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Music Critic Hopes Conversation Leads To Change

Jessica Hopper sitting on an outdoor staircase

Music critic Jessica Hopper is advocating for change in the music industry. Photo provided by Featherproof Books

Music critic Jessica Hopper recently started a social media conversation about how women and other marginalized groups have been discouraged in their pursuits in the music industry.  Hopper will be in Champaign-Urbana for this weekend's Pygmalion Festival.  She spoke with Illinois Public Media's Brian Moline about how that conversation started, and where she hopes it could lead.

Hopper said she was simply trying to gather some information for a keynote speech she was giving in Australia on how to value young women's interest in music, when the conversation on Twitter exploded.

"I wasn't surprised by the first 50 or 70 replies that I got," Hopper said.  "I think when we got to 500 in about 20 hours, and in the thousands by three days later, it was like 'Oh, wow, so everyone has the same experience with these jerk sound guys.'"

She said that the music industry has a long history of this type of misogynistic behavior.

"Historically, rock and roll was always seen, and sort of convened, as a boys' club," Hopper said.  "Young women and their bodies have been a reward for a show well played."

Hopper hopes that starting this conversation can help to change the culture in the music industry.

"The thing that actually makes progress is people with power within the music industry reading these messages and saying, 'okay, what can I do about this?'" she said.

When Hopper tried to publish her latest book, "The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic," she was met with a lot of resistance.

"I was told by a lot of people in the publishing industry that this book couldn't exist for many different reasons," Hopper said.  "But all of them basically boiled down to there was no gender precedent for it."

She got the last laugh.

"The book has done incredibly well, fortunately," Hopper said.  "It's now in its fourth printing, and it's been out since May."

Hopper hopes that her struggle in getting this collection published will help future women avoid those kinds of problems.

"The title is really more about planting a flag," she said.  "So that they can look at this and say 'well, here's my precedent.'"

Hopper is part of a panel at The Pygmalion Festival on Friday at 2:15pm in the Krannert Center Studio Theatre, discussing the separation of editorial content and advertising.  She is also reading from her book of music criticism Saturday at 3:30pm at Exile on Main Street, 100 N. Chestnut Street, Champaign.