The Move Towards Gender Equality in the Music Industry – Can it be Done?

When you look at the charts, you’d be forgiven for believing that gender inequality really isn’t an issue in the music industry. When you see the likes of Lady Gaga, Dua Lipa, Nikki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Adele, Rihanna etc it can be easy to make the argument that women get a fair enough representation. The list of successful Pop stars is endless, yet, do these female artists actually represent for women? Or are they just operating under a patriarchal agenda? You only have to look at the music videos and their choice of outfits at award ceremonies for the answer to that question.

Behind every female vocalist, there are quite likely to be hundreds of people behind them, getting them to where they are, producing the music, marketing the music, writing the songs, running the labels, merchandising, videography, tour management, event bookings… to name a few.

In this year’s list of the ‘Power 100’ as published by Billboard which lists the representative leaders of live, tech management and recording only 17% of the names on the list were female.

Gender inequality is an issue for female artists all over the world which was documented by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. They conducted their study in 2017 after looking into the lack of diversity in Hollywood, the findings leave little room for argument.

The Statistics of Gender Inequality:

  • 2% of artists are male whilst only 16.8% were female.
  • Of the 2767 songwriters surveyed, only 12.3% were female.
  • Of the 651 producers surveyed, only 2% were female.
  • Of the 899 musicians who were nominated to receive a Grammy award between 2013 and 2018 only 9.3% were female.

The board behind the study are committed to ensuring that there is better representation of minorities within the music industry after they have found the number of female artists is in decline. 2017 was a six year low for representation of female artists, so what is there to be done?

Gaining Balance
The first step will be to transform the view of the music industry and not allow it to carry on under the pretence that it a boy’s club. Currently, as men hold most of the top jobs in the industry women are facing gender bias and having to work even harder than their male counterparts to get noticed. It will take some brave women to step up to the plate and prove that women are just as capable as the men competing for the roles. The more women there are taking on these roles the more support and mentoring there will be for more women in the future to join the industry.

The second step will be to encourage new generations of women to explore roles in relation to music composition and engineering. Dispelling the myth that a woman’s only place is the stage. There is so much beyond what the average listener and music consumer actually sees and hears. Yet, not a lot of people get to find out just how much work goes into recording, production and live event management. It’s all kept fairly cloak and dagger and behind the scenes.

Lysandra Woods from Third Side Music in LA suggested that the best way for a woman to get a good chance of scoring their dream role as an industry member is to search for entry-level positions and mentorships within companies. Whilst starting off as a dogsbody is nobodies’ idea of fun, in the music industry you have to be prepared to prove yourself. No one is going to want to take your word for it. It’s a steep learning curve, but the only way is up from there. It is interesting to note that one of the key skills for working in the industry is relationship skills. Given that women generally possess better communication skills than men, it should be a given that there are more women in the industry.

By now, you’ve probably realised that for any changes to happen when it comes to which names appear on the album charts and stages changes must first be made to the industry members along with the general perception of who can be a music artist.

From a young age, women are discouraged to join a band or pick up their guitar, and they would have a safer bet if they used online betting casinos the odds of winning on slot games like Enchanted Prince and Starburst would definitely be more in their favour than being able to join a band. Maybe they would even have more chance of a success if they took a leaf from that slot game and tried to find a Prince Charming instead of going it alone.

Whilst we may have a decent handful of successful Pop artists, within other genres the gender imbalance gets even more discouraging to aspiring artists. Especially within the Hip Hop industry, as female rappers are still seen as a novelty. Sure, you’ve got your urban icons such as Missy Elliot and Nikki Minaj, but when you compare that to the amount of male urban artists out there, their names are nothing but a drop in the ocean. Over in the UK one of the major Urban Grime festivals went under fire for introducing a new ‘female-only’ stage instead of allowing female artists take slots on the main bill. Women aren’t asking for special treatment, they are asking for their work to be respected based on the quality and not depending on what they look like or to be there to tick diversity boxes.

Often the first hurdle a girl will face when contemplating becoming a musician is when they walk into a music shop to purchase their first instrument. Often music stores are owned, ran and staffed by male members of staff. There have been countless reports of women walking into music stores only for them to be asked if they are shopping for their boyfriends. Once they establish that they are in fact shopping for themselves, they’re often then met with the assumption that they know very little about the instrument they are looking at. But every musician has to start somewhere. Male musicians are no exception to that rule. Sure, girls can purchase a guitar online and lose out on that special moment when they’re finally handed their guitars. Sure, they can learn by watching YouTube videos instead of seeking out a guitar tutor (yes, guitar tutors are predominantly male too) but this still means that female artists are operating in the same oppressive spaces. Even when women shop for records in the record store they are faced with pretentious staff.

So, it’s clear that each small change and each small step made by women will help to ensure we see more female representation across the music industry as a whole.

Share this article