? 

Rebekah Todd: Now I recognize, The deep need within myself for strong boundaries, the unapologetic no, thank you.

No, I can't right now. Maybe later I need a break because I'll be honest right now I'm very burnt out and I'm saddened and hardened. And I want a break, I don't know how to take it, but I'm going to try. I don't know the answer. Take 

Matt Peiken: a break from what? You're living, yeah, because you're living your career and you're earning money.

How do you take a break? 

Rebekah Todd: Oh, that's a good question. I think I want to move away from touring for a minute. There's a lot of other avenues to be creative and be a singer and a writer. And I'm not even that, you know, I'm not like that big. I have so many friends here in Asheville with so much of a larger wave of social media, and I don't know how they handle it.

And I need to, I think I just need to bump myself up to that next level of Hardness or whatever the answer is, stronger boundaries don't take it so personal, but that feels like gaslighting to me because a lot of the people that I'm talking about are also not female. 

Matt Peiken: This women to the front festival, has there been talk about having a women to the front summit in a sense of how you just women talking and how you deal with this and best practices and shared stories of success?

Has there been 

Rebekah Todd: talk of that? Yay. We are planning a panel. A panel discussion, which is going to happen on September 17th at WTF Festival, or WTF. So yes, September 17th at New Belgium there will be a panel discussion, I forget the exact time, but there are going to be many incredible humans speaking on their experience.

Are you on 

Matt Peiken: that panel? I am. Wow. Great. Is there anything we haven't talked about all that, this whole episode or? Others that might be connected that you want to talk about or what's lies ahead 

Rebekah Todd: about them. Sure. I guess one thing I really Want to say have you watched the new Barbie 

Matt Peiken: movie? I know my partner did I haven't 

Rebekah Todd: seen it yet?

Okay. So at first I kind of hated it because I was like, oh my gosh, this is so duh Like it was like so obvious. Let's be strong for women. Let's create a better world. And I was like duh. Hello. So then I found myself, there's one angry feminist in the movie that gets converted and she's yeah, I'm sorry.

I'm not so angry anymore. I love all of you. Let's all be together. That's me right now. There were a lot of women that were not willing. to speak up or out for me, and at first I got very upset with them. Some of them were close friends. And, I look back at the Barbie movie, and I go, alright Rebecca, we're all on this spectrum, we're all on this journey, especially the women, and trans women, wow much respect.

We all are on this journey, and just because someone can't speak up right now doesn't mean we have to be angry at them. We have to support them, because that means they're, the chains are really tight on them right now. They're very scared. Their head is It's all the way in the lion's mouth. And if they speak out, they might lose their livelihood.

So we can't be upset with the people who can't speak out yet. That's the biggest thing. I don't want to create division. There's no division here with the male community as well. If you can't speak out yet, guess what? You're in the patriarchal system as well. The industry is chomping on all of us artists, right?

So the first thing that must happen is community. And we are great in number. If we could just come together, start to really support and stop taking it together. We could make a change, so that's where I'm at. 

Matt Peiken: Wonderful. What's happening with your music? Are you writing new music and working on a record?


Rebekah Todd: I am actually working on a lot of different writing with myself and some other bands that shall not be named yet. But lots of exciting stuff on the forefront and it might take me out of this pressuring situation that I'm in of being At the spearhead of all of it. I might be more, 

Matt Peiken: so it's more about you collaborating with other artists, not being the head of the band for a 

Rebekah Todd: while?

For a while, which is a little bit of a bummer that I have to do that. But I do feel that right now in my life, if I keep being at the tip of the spear, I'm going to shatter. So I can't do it. I need a break.

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