All of us may have heard about the gender inequalities of Hollywood, not only in front of the camera but also behind the scenes. Not a lot different, the music industry and other creative industries face the same issues that men are dominating the sectors and also occupy the higher level positions. In the following article, we will have a look at the music industry in particular with its current statistics.
Dr Stacy L. Smith, associate professor at the University of Southern California, started to highlight the gender inequalities of Hollywood in her research in 2015. The research pointed out that 28% of the speaking characters in top movies were women and that only 4% of the films were directed by women.
Three years later, in January 2018, Smith showed that the described issue is not only Hollywood-specific but also very present in the music industry. From 2012 to 2017, only 22,4% of the performing artist in the Billboard's Hot 100 Charts of those years were women. The numbers of the female professionals who work behind the scenes are much lower: 12,3% in the songwriting sector; 2% in a subset of 300 songs could be identified as female producers. More broadly speaking, 17% of women were listed in the 2018's Power 100 people in the music industry, a list representing leaders of live, tech, management and recorded music. Compared to 2017, there was an uplift of 7%, but apparently, men still hold most of the top jobs.
During the Eurosonic 2017, statistics about the French music sector were presented of the past ten years in which approximately 40% of women were working in the live music sector. Only 10% of executive management positions in that industry sector were occupied by female professionals. Similar statistics can be found in Germany. Furthermore, the presented evaluation made clear that certain work areas can be assigned to gender. Administration, communication and PR relations are commonly known as female jobs, whereas management, booking and technics are male jobs which are, more importantly, identified as the best-paid jobs and the ones with the best social recognition.
Although we all have the glorious moments of the Grammy award-winning Beyonce or Taylor Swift in our minds, the statistics of the last six Grammy ceremonies with its almost 900 nominations underline the unbalance between women and men in the industry. Just 9,3% of the nominated individuals were women in that evaluated timeframe.
Also worth to mention is the fact that only nine male songwriters were responsible for almost one-fifth of the top songs released between 2012 and 2017 that were Max Marting (36 hits), Drake (25 hits) and Benny Blanco (22 hits) topping the list. In comparison, the women with the most songwriting credits were Nicki Minaj (15 hits), Rihanna (13 hits) and Taylor Swift (11 hits).
But what are the reasons for gender inequalities?
I often heard that women are offered fewer opportunities, have to work harder to get ahead and face gender bias. From my point of view, that statement has the wrong emphasis. It is better to analyse the origin of the current situation and how the inequalities occurred than merely complaining about it all the time.
The "intimidation and exclusion", described by leading female industry professionals, would begin in the women's childhood when girls are not being encouraged to play an instrument or join a band. The IG Magazine (Issue: March 2018) interviewed women to uncover more reasons for the lack of female professionals in the live music industry. Next to the late nights and the demanding nature of a job in live music making that is difficult to combine with family life and children, women also named a lack of female role models who inspired and encouraged young women to start a career as, e.g. a promoter or agent. Moreover, the industry was described as “boys’-club” that would not be respectful of women and also could come along with sexual harassments and sexist attitudes. Unfortunately, the statistics of the American music industry, as well as investigations by the BBC in the UK, show many high-profile executives who were accused of sexual harassment or even abuse.
Hiring (and later promoting if appropriate) new female colleagues in the music business’ companies may solve the current unbalance between male and female professionals temporarily but will not change anything according to the problem’s origin. We should focus to change the situation for women in their early years, so they have a better starting point, in general, to start a career in the creative industries. Providing a close connection between schools, education and the industry sectors is essential if we want to fundamentally change the situation and see an evolution quite soon. More opportunities should be provided to women to get in touch with music composition, producing, engineering and other related fields. The often-heard suggestion from university staff and industry’s executives to “look for internships and entry-level positions at companies you love and work, work, work” is a general one, but is suitable for both male and female graduates and does not help to solve the in this article presented issue.
I personally came in contact with the topic during my work as a TV production assistant, working at huge music festivals, concerts and lots of other big productions. Usually, the manager positions – in the offices or at the production – were occupied by men. All of them – without any exception – started at the absolute bottom of the career ladder. They were working as a stagehand, cable puller, rigger, runner, roadie or coffee boy. Most of the jobs require hard physical work, teamwork and combine long working hours with a rough working tone and environment. The benefit of starting at the lowest level and to climb the career ladder step by step is that you know what kind of people they are, what they need to do and how they work. Additionally, you are aware of all requirements and efforts associated with certain tasks and entire projects. I personally do not trust someone who accidentally became a manager in the live sector but has no serious working experience, background knowledge resulting from practice in that field. The decisions are more often questionable and to have an inexperienced leader in a fast, hard and rough working environment with risk assessments and safety issues can be more than dangerous.
Why do I tell you that? The problem I recognised during the years in that environment was that it was absolutely hard for women to start a career there. In most cases, the physical work was too hard for most of the girls (of course there are tough girls that can be named as an exception) caused in more work for the male co-workers that needed to do their work next to their assigned, own tasks. So, when a lot of young women cannot start on this career level, where should they start that their experience is on the same level as their male colleagues? A very hard question if you ask me. Because if they start e.g. as (assistant) unit manager, they previously may have learned the theoretical knowledge but still did not experience the real-world situations at close quarters…
What do you think? Where should female young professionals start their career in the live music industry or - in general - in the music industry/creative industries? Join the discussion and leave a comment to tell us your opinion. If you liked the new “debate” article type, feel free to share this article with your friends and colleagues!