Why women get the blues?

As yet another report on discrimination in the music industry comes out, we look at how discrimination might be lessened for women in non-performing roles.

Today (21st August 2020) sees the publication of a further report on gender discrimination in the music industry. It joins an ever-growing list of reports in recent years, from those on music award prize winners, to jobs, to bands and this time to radio air play time. All highlight how hard it is for women to get a substantial foothold in the music industry.

The report Gender Disparity across UK Radio Stations using data from Radiomonitor identifies the Top 20 most played songs by British artists, in Britain, over the period June 1st 2019 to June 1st 2020. It then breaks that data down by gender.

The report finds that of the top fifteen music stations only 11% of their top twenty plays are by women, with three stations Kerrang, Radio X and Absolute having no women artists in their top twenty most played songs. Ironic that Absolute boasts, “We’re into good music from the past, we love new music from the present, and if we had a time machine we’d be pretty keen on music from the future, too. Most importantly we believe in real music – you won’t find plastic pop here.” Perhaps they might now like to mention you won’t find many women there either.

As our infographic, derived from a number of reports, shows discrimination is across all aspects of the music industry, only varying in the extent to which it’s applied.

However, perhaps the greatest discrimination occurs in non-performing roles, the side of the industry often hidden from public view. The Radio Stations report backs this up. "Of those top twenty songs, across the board only 18% were by female songwriters and just 3% had a woman producer."

So, what needs to happen to change this? From work undertaken as part of my (Carla Kerslake) undergraduate degree I identified four key steps that could at least begin to encourage change in the non-performing side of the music industry:

  • Education needs to focus on encouraging girls into technical subjects relevant to the music industry, as has been done in encouraging more girls to take science subjects.

  • Discrimination legislation needs to be more tightly enforced and companies need to enforce their own codes of conduct and behaviour and ensure that their working conditions do not automatically discriminate against women.

  • Large companies need to lead by example and could help by insisting on non-discriminatory practice where they have contracts with smaller organisations.

  • Men need to encourage changes in behaviour amongst other men, and women could do more to help women in non-performing roles, eg, by artists insisting on having female producers and women sound engineers.



See also

Playing for Change

Double bass player Andrew Lansley talks about how his band, Thrill Collins, have tried to lessen gender discrimination.