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  • Writer's pictureSophie Smith

Gender bias in the music industry has to end

gender bias in the music industry has to end

It’s no secret that there is a huge gender bias within every industry, ingrained in years of misogyny. Women are still lacking opportunities that men are being handed on a more regular basis. But why?

Often, it's down to unconscious bias. The music industry has years and years of history of supporting men over women. Whether conscious bias or not, it still affects women now. There have been several studies over the last year about the gender pay gap in the music industry, the amount of female’s in high positions in music industry bodies and even analysis over music festivals, all showing that there is a significant lack of women within these environments.


Talent is distributed evenly, opportunities are not- keychange
Source: Twitter- @keychangeeu

Keychange and PRS launched an initiative to create 50/50 gender splits in major festivals in 2017. The goal was to create this equal guide by 2022, though a great initiative, not many big festivals signed onto the pledge at all, except Glastonbury.

This year we analysed the major festival lineups, and the results were pretty disheartening. Most major festivals ignored women.

Reading and Leeds hadn’t booked a female headliner for the 7th year running. The Isle of Wight had a 73% male lineup whilst wireless had a 90% male lineup. After calls for equality in the music industry, it’s devastating to see how many festivals are choosing not to listen.

2022 festival lineups are being announced, and it’s shameful to see how for another year running, the women seem to be booked sparsely.

Streaming Algorithms

Gender bias is so ingrained in society that even Spotify has a preference for men. Spotify’s sexist algorithm plays 1 female artist per 7 male artists when it comes to artist radios or playlists.

Spotify Wrapped 2021 statistics have just been released, and there is only one woman (Taylor Swift) who is in the top streamed artists globally. Though there are some great stats in there for women, the actual streaming algorithms themselves are doing nothing to support female artists.


BRIT awards scrap gendered categories, presenter Mo Gilligan
Source: @BRITs Twitter

Because of the pandemic, a lot of award shows were cancelled or delayed. In September we saw the Billboard’s make an absolute shambles of women in music, with only 2 women nominated for 19 mixed gender categories. Leaving us asking, where were the women?

Within the last few weeks, the BRIT awards scrapped their gendered categories in an attempt to be more inclusive. The BRIT awards this year saw women dominating the awards and making history with Little Mix becoming the first all-female band to win the BRIT award for Best British Group. The decision to scrap the gendered categories has many pros and cons, it’s a great start for inclusivity of all genders, but with awards shows such as Billboard’s that don’t have many gendered categories still nominating men over women, could be a step backwards for equality within the music industry.

Women in leadership roles

Women in CTRL Seat At The Table
Source: @womeninctrl Instagram

Women in CTRL released their 2021 Seat at the table report, showing that only 27% of CEO’s were women, of which none were black women. One female chairperson across all 11 music industry bodies. Female board members were few and far between, too. The PPL only had one woman out of 16 members.

Gender Pay Gap

It wasn’t long ago that we talked about the gender pay gap within the music industry, citing that most music industry bodies are paying women less than men consistently, with up to a 40% difference in salary in the same jobs.

Representation across all aspects of the industry is very minimal, which creates issues for everyone. If you can’t see people that look like you at the top, it creates an unwelcoming atmosphere.

Combating gender bias

The F-list UK female musicians
Source: Twitter @theflist

There are many ways that we can combat gender bias. The basic and most important is addressing your conscious or unconscious bias. It’s ingrained in most of us. You are not alone. It is a case of unlearning, but even acknowledging gender bias is a step in the right direction.

Be conscious of hiring choices. How many women are in your company? How many people of colour? Is it equal? Giving women and people of colour opportunities is a big part of creating equality within the workplace.

If you are a booker or event promoter, have a look at your male to female ratio. There are so many talented female musicians, and if you don’t know enough, have a look at the F List, one of our sister organisations. A directory full of female talent, so there really is no excuse to book more women.

Cactus City Charter of Good Practice- committed to change

In November, we released our charter of good practice, with the intention of creating positive change for women and gender minorities in the music industry. The charter tackles industry wide problems in recording studios, such as the safety of women and unsolicited opinions, leaving the creatives to be creative.

In creating a charter of good practice, it makes it easier for women in the music industry to find recording studios dedicated to creating safe environments for women, which benefits everyone involved.

If you would like to find out more about our charter, click the link here.


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