Entertainment, Music & Gigs

Stats Prove Women Are Poorly Rep’d In Aussie Music

Australians love their music. Almost 2.4 million of us across the country over the age of 14 attend at least one gig every three months, making it a more popular pursuit than attending professional sporting events.

Music is social, political and expressive. It generates income for individuals and communities and contributes to our quality of life. Because of its popularity and significance, music is everybody’s business, and that includes women. That’s why three researchers from the University of Sydney’s Business School got together to determine the state of gender equality across the Australian music industry. The results? Women are still significantly disadvantaged. Here are five key findings from the Skipping a beat report you need to know.

#1 Women In Music Earn Less…A Lot Less

In 2008 the average income for women whose principal job was music was 88% less than men’s. While there are many influencing factors in this wage disparity, one major contributing factor is likely to be the disproportionate share of domestic and child caring duties that still fall to women. It’s a disturbing difference. 

#2 triple j Has Work To Do

Of the albums featured on the national broadcaster in 2016, 71% were by male bands or solo male artists. That was up from 2015, which featured 67% manly musos. The remaining 29% of acts featured in 2016 had only one or more female members. They weren’t even necessarily all-female or even female led.

The “world’s largest music democracy”, that is, the Hottest 100 countdown also misses the mark with gender equality. For example, there were more men named Luke than women-fronted bands in the 2016 poll. And, no solo female act has ever achieved the number one spot. What a shame.

#3 Festivals Favour The Fellas

From Falls Festival to Splendour in the Grass, Australian festivals sure do host a good time, but they fail to table many women on their bills. In 2015 at Soundwave, only six out of 73 acts were female. Groovin the Moo female artists accounted for only 21% of the 2016 line-up. Additionally, in 2016, Days Like This festival and Spilt Milk festival featured no female artists at all. Sadly, this is not unique to Australia, and festivals around the world continue to suffer the same trend. We can definitely do better.

#4 There Are Almost No Women In Sound Engineering Or Music Production

“In the 2011 Australian Census, zero women reported working as engineers in Sound Recording and Music Publishing,” reveals page eight of the Skipping a beat report. Z-e-r-o. Anecdotal research yields a similar result. While participation is likely increasing, the number of women working and earning from these roles remains extremely low. So, if you’re a budding (or established) woman in sound engineering or production – we want to hear from you!

#5 Women Are Not In Decision-Making Roles

Data collected between 2015 and 2016 found that women in the music industry held only 28% of senior and strategic roles and made up a mere 23% of record managers. The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) – the leading peak body representing the interests of the recorded music sector – had no female board members. The absence of women in key decision-making roles is significant. Women are therefore without representation or equal voice at the highest industry level. They can’t influence decisions around the airplay, label signing, sales, streaming, awards and funding available to women. This inevitably hinders their ability to participate fully in the music industry.

Despite some dismaying statistics, the report is optimistic, and aims to ignite debate and provide tangible resources to increase women’s participation and equality in the music industry. What can you do? Encourage your female friend to do that open mic night she’s talked about for years. Vote for women in the Hottest 100 if you like their music and attend rallies, sign petitions and advocate for equal pay for women in music. Provide feedback to festivals demanding greater gender diversity in their line-ups and always call out sexist behaviour at shows. And please, above all else, don’t settle for simplistic, reductive arguments. While the report doesn’t have all the answers, it does acknowledge that the issue is complex. Let’s keep the light shining on these important issues and continue to discuss, debate and demand better with our music-loving mates.

You can access and read the full Skipping a beat report here. Trust us, it’s a fascinating read.

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Izzy Tolhurst is a copywriter and editor. She is a qualified journalist and has written extensively on music, the arts, employment and international development. She also sings and plays an astonishingly average level of guitar in Melbourne band Go Get Mum.

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