BE THE CHANGE: Women Making Music 2021

DJ Sensei Lo - Photo by Eyes of a Lagos Boy
BE THE CHANGE: Women in Music
Two-thirds of female creators identified sexual harassment or objectification as a key challenge, making it by far the most widely cited problem.

A study titled Be The Change: Women Making Music 2021. that reveals the challenges, experiences, inspirations and the ambitions of  women in today’s music industry has been released on 25 March.

This survey was conducted last February by MIDIA Research and TuneCore/Believe on women creators, with a carefully designed outline distributed on the web, assisted by a variety of music industry associations networks and influencers working directly on issues faced by women creators.

Mark Mulligan, managing director of MIDiA Research, a market intelligence and consulting firm with longstanding expertise in the business of entertainment and digital media said: “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 study also commemorates Women’s History Month to build upon the excellent work already being done by a several women-first organisations.
Through the results of the study, the uphill journey women face is better understood. Observers 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 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.

Photo by Eyes of a Lagos Boy

The challenges and barriers facing women in the music industry are becoming more recognized 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. When asked what they thought has changed in recent years, many female creators 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.

Andreea Gleeson, Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Head of TuneCore said, “When I discovered that only 28% of TuneCore artists are female, I was surprised. While that’s better than the industry standard which indexes around 11%, it’s still not good enough.” Gleeson continues, “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. “

Some highlights from the study touches on the following amongst other points;
⦁ Two-thirds of female creators identified sexual harassment or objectification as a key challenge, making it by far the most widely cited problem.
⦁ Gendered expectations have skewed recognition and reward in the music industry: of 401 women creators around the world, 81% 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% agree, 49% ‘agree strongly’).
⦁ Sexualisation and objectification are a consequence (or symptom) of unbalanced power dynamics, as shown by the ‘big three challenges’: ageism (identified by 38%), lack of access to male-dominated industry resources (36%) and lower pay (27%)
⦁ Although the overall representation of women in society has increased over the past few decades, 84% 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.
⦁ Music composition, production and sound has long been connected primarily with men, so it is no surprise that the majority of female creators (63%) feel excluded from the composition and production, which makes this aspect of music creation highly ‘genderised’

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.
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.”

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