Get to know The Forty-Five, addressing music journalism’s gender imbalance

Former NME editor Charlotte Gunn talks about her new publication

As recent events have made particularly clear – of course, it was already for many people, and the fact it might not have been for us is a privilege in itself – the music and journalism industries need to change. Frankly, women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people and more are drastically under-represented in these spaces, and we need to be working harder to address that.

With this in mind, former NME editor Charlotte Gunn has launched a new publication, The Forty-Five, which seeks to address the gender imbalance in music and journalism by “forging a supportive network of womxn, who tell stories about music”. We caught up with Charlotte to hear the story of the publication so far.

What’s the ethos of The Forty-Five, and what do you hope to achieve with it?

The Forty-Five is a new online music publication with a focus on quality music journalism. Our ethos is to give female/non-binary creatives who want to tell stories about music a platform to be heard and to learn from each other. For fans, I hope it’s a destination for them to read some unique, interesting content about the artists they love (and the ones they don’t know they love yet). I hope that in some small way, by offering a different perspective on music – one that’s been critiqued from a predominantly male viewpoint for decades – then we might start to see conversations and representation across the industry shift.

How have issues of equality changed in the music industry in your experience in recent years?

The world is changing fast and I’m encouraged that there is a new generation of creatives coming up in the music industry who have diversity and inclusion front of mind. That said, a lot of key decision-makers are still quite old-school in their views and attitude. There’s still a boys club mentality at the top – which is interesting in something like music because those people often also consider themselves to be liberal, forward-thinking people and don’t realise their actions or lack of progression say otherwise.

How has the pandemic affected the launch of the site? For how long were you developing the idea before lockdown?

So yes, it’s been an odd time to try and launch something new, for sure! But actually for me, it’s been really productive. I’ve enjoyed the slower pace of life and being able to focus solely on work.

I had for a long time thought that my next move would be to create my own thing and being frank, five years of dealing with a lot of crap at work, spurred me on. I was determined to build something that meant other women wanting to embark on this unique and rewarding career path could do so without navigating some of the things I had to deal with.

But to answer your question, it was born of lockdown, or just before. I have the wonderful Barbara Charone to thank for some strong words of encouragement back at the start of the year and then I just got stuck in, firstly with a weekly newsletter, then a podcast and now the site launch.

Charlotte Gun
Founder and editor of The Forty-Five, Charlotte Gunn

What are the challenges of launching a new publication in 2020?

Financials! I was watching that #journalismpaidme hashtag on Twitter last week and it’s mortifying that for many, it’s no longer a viable career. But also, it is a challenge to monetise content in 2020. I definitely am not professing to have a magical solution for this yet and I’m not a secret trust fund kid, either, but I believe in brands and the power of building a brand and an audience. With a content production schedule that doesn’t try to do everything – but instead focuses on considered, hero pieces – and a unique vision, you can still make it work.

As for the actual launching and creating of The Forty-Five, it’s been great and not too challenging yet! The hardest part was getting people to buy into it and offering talent access when it was just an idea in my head so I’m so grateful to everyone who’s supported – and continues to support – it. I’m really enjoying the work though and “meeting” lots of new writers. I’ve been quite overwhelmed with the positive reaction to it so far.

What’s your plan over the coming months to keep The Forty-Five growing and impacting the landscape of the music industry? 

It’s cool to have a blank slate. I want to launch a couple of web series and I’m already talking to some exciting people in that space. I want to really grow and build our playlist output alongside a focus on in-depth editorial because the world is changing and while I still love a deep-dive interview, there are also moments when I just want someone to recommend me a new song. There’s lots to come!