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The Hayley Effect: An Analysis On Women In The Music Industry

Photo of Hayley Williams by Zachary Gray via @yelyahwilliams on Instagram

What is The Hayley Effect?

I’m a huge fan of Paramore and Hayley Williams just like the rest of the world–rightfully so. Throughout her entire career, Hayley has participated in philanthropy like charity events, benefit concerts, and advocacy campaigns with one of the most notable being her company, Good Dye Young, with Brian O’Conner, a hair dye company that supports various movements like environmental sustainability and LGBTQ+ rights.

Her influence has, and is, undoubtably powerful, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with fault. And while the success of Paramore is powerful, it still reinforced a nuanced trend within the very male-dominated music industry, particularly the rock scene, as we see a rise in comments like, “You sound like Paramore!”

Let me set the scene: You’re a woman leading a fairly new pop-punk band and you receive your first comment comparing you to Hayley Williams. At first, you might be flattered. Paramore is iconic, and being compared to someone like them probably feels like a compliment. But the more you hear this comment, the more you realize people aren’t saying that because they think your music is as groundbreaking as Paramore's because, let’s face it, you’re not that similar to Paramore. You don’t share the same vocal intensity as Hayley and you don’t write music about the same things and your band doesn’t even have the same vibe as Paramore. You quickly realize that the only reason people are comparing you to Paramore is because you're both pop-punk bands with a female lead.

And this isn’t Hayley’s fault. She’s been a trailblazer in smashing gender barriers in the pop-punk and alternative-rock scene for years and years, advocating for marginalized communities of non-men and people of color all around the world who want to have a career in the music industry. But the music industry–as much as Hayley and other artists try to change it–is still affected by gender bias and misogyny.

And women in music often face challenges that men just don’t, with one big issue taking the spotlight: being compared to a more established artist based on gender alone, or what I like to call The Hayley Effect.

(Note: it’s important to mention that every genre of music has their own Hayley Effect based on the established artists in that scene. I’ll be referencing this phenomenon as The Hayley Effect because I’m primarily talking about the pop-punk and alt-rock scene.)

The act of being compared to Hayley Williams is far from a new development. Through the years, we’ve seen artists like Tay Jardine from We Are In The Crowd or Cassadee Pope from Hey Monday grapple with The Hayley Effect. Even musicians like Amy Lee of the post-metal band Evanescence have found themselves under the Paramore comparison umbrella. Searching “bands like Paramore” on Google produces thousands of results from publications, with most of the results being lists with only bands that have female singers.

Photo of Devin Papadol by Sarah Rosin

Devin Papadol, lead singer of Honey Revenge, recently shared her own frustration about The Hayley Effect in a TikTok video. “I will never deny the similarities between mine and Hayley’s voice,” she expressed. “However, it seems like that comparison is used as a blanket statement and a generalization for all ‘female-fronted’ alternative bands.” Devin hits the nail on the head here–oversimplified comparisons like gender fall short in capturing the individuality of a band.

The Hayley Effect goes beyond just annoying social media comments. Stef from the band City of the Weak shared her own experience when an A&R representative informed her that it would be hard for her band to have a career due to the very existence of Paramore. It’s reminiscent of how Joan Jett and The Runaways struggled to secure a record deal because they were told nobody would want to listen to an all-female rock band, reminding us that gender bias and discrimination is persistent in the music industry, and The Hayley Effect narrative only adds fuel to the fire.

Piggybacking too close to the sun

(Note: Please take into consideration Glimmers has since changed the name of their new song from ‘Hayley’ to ‘Jaded.’ When I wrote this essay, the song was still named ‘Hayley’ which is an important piece to the puzzle.)

Photo of Glimmer by Hanna Midd via @glimmersband on Instagram

Glimmers, an emerging pop-punk band from Atlanta, is currently in some controversy over something that could ultimately be traced back to The Hayley Effect. On October 20th, Glimmers released their latest track, an upbeat song that delves into the unjust comparisons faced by frontwomen in the music industry. The song, named ‘Jaded,’ is an outlet for the rising frustrations that lead singer Maggie Schneider feels from being affected by The Hayley Effect.

While the song is essentially an exasperated cry for the comparisons to Hayley Williams to stop, Glimmers still pay homage to her influence on their band and music.

In response to a user’s comment on one of their promotional TikToks for ‘Jaded,’ Glimmers made it clear that while they draw inspiration from bands like Paramore, they still strive to maintain their identity as a unique artist with their own distinct voice. The band argued that it’s entirely possible to be influenced by an artist without trying to replicate them entirely.

During the track’s chorus, Maggie vocalizes her irritation of always being compared to a beloved figure like Hayley Williams with lines like, “I just want to scream at the top of my lungs / stop comparing me to the woman we love / and I try and I fight but it's never enough / don't you see I'm not Hayley?"

And while this message is inherently powerful, Glimmers still found themselves in hot water because of how they decided to present the song.

Jaded Cover Art via Spotify

For the promotion of ‘Jaded,’ Glimmers used a marketing strategy called piggyback marketing. This approach, often utilized by emerging artists with limited resources, involves associating yourself with more established artists in the same genre. Using a phrase like, “If you love Paramore, you’ll love my band,” and using hashtags that reference Hayley Williams and Paramore are attempts to bridge the connection between established Paramore fans and potential Glimmers fans.

Unfortunately, piggyback marketing works best when two things are complimentary, not competitive–like a specific facial toner being used after a specific cleanser. Glimmers, as a pop-punk band trying to piggyback off another pop-punk band, created a competitive environment even if that wasn’t their intention.

Critics on social media expressed concerns that this approach only strengthened the association between Glimmers and Paramore. Twitter user minniemou raises the point that it could potentially result in people primarily recognizing Glimmers as “the band with Hayley Williams song…[since they didn’t] carve out [their] own space in the industry.”

That take reminds me of New Zealand artist Kelsey Karter, or the girl who got Harry Styles’ face tattooed on her cheek in promotion for her new song. The tattoo turned out to be fake and her song didn’t have a powerful message like ‘Jaded’ does, but Kelsey’s name will forever be interlocked with Harry’s because of that promotional stunt.

Other users argue that Glimmers using Hayley’s name in the promotion of a song about not wanting to be compared to her comes off as clout-seeking and disingenuous. These users say that this approach takes away from the authenticity and sincerity of the track’s message.

On the other hand, there’s also plenty of support for Glimmers and their new track. Independent alt-rock band lolitslea emphasizes the importance of looking beyond the surface when evaluating an artist’s work and recognizing the necessity of low-cost promotion and marketing for emerging artists. They also highlight the core essence of pop-punk and alternative music. “You write songs because you go through experiences and have emotions and want to speak up and hope someone else feels the way you do. That’s what pop punk/alt music is about, it always was from the get-go,” lolitslea writes.

Another supporter pointed out that a lot of people seemed to have missed the fundamental message of ‘Jaded’ and explain that the track isn’t meant to be a form of criticism or hatred towards Hayley but rather towards journalists and fans who continue to perpetuate the harmful narrative that every female-fronted rock band is a carbon copy of Paramore.

This user also emphasizes that the strength in the song lies deeper than the title. It’s not just a plea to stop comparing women to other women but also addresses the systemic misogyny in the music industry. A big concern this user presented is that people restrict the category of ‘original female-fronted bands’ to Paramore alone, limiting the recognition of other female icons in the genre like Fefe Dobson or Sierra Kay. Hundreds of talented women helped shape the pop-punk scene into what we love today, and yet, they’re rarely mentioned.

Sarah Rosin from Musaholic Magazine agrees with the sentiment expressed in ‘Jaded’ and adds her own perspective. She observes that people have used Paramore and Hayley Williams as a way to insult female-fronted bands, using labels like ‘knock off Hayley Williams’ or ‘a worse version of Paramore.’ This practice, as Sarah points out, is obviously problematic and aligns with the fundamental issue of The Hayley Effect.

She makes a valid point in highlighting that most female-fronted rock bands aren’t attempting to replicate or imitate Paramore. “’s like yeah of course they’re not Hayley, because they’re not.” Every single band has their own unique artistic expressions and identities, and it’s unfair to lump them into that kind of comparison, including Glimmers.

According to an official statement released by Glimmers about a week after the initial promotion of the song, we learn that their intention was never to criticize or attack Hayley Williams. Instead, the band wanted to emphasize that the track serves as a tribute to her.

“[the song] is a love letter to Hayley Williams…she’s obviously a huge influence and a huge reason that women in rock continue to break the glass ceiling but at the same time, imitation is not really the greatest form of flattery especially as an artist. We all want to be seen and heard for our own unique voices and the issue is that people consider all female fronted bands to sound the same, and that is so not true. It is not a genre, we are all unique, that’s what the song is about,” Glimmers says.

‘Jaded’ is a song about the relatable issue that all women face in a male-dominated society. The message isn’t about pitting artists against each other but rather allowing every artist to shine for their own musical talent and advocate for a more inclusive and equitable music industry.

Cosplaying Hayley Williams

Along with the track came a music video. One Twitter user remarked that Maggie appears to be cosplaying Hayley because of her deliberate choice to wear the same pastel jacket that Hayley wore in the ‘Still Into You’ music video. “[Using Hayley’s name] makes it seem like you WANT to be compared to her, especially when you’re literally cosplaying as her,” they wrote.

Thanks to Paramore’s music video, the colorful jacket is still recognizable by Paramore fans and associated with the start of the poppy era that led into ‘After Laughter.’ That being said, it’s important to note that Hayley doesn’t have any ownership on this jacket, and she never claimed to. It was just a jacket that fit the vibe of the music video.

Others, including myself, interpreted Maggie wearing the jacket as symbolic and a big middle finger to society’s standards of how women should wear clothing.

When a man chooses to wear the same clothing as another man, he’s typically praised for his fashion inspiration and versatility since the act of men wearing the same clothing is usually associated with practicality and conformity. When a woman does the same thing, she often finds herself subjected to physical comparisons, ridicule, and debates over who wore it better as if someone needs to be superior.

I guarantee you that if Maggie was a man and wore the same jacket as Kellin Quinn or Vic Fuentes, she would have received praise for her nostalgic tribute to them. Instead, Glimmers faced criticism for lacking creativity and merely copying Hayley Williams, furthering how The Hayley Effect is a deep-rooted societal problem.

I interpreted the jacket as a visual metaphor for The Hayley Effect, something that represents the burden of constantly being compared to someone you’re not. By wearing the same jacket, Glimmers emphasizes that a jacket shouldn’t hinder someone’s full potential. Women in the same music genre, and women in general, should have the freedom to wear the same clothes as each other without being subjected to comparisons.

At the end of the day, no article of clothing can turn you into someone else.

Down with The Hayley Effect

A big contributor to The Hayley Effect lies in the historical underrepresentation of women within music scenes. When female artists finally break through the barriers in the male-dominated industry, they often find themselves under unfair pressure. Every action and choice they make is analyzed under a magnifying glass, as if the industry can only handle one successful female artist in a genre. Obviously, this isn’t true and only dismisses the unique contributions of women.

Top media outlets and capitalistic corporations are driven by the pursuit of easily marketable narratives for public consumption. Instead of investing time into introducing new artists to the public by talking about the unique qualities of the band, they often resort to instant comparisons to established artists to connect the new artist to a face the public already knows about. And while this isn't inherently harmful, it becomes problematic when it dilutes the originality of new artists.

So how do we stop this from happening?

We need to encourage a cultural shift and stop allowing people who perpetuate these harmful comparisons to have a platform. Instead, we need to elevate the voices of people advocating for fairness and equal opportunity and striving to uproot the deeply ingrained gender discrimination in the music industry.

Programs like, She Is The Music, and Audiofemme are just a few of the thriving organizations of gender minorities for gender minorities that are committed to reshaping the music industry into a more inclusive space. They help non-male musicians with easier access to record labels, forging connections to talent agencies, and upholding a commitment to positive journalistic integrity. Music is fundamentally diverse, and having proper representation for this diversity plays a pivotal role in shutting down misogynistic narratives like The Hayley Effect.

Another way you can help tackle The Hayley Effect is to familiarize yourself with a wide variety of artists within your favorite genre. When you only know a handful of artists, you’re bound to compare them to each other. But when you delve into the expansive world of emerging and independent artists, you’ll see how every musician adds their own unique touch to their art and develops a new appreciation for individual storytelling that shapes the future of music.

Paramore shouldn’t serve as the yardstick for you to measure the quality of other bands. If you find yourself constantly comparing other bands to Paramore, even when they aren’t that similar to them, you need to broaden your musical horizon and diversify your playlists.

Before writing this essay, I even found myself contributing to The Hayley Effect out of habit since Paramore has such an influence on my music taste. But as I researched new bands and artists, I realized how harmful it was to the music industry as a whole to continue that cycle. Some of the bands I found throughout the week are similar to each other but still contribute their own distinct talent. My favorites are probably indie rock-punk duo Teenage Joans, dreampop group Sunsick Daisy, and landlocked surf-rock band The Cavves. And, of course, Glimmers.

Additionally, music publications and media outlets have significant power in shaping public perception, making it just as important that you individually support those promoting responsible and inclusive journalism. I highly recommend thoroughly researching a publication and its values before supporting them.

I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to be a part of Musaholic Magazine, a publication that is both founded and operated by women and non-men. Being a part of their team for the past few months has been an exciting journey where I’ve been able to express my passion for music and journalism. Musaholic Magazine has given me the freedom to write reviews for songs that tackle the stigma around mental health and provide young female artists with a space for their voice to be genuinely heard.

While this essay has been focusing on the musician aspect of women in the music industry, all aspects of the music industry are affected by the patriarch of society. Musaholic Magazine is a prime example of the potential women have in the music industry, not just as musicians but as the creative minds behind the scenes. Musaholic Magazine has done an amazing job of empowering our mostly-female team of photographers, journalists, and artists to break through our own glass ceilings.

As we continue to evolve as a publication, I know that we’ll contribute to the progression of women in the music industry. Just like how ‘Jaded’ is so much more than a song about Hayley Williams, our work is so much more than a magazine; it’s a movement, a community, and a promise that the future of music will be more inclusive and diverse in all aspects.

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