Music industry

Women in the music industry still face discrimination and underpayment

The treatment of women in the music industry has shown some improvement, but more needs to be done, according to the inaugural “Women in the Mix” study by the Recording Academy, Arizona State University and the Berklee College of Music Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship.

According to the announcement, the report is designed to examine and better understand the experiences and socio-economic landscape of women and gender-broad people working in the American music industry. Developed to influence music advocates, allies and leaders to work towards a more inclusive and equitable industry, the study explores demographics, employment experiences, career challenges, job satisfaction, decisions families and pathways to the music industry within this community.

The study drew on baseline findings from the Berklee College of Music and Women in Music’s 2019 study, “Women in the US Music Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities.” Over 1,600 respondents from across the United States, representing all ages, races and ethnicities participated. Respondents included people working in a variety of industry functions, from behind the scenes to front and center, and at all levels from entry to management.

Key findings include:

  • Discrimination is widespread. Eighty-four percent of respondents had experienced equal discrimination across all racial identities, 77 percent felt they had been treated differently in the music industry because of their gender, and more than 56 percent thought their gender had affected their employment in the industry, with music creators and performers expressing the most, at 65 per cent.
  • They are overworked and underpaid. Fifty-seven percent of respondents work two or more jobs, 24 percent work between 40 and 51 hours a week, and a further 28 percent work more than 50 hours a week. Thirty-six percent of respondents earn less than $40,000 a year and nearly half feel they should be further along in their careers.
  • Music creators and performers see the lowest incomes and the highest dissatisfaction with career progression. Among respondents who identified as music creators and performers, 48.6% reported earning less than $40,000 per year. Although this is about 15% more than the overall respondent group, it does indicate that these professionals earn less money than their peers in other professions on average. Around 57% of music creators believe they should be further along in their careers, compared to those working in music education (48.5%), production and event/tour management/promotion (41.7%), the music industry (37.4%) and music. media and technology (32.9%).
  • Respondents prioritize career advancement over parenthood. About one in two respondents said they chose not to have children or had fewer children than they wanted because of their career. Respondents with children under the age of 18 represent just under two in 10 women and gender-broad people in the music industry. People earning more than $100,000 per year had a 27% chance of having children, which dropped to 15% for those earning less than $40,000 per year.
  • Gender-broad respondents face heightened levels of adversity. Broadly gendered people were less satisfied than respondents who identified as female by a margin of 16%. They were twice as likely to earn less than $40,000 a year and felt less comfortable in their workplace by almost 18%.
  • Mentorships are beneficial for the development of respondents. Ninety-three percent of respondents felt that mentoring had helped their careers. These respondents were more likely to feel that they were where they should be in their careers and satisfied with their jobs.
  • Despite the challenges, job satisfaction and passion for the music industry remain high. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said they felt satisfied, with more than 80 percent in career categories that seem to encounter the most barriers, such as freelancers and music creators and performers. More than half of respondents said their career path was due to their inherent love and passion for the music industry.
  • Advocacy organizations provide value. Forty percent of respondents were members of rights organizations and around 20% mentioned advocacy in their recommendations to help improve the climate for women and gender-broad people. Thirty-five percent of respondents cited professional or industry-related organizations as one of the key areas of the music industry that helped them grow and progress.

Equally significantly, in addition to sharing their experiences, more than 1,000 respondents provided recommendations for addressing disadvantage, accelerating progress and making the music industry more inclusive. Based on this data, the organizers of the report made the following recommendations for the music industry to help foster representation from this community:

  • Recruitment Commitments – by gaining commitment from those who hire to recruit diverse and strong candidate pools for their positions, we address access to opportunities, intentional diversity and hiring efforts and the negative effect of guardian culture.
  • Create paid internship opportunities – since internships are often unpaid, they are a barrier for those who do not have access to sufficient resources that would otherwise allow them to work for free. By creating paid internship opportunities, we address access to resources, opportunities, networking and work/life balance.
  • Grants — by creating a stronger grants and support infrastructure in the private and public sectors, we address access to resources, access to opportunities, and work/life balance.
  • Mentoring initiatives — by creating pathways for women and gender-broad people to access quality mentorship and mentors, we address access to mentors, which we have found to have a profoundly positive effect on the careers of women and gender-diverse people.
  • Soft skills development – ​​mentoring and networking both rely heavily on a person’s interpersonal skill set, as well as their ability to negotiate and defend themselves. By strengthening the development of soft skills, we address people’s access to resources, access to opportunities, access to mentors and networking acumen.
  • Additional paid time off — With burnout being a significant challenge raised by respondents, providing employees with additional and/or mandatory days off would help balance work and family life.
  • Support groups and advocacy initiatives – by raising funds and supporting groups that are on the front lines of advocacy work in the industry, we address access to resources, opportunities, networking and diversity efforts intentional.

There are many, many more findings in the full report, including details about the polling group and methodology, here.

Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Co-Chair of the Recording Academy, said of the report, “We have a responsibility to ensure that we amplify women’s voices and our lived experiences. The “Women in the Mix” study is a groundbreaking account of the realities and decisions we women working in music make publicly and privately every day. By focusing this study on active listening, learning and creating solutions, we have provided the industry with valuable data on the barriers that affect women in music and how we can take a stand together. We are grateful to the over 1,600 respondents who participated, whose voices help shape the approach to achieving equity in the industry.

Erin Barra, study author and director of popular music at Arizona State University, said, “Listening to these people and hearing their stories is an important part of making them and their experiences visible,” said: “When you’re trying to create meaningful change, you have to speak directly to the people who will be most affected by that change and let them be part of the conversation.

Based on the results of the study, and to help address issues around access to resources and opportunities, The Recording Academy has pledged to take further action by donating a total of $50,000 to five organizations that support the growth of women and girls in music, including Beats By Girlz, Femme It Forward, Girls Make Beats, She Is The Music, and Women’s Audio Mission. Each advocacy group will receive a $10,000 grant to continue their mission.

Along with the above efforts, The Recording Academy has tightened its focus on the representation of women in music over the past three years. In 2019, the organization launched Women in the Mix, prompting hundreds of music professionals and organizations to pledge to consider at least two women in the selection process whenever a producer or an engineer is hired. Also in 2019, The Recording Academy pledged to double the number of female voters by 2025 and achieved 60% of that goal by adding 1,414 new female voters to its membership.

The Women In The Mix study was authored by Erin Barra; Mako Fitts Ward, Ph.D.; Lisa M. Anderson, Ph.D.; and Alaysia M. Brown, MS The report was created with the highest level of accessibility standards to ensure equal access for all. For more information about The Recording Academy’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, please visit: