MIDIA Research and TuneCore/Believe have released a new study on women creators, revealing their challenges, experiences, inspirations, and their ambitions in today’s music industry.
The study also commemorates Women’s History Month, building on and adding to the excellent work already being done by a plethora of women-first organisations. T
hrough the results of the study, we better understand the uphill journey they face, and hear from them first-hand about their experiences and perceptions, from direct forms of discrimination through to the endemic issues of under-representation, unconscious bias and damage to confidence.
The report, BE THE CHANGE: Women Making Music 2021, collates the views of 401 female creators –artists, songwriters, producers and DJs – from around the world, for the first time in music industry history.
Many of them are independent artists, starting out on making a career in music with little support from the industry’s traditional infrastructure. Some are self-managed, running their own labels and production companies.
Others are signed to labels or establishing themselves as songwriters, navigating their way through a complex, male dominated industry.
The challenges and barriers facing women in the music industry are becoming more recognised thanks to the work of a growing number of networks and industry groups. However, these challenges and barriers are still there, remaining poorly understood and unsolved.
Many female creators, when asked what they thought has changed in recent years, agreed that transparency and discourse have improved – but also hold the view that real, material change remains harder to pin down.
Phrases such as “tokenism” and “lip service” are commonly used to describe some of the current changes but there is also a clear, bold vision of what real change should be.
To that end, the report sets out priorities for progress based on what women creators around the world say they need now and in the future, to make the music industry more welcoming to women, and so that women creators are better represented, recognised and rewarded for their talent, ability and achievements.
Some highlights from the study:
- Gendered expectations have skewed recognition and reward in the music industry: of 401 women creators around the world, 81 per cent think that it is harder for female artists to get recognition than male artists
- Linked to this is the fact that there are not as many female role models for independent creators (81 per cent agree, 49 per cent ‘agree strongly’)
- Almost two-thirds of female creators identified sexual harassment or objectification as a key challenge, making it by far the most widely cited problem
- Sexualisation and objectification are a consequence (or symptom) of unbalanced power dynamics, as shown by the ‘big three challenges’: ageism (identified by 38 per cent), lack of access to male-dominated industry resources (36 per cent) and lower pay (27 per cent)
- These major challenges are symptomatic of deeper issues of systemic male dominance permeating industry attitudes and behaviours – over 90 per cent of respondents said that they had experienced unconscious bias – nearly half of them frequently
- Music composition, production and sound has long been connected primarily with men, so it is no surprise that the majority of female creators (63 per cent) feel excluded from the composition and production, which makes this aspect of music creation highly ‘genderised’
- Although the overall representation of women in society has increased over the past few decades, 84 per cent of women still feel that there exists a perception that women are expected to take on the primary role of parenting duties.
- The music industry wants female artists to be young – partly a symptom of the industry’s youth obsession, but also so that women become successful before they are presumed to decide to take on the role of motherhood
- To bring more female creators into the industry, women want changes to come from within organisations and from leaders across the music industry through diversity, policies and culture, with 42 per cent stating this as a ‘top 3’ reason to encourage more women into the industry. Meanwhile, 38 per cent of female creators want to see this organisational change underpinned by legislation
- The most practical starting point is in female-friendly resources and safe work spaces (34 per cent) and 35 per cent women creators want more change to come from learning and shared experiences, in the form of coaching and mentoring
Andreea Gleeson, Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Head of TuneCore said, “when I discovered that only 28 per cent of TuneCore artists are female, I was surprised. While that’s better than the industry standard which indexes around 11 per cent, it’s still not good enough.”
“We partnered with MIDiA to figure out, when the barriers to entry are low, why then are women still so grossly underrepresented? The study reveals the main reasons behind why female creators feel unsupported and identifies key areas of improvement. It arms us with the information we need to do better.”
Denis Ladegaillerie, Chief Executive Officer of Believe commented, “at Believe, we take gender equality very seriously and it is part of the company’s DNA. Within the music industry, we collectively have a responsibility to change mindsets and behaviors in order to create a better environment for all women in our community.”
Srishti Das, MIDiA Research consultant and one of the co-authors of the report said: “Men have an important part to play in resolving the gender gap and being inclusive of all genders is where this begins. Ultimately, mixed-gender work environments will benefit from the separate and diverse skills of different genders – this seems to be the key message from women creators.”
Mark Mulligan, managing director at MIDiA Research added, “the objective of the study was to drive awareness to the issues, uncover the ‘why’, and inspire the industry to move forward with meaningful change.
“The issues, challenges and experiences highlighted in this report are not “women’s problems” to be solved just by women in the music industry. The findings of this study articulate a systemic inequity in the music industry today, requiring thoughtful consideration, commitment to change and courageous action. This is required not of any one faction of the industry, or by women alone, but by all the industry’s organisations and constituents.”
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