Move over, boys. Girls with guitars are leading the new rock revolution

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The Independent Culture

Hold on to your fretboards - the women's rock revolution is here. Electric guitars, once the preserve of sweaty lads in leather jackets, are now cluttering up female bedrooms too.

Hold on to your fretboards - the women's rock revolution is here. Electric guitars, once the preserve of sweaty lads in leather jackets, are now cluttering up female bedrooms too.

Manufacturers have seen unprecedented demand from girl musicians with the iconic brand Fender reporting that women now account for half of its sales.

Even the shape of the instruments is changing with the rapidly expanding firm Daisy Rock using feminine colours and styles with smaller necks to accommodate smaller hands.

Record industry bible Music Week has already identified "guitar-wielding girl bands" as a key trend, with record labels investing heavily to target the hole left in the teenage market by the recent split of Busted.

Women have had few major guitar rock icons over the years apart from figures such as Courtney Love and Mercury Prize winner PJ Harvey. But this summer will see an onslaught of all-girl groups who are being snapped up by record labels.

Tony Munns, marketing manager for Fender, said: "Traditionally women would account for maybe one in 10, but now that figure is actually around 50 per cent. It has just sky-rocketed."

Lee Anderton, the UK sales director for Daisy Rock, said it was time for the music business to change its sales strategies. "In the three years that we have been in the UK we are seeing the guitar stores that completely pooh-poohed the idea now becoming strong dealers for the product. If they want to expand their businesses they've got to open up their eyes to this bubbling market."

The record company Polydor will spend millions this year on breaking its new teenage trio The Faders, which has been earmarked as the label's "priority" act. The acts which enjoyed that status in 2004, Scissor Sisters and Snow Patrol, were among last year's biggest sellers.

Toy, the 19-year-old bass player with The Faders, began to dabble with the guitar when she was 10, inspired by her father who played in an amateur band.

"I have seen us described as 'Busted with boobs', but as far as we're concerned we're a band who just happen to be girls," she said.

Bandmate and guitarist Molly Lorenne was similarly inspired by her father, Band Aid co-founder Midge Ure.

Also being launched this year are Love Bites - another band tipped by Music Week - who have been signed by Island Records and are currently in the studio. The 14- to 16-year-old quartet will release their first single in the summer months.

TV presenter and Xfm DJ Lauren Laverne, who tasted chart success in the mid-1990s as guitarist and singer with three-quarters female punk-pop band Kenickie, warns that the music industry continues to be very macho.

"It is such a hostile environment playing gigs and even going into music shops. A lot of guys that work there can't relate to girls and don't really want you there," she said.

"I think the rise in female guitar bands is something to do with the DIY ethic in music at the moment. There is a new wave of bands like The White Stripes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs which seems to have inspired people to have a go themselves.

"I was never a very good guitarist but I kind of enjoyed playing and enjoyed having a go. Girls are less worried about playing a Stevie Vai guitar solo note for note. They are happy just to be up there making a noise."

'Why are we treated differently? It really grates'

Toy, 19, is bass player with The Faders

I've been playing guitar since I was about 10. My dad played guitar in a band and I used to watch him and I thought he was really cool, as you do when you're younger. Then when you get to 12 you think your parents suck.

I played violin, recorder and flute when I was younger, but I was a complete tomboy and didn't want to play girly things. I wanted to play guitar. My dad bought me this tiny Spanish guitar which cost about £5 at a car boot sale. I think the boys thought I was a bit weird playing guitar but I didn't care. I also used to play football.

I taught myself to play and when I left home, I went to music college [Brighton Institute of Modern Music] and I did vocals and songwriting. I went out with a guy who was in a band. I said I wanted to be in it and they needed a bass player. They figured a bass only had four strings so how wrong could I go?

I've been in a lot of music shops looking at guitars, and you do occasionally get people who start talking to you using really technical terms. You wonder if they are trying to catch you out because you're a girl.

We've had a pretty amazing response. I think the feeling has been that it's great to see girls who can actually play. It's good that people say that, but there's also this thing of why do we get treated differently because we're girls? That grates.