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Being a woman in the music industry

3 min, 26 sec read
17:00 PM | 10 April 2017
by Ellie Nolan
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When thinking about the music industry, the mind concocts images of exciting trend-setting stars in recording studios, on stage, and in parties.

But for an industry of it’s scale, technological advances and passion for the creative, it's surprising then that it's an industry still behind the times when it comes to gender equality.

This year's Billboard Power 100 list says it all. Of the 100 greatest "visionary label bosses, tech gurus, artist managers and media moguls” listed, only 15 are women.

"Of Billboard's 100 greatest bosses, gurus, managers, and moguls, only 15 are women."

The highest ranked woman, at number 13, is Michele Anthony, Executive Vice President of the Universal Music Group. No women appear in the top 10, and nine of the 15 women on the list, including Michele, share their position with a man.

2016's Power 100 list was equally bleak, with again no women in the top 10, only 13 in the entire list, and eight sharing their ranking with a man.

So it's pretty stacked against womenkind at the top, but it's perhaps even more prominent at a lower level from my own personal perspective.

As a young woman pursuing a career in the music industry it certainly feels like my prospects are less hopeful than if I was a man.

Having worked in small music venues and in music journalism, I am regularly in contact with Artist Managers, Agents and Venue Staff. Unfortunately I can count on one hand the amount of women I've worked with.

The stereotypical role of men working side by side with the artists and overseeing most aspects of their careers is as present as the days of 90s boybands and their controlling managers.

If I asked you to imagine a roadie, what picture comes to mind? It's probably an older man with greying hair and a beard right? Well it's these stereotypes that are limiting the opportunities for women as employers, managers, and execs simply can't picture a woman in certain roles.

With the success of self-identifying feminists like Ariana Grande, Ellie Goulding, and Taylor Swift, the popular music scene is seemingly levelling out.

But it's simply not so for every music scene, as festival season approaches we're reminded of Reading & Leeds' abysmal record of including women in their roster. The GIF below shows what happens when you get rid of all the men in Reading & Leeds' line-up in 2015.


And things aren't improving, it's a very similar case for this year's line-up. In January, Reading & Leeds revealed their line-up so far and 57 men are set to appear on stage, versus only one woman.

That's not even a woman on her own or in a group with other women, it's a band with one woman and two men.

Even though Director of Festival Republic, the guys behind R&L, Melvin Benn said in 2015 that 'there’s nobody more committed to gender equality than I am', it’s concerning that this is still a massive issue two years later.

However, despite the current situation, I am still hopeful for the future of the industry. As competition for jobs in music continues to balloon, the traditional thought of ‘its not what you know it’s who you know’ is diminishing.

"I see so many women on my degree with the passion to make a change in the industry."

With more music-related degrees emerging in previously unthinkable subjects such as Events Management and Music Business, there's an instant road into the industry via education, and an academic background is often more value to music industry employers than just who your friends and family are.

Also with the increased popularity of streaming, the accessible nature of music videos on YouTube, and artists now needing social media management, there are so many jobs that didn't exist a matter of 10 years ago.

The most promising aspect of this issue however is something I see with my own eyes. As a Music Business student, I see so many other women on my degree with the enthusiasm and passion to really make a difference.

So with a large number of music graduates being women, there's hope yet that this industry can embrace equality from the bottom up.

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