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The ‘Bain’ of Discrimination

This is the second in our series of articles on women and discrimination in the music industry in 2021. It focuses on the early work of music researcher Vick Bain and her report ‘Counting the Music Industry.

In 2019 researcher Bain published what was to prove to be an influential report on discrimination in the music industry: ‘Counting the Music Industry: The Gender Gap. A study of gender inequality in the UK Music Industry’. The report set out in detail the level of discrimination, why it occurred and what needed to change.

‘Counting the Music Industry’ highlighted a number of issues:

  • Female solo songwriters are massively under-represented in music publishing; out of 106 organisations only 15% of women songwriters are signed to publishers.

  • For every woman signed to a record label there are five men.

  • Only a third of people who work for music publishing companies are women.

  • 82% of CEOs of UK music publishing companies are male.

  • In major music companies the statistics showed a pay gap for women ranging from 1% to 39%.

Yet female representation was not about women’s capability or capacity to deliver the same as men. For example, the number of women studying music-related degrees is almost 50/50 gender balanced, 44% on undergraduate and 49% on postgraduate. As Bain says;

“So where are these women? Why are they not becoming professional musicians? Where are these women going? That's the gender gap in the music industry.”

Bains’ work was complemented by similar studies in America from the Annenburg Institute in Southern California. They looked back from 2019 and found that over the preceding seven years only 21.7% of artists were female. Female songwriters were even more under-represented at only 12.3% and female producers as rare as hens’ teeth at just 3%.

In the UK Bains’ report attracted considerable attention. Music Week described it as “a wakeup call to the industry”, whilst the Musicians Union stated that they saw the gender gap as “surprisingly large and indicative of widespread discrimination against women in the music industry”. Gee Davy at AIM (Association of Independent Music) stated that “AIM welcomes this new report and applauds Vick’s insightful and data-driven approach”. In addition, since publication, the BBC have referenced the report many times and invited Bains to comment on her work on Woman’s Hour.

Some elements were more defensive with The Performing Rights Society arguing that 17% of their members were now female as compared to 13% in 2011. However, Bains’ reposte to this was to suggest that they might want to look at comparative male and female incomes rather than just membership. Some of the major labels simply said they disagreed with the findings but without providing any evidence as to why

Since the report’s publication Bain has continued to work both as a researcher and more practically in developing ‘the F-List’, a database for female musicians, designed to help them get discovered for festivals and other performances. Despite this, as Bain comments, the evidence she initially found is still relevant.

“Since I published Counting the Music Industry I have since found lots of data that backs my report. For example, the last data from the ONS, reported on back in 2018, looked at employment by gender and job role. It showed that of the people whose primary employment was as a musician just under 20% of these were female. Which matched my own findings.”

The importance of developing and using systematic research is something that Bain herself argues is crucial.

“Researchers talk about this cloak of invisibility which makes it easy to deny things if there is no factual evidence. I remember back in the noughties I was having conversations with music executives and they would say ‘oh no there’s no problem here’, yet I would be in a room full of men and just me. So, it was easy to dismiss what I was saying because there was no rigorous research and data available. That was something I was hoping to help change with my report.

Since Bain's initial project there have been further studies and reports that have confirmed the extent of discrimination within the industry. Consequently, in the final article in this series of three we talk with Vick about how she sees the music scene now and how she became involved in this work in the first place.



See also

Not everyone gets a prize

The first in our series of three articles on women and discrimination in the music industry in 2021 take a wider look at some of the latest evidence.

Short change

The final article in our series on women and discrimination in the music industry features a question and answer session with leading researcher Vick Bain,

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