The Gap on Stage
Words by Sandra Buol
In 2017, a very interesting paper came out of the University of Sydney Business School: “Skipping a beat – Assessing the state of gender equality in the Australian music industry”. This report shows the increasing focus of academia on this social issue of gender equality.
With the movement of #MeToo and the call for gender equality rising, analysing a specific industry sheds light on the real and current situation and brings to the surface the effect of gender in our everyday lives.
The paper’s main finding is that “male advantage is a pervasive feature of the Australian music industry”. The authors investigated radio playlists, festival line-ups, industry awards, and boards, finding all these dominated by males.
Gender representation in music is seen clearly on our own campus. In the published list of upcoming shows from April until July, the Manning Bar will hold 17 musical acts. Of these, PULP could find only one act which has at least one woman, The Iron Maidens. The rest are all-male.
While the Manning Bar is managed by the USU and all Clubs & Societies events are the USU’s responsibility, most of the concerts are managed by “Century”. The entertainment business, which is also responsible for Sydney venues including Enmore Theatre and Metro Theatre, does the booking for all non-USU affiliated events. PULP contacted “Century” for comment on the imbalance in gender at Manning Bar and enquired as to whether they have policy regarding this issue, providing them with the key findings of the “Skipping a Beat” report. However, no reply has been yet received.
To explore the industry issue further, let’s have a look at the statistics and graphs published by Triple J Hack in their report “By the numbers 2018: The gender gap in the Australian music industry”.
The music played on Australian radio across 58 stations is strongly biased against female artists. In 2017, a little over 20% of songs were by female artists, whilst male only was much higher, at around 50%.
Music festivals continue to be dominated by males. This graph shows the number of acts with at least one woman in the group. Laneway Festival is the most gender diverse, with 44% of the acts with at least one woman.
So why the disparity? The study of music is almost equal in Year 12, with a slight dominance by females. However, only 29% of those who listed ‘music professional’ as their job in the past 3 Australian censuses have been female.
Perhaps we can see a story of male dominance in the number of male public board members for music bodies. This indicates that the disparity may be due to males in decision-making positions rather than the amount of female musicians attempting to enter the profession.
The report clearly states that the issue is deeper than “listeners prefer men over women” or “men just make better music than women”. Their research points out long-term entrenched industry structures. The report indicates it is linked to under-representation of women in the industry and decision-making, lack of women’s voices in senior management, and that lack of airplay perpetuates less success, less awards and less female artists being signed. It also acknowledges the influence of gender norms and cultural influences, and the expectations of the role of women.
It is important to realise that progress has been made in addressing the inequality. The overall representation of females in festivals have risen even since 2015. There have been accounts of high-profile female acts refusing to play at festivals unless the performance has more females overall. Some artists insist on an ‘inclusion rider’, which is a clause in a contract that preferences under-represented groups to also be included on the line-up.
The “Skipping a beat” report recommends improvement through collecting more disaggregated data to shed light on the situation and investigate where the obstacles lie. They would also like to see gender equality criteria used to decided public funding, increasing women’s representation in decision-making and attempting to make gender inclusivity a core industry value.
Hopefully our Manning Bar can contribute to this cause by supporting more female acts on campus.
Main image credit: The Iron Maidens