International Women's Day: Reasons For Optimism & Signs Of Change For Women In The Music Industry

There are signs that some change is coming to the music business with grassroots collectives, female-led companies and labels and initiatives to close the gender gap in hiring and festival bookings.
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Annie Mac Lost & Found 2018

It can be hard to feel optimistic when looking at the news surrounding women in music. The #MeToo movement has finally started to scratch the surface of the pervasive sexual assault and harassment that takes place in the music business. Study after study shows women get less pay, are in fewer positions of power and are hired less. However, there is some room for optimism. Women are increasingly being put on festival lineups. They have their own brands, labels, collectives and companies. On International Women’s Day, it is only right to try and highlight a few reasons to be optimistic and ways that women are forging their own paths in the music business. 

Keychange, led by the PRS Foundation is helping to push festivals to book their lineups a 50/50 gender split. They have signed up over 130 festivals in 22 countries demanding they have gender equal lineups by 2022. We have started to see some movement with lineups like Sonàr, which has one of the best of the summer and very balanced bookings. B.Traits booked her own In.Toto and Paciphonic events and spoke about how easy it was to do. Annie Mac is doing the same with her event brands like AMP London and Lost and Found.

Women are also increasingly taking matters into their own hands, starting labels, party brands and surrounding themselves with teams of all women. With the barriers to entry lowering, especially in electronic music, there are dozens of women owning and running labels like Nina Las Vegas, Ellen Allien, Annie Mac, Little Boots, Nina Kraviz, Paula Temple, Madam X, Nightwave and Timanti. Women also run Claude VonStroke’s Dirtybird Records. If you tune into BBC Radio 1 or NTS, you will likely hear a woman DJ on the airwaves. Women like Jubilee and UNIIQU3 are throwing incredible parties, while Peggy Gou is paving new avenues in music and fashion. A crop of female run and focused booking agencies are also cropping up as well like Poly Artists, Futura and Odd Fantastic, while PR agencies like Tailored Communication and Media Nanny are all founded and run by women.

The Grammys announced an initiative to get artists to try and close yawning gap in women producers and engineers, where only two percent of music producers and three percent of engineers/mixers across popular music are women. It signed up at 200 musicians, labels, agencies and more who vowed to at least consider two women producers and engineers when hiring for their projects. This includes tools like Women’s Audio Mission and She Is The Music. We will see how much it makes a difference and if it leads to more opportunities. 

Soundgirls is another resource powered by women that is a list of women in the wider music business that then allows them to either network or be hired. It has networking events and various workshops aimed at promoting these initiatives.

Female collectives are popping up all over the world that help to promote a litany of different activities from putting on events, developing workshops and creating spaces where everyone is welcome and safe. Their goals and scopes can be different and vary from genre to genre, but all have the same ambition of empowering women. This is a grassroots movement to take the power away from the big players at labels, major promoters, digital services and agencies and give them to women who can then focus on empowering each other. Here is just a small list of some in Europe, North America and Australia.

More brands seem to understand that gender equality is worth investing in. Smirnoff has put a fair amount of time and effort into these types of initiatives to highlight collectives, DJs and create tools like the equalizer to show gender in your listening habits. Obviously they are doing so in their own financial interest at the end of the day, but it is using that money for a good cause.

There is so much more being done and that needs to be done, but on International Women’s Day it is worth celebrating the work that has been done and being done right now.

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