Music Victoria recently released a paper that discusses the issues confronting women in the contemporary music industry in Victoria, Australia, utilising a recently conducted survey of theirs that saw participation from 329 female musicians and music industry representatives.
Respondents were mostly young, educated women residing in Melbourne, with the primary occupation within the music industry being as a musician or songwriter. Majority of respondents worked outside of the industry in order to financially support themselves with only a quarter earning all of their income from the involvement in the music industry alone. Women employed in the music industry typically work for small and micro sized businesses with the majority of employees and senior management being male.
The paper points out that it’s important to remember that while it is a discussion of the Victorian scene specifically, it is easily reflective on a national scale as well.
The full report is available online for reading, however I wanted to share the five big things that I took from my look through.
The pay gap has increased!
What? It’s gone up?
While we universally continue to fight to close the pay gap between men and women, Music Victoria reports that the gap in the music industry has in fact increased an additional 3% from 14.9% in May 2014. Considering that Australian musicians on average make monkey chips anyway, the concept that some get less chips because of their gender is just…
Women in music are effectively forced out of the industry if they want to raise a family
Can we stop with the punishment of women because they are given the wonderful ability/burden to give birth? An ANZ report conducted in 2014 reported that almost half of all mothers have had some form of workplace discrimination and of these, a third resign to look for another job or drop out of the workforce altogether.
Music Victoria found that this absurd idea of career/family incompatibility is recognised within the music industry as well, citing that it’s not something that men generally have to consider nor is their any real support for mothers in the industry considering the low rates of pay and the “lack of ability to tour with children.”
No one should have to chose between having a family and being an accomplished, touring musician.
The ‘just a girl’ mentality is still rampant
We’ve all heard or been regarded as ‘just a girl’ (come on No Doubt wrote a damn song about it). Within a professional industry such as music, many respondents identified in seeing this mentality being reinforced with the media playing an unhappy part in perpetuating it through their tendency to focus on how women look and act and by regarding them as female musicians.
“Whoever has power takes over the noun — and the norm — while the less powerful get an adjective” – Gloria Steinem.
One thing that is truly alarming is the realisation of how much gender has a hold in how people are professionally regarded. The paper describes a ‘blind audition’ system that many orchestras have started practicing to overcome gender bias. With this system in place women are 50% more likely to advance beyond preliminary auditions and are also more likely to make it to final auditions. It is beyond infuriating that the societal backwash of ‘women are lesser then men’ is so ingrained that they have to come up with a system that essentially tricks the bias out of a process that is supposed to based purely on technique and skill.
The confidence gap is very real and felt by almost everyone
Feeling like you’re not good enough as a woman is a feeling that is being acknowledged as widespread amongst women in the music community. Cosi from Mangelwurzel commented on it in our recent interview, alluding to the lack of representation of women in the industry attributing to her own doubts of being a musician.
“That was definitely a big thing for me because I just couldn’t get it into my head that I could even do it because I saw it as ‘that’s what the guys do’.”
Jelena of hardcore band Outright talked about it in regards to being a woman within the typically perceived ‘boys club’ of heavy music.
“It’s pretty daunting how so many women in the scene share the experience of internalized misogyny that suggests that we don’t feel right or good enough to do this in a heavy music scene in the first place. It’s like we have to overcome our own personal doubt AND the doubt of the wider community just so we can do what we want and what otherwise feels so natural and necessary to us.”
Music venues, pubs and clubs need to work harder at making their spaces safe
In research done by La Trobe University it was found that 96.6% of respondents, both women and men, thought that unwanted sexual attention happened in licensed venues and 80.2% viewed unwanted sexual attention as being common in Melbourne’s pubs and clubs. These findings lined up with comments given in Music Victoria’s survey as well as the many experiences of sexual harassment and assault documented by LISTEN.
Steps are definitely being taken in creating safe environments in Victorian venues with the Victorian Government launching a taskforce earlier this year as well as the Live Music Roundtable looking to address the issue by improving their ‘Best Practice Guidelines For Live Music Venues’. There are also various groups independently fighting for safe environments at their shows, the issue in no way limited to Australia with bands like Americas Speedy Ortiz setting up their own hotline for audience members to use at their shows.
But it’s not all bad…
Or at least not for the future. While Music Victoria do acknowledge that “Many of the issues discussed reflect wider systemic issues in not just the music industry, but the economy and society more generally, and have no ‘quick fix’” they are committed, amongst other things, to the establishment of a women’s advisory panel to develop initiatives to support women in the music industry. They are also committed to increasing the representation of women “where possible” on all Music Victoria panels and boards in an effort to achieving gender equality. Given that they currently only have 2 female members of their 10 person public board, that’s definitely a good start.