Celebrating Women in Music for International Women’s Day 2021

A career in the music industry is dynamic, fast-paced and rewarding, with more varied roles than ever before. It’s no surprise that music is one of our biggest exports, with the UK estimated to be the biggest digital music market in Europe. It’s also an industry many women identify with endless obstacles and glass ceilings. 

Onstage, studies show that more than two-thirds of the live music acts performing in the UK will feature no female musicians. Backstage, women make up just 5% of all UK sound engineers, according to industry group SoundGirls

In what was already a challenging industry to sustain a long-term career, the COVID-19 pandemic has only made things tougher. UK Music states that the coronavirus has “wiped out at least £900m of the £1.1bn that live music was expected to contribute to the UK economy in 2020.” It’s also had a disproportionate impact on women, and experts say that there is a danger that the gender pay gap - the average difference in pay between men and women - will widen as a result.

While it is crucial that we recognise the ongoing challenges in the industry, it is also important to spotlight positive progress. For International Women’s Day 2021, we want to highlight the pioneering women and organisations fighting to make the music industry a better place.

Women in Music (WIM) is an organisation with a mission to advance the awareness, equality, diversity, heritage, opportunities, and cultural aspects of women in the musical arts through education, support, empowerment, and recognition. Founded in 1985 in New York, WIM now has more than 100 volunteers working daily, with chapters from LA to the UK.

WIM has launched an Executive Internship Programme for 2021, with the goal to generate greater diversity and equity in the music business by leveraging its industry network to pair potential interns with relevant career and educational opportunities. This internship is open to all cultural and educational backgrounds, and all locations, you just need to be over the age of 18, with no prior experience in the music industry. To find out more, click here.

Based here in Bristol, Saffron is addressing the gender imbalance in the music industry by creating safe spaces for women and non-binary people to learn and build confidence. Every year, in partnership with Red Bull music and the PRS Foundation, Saffron works with three emerging womxn artists each year. They provide them with industry mentoring, live bookings support, access to their music tech education programmes and the opportunity to record and release their music through their own independent label. 

Beginning on Monday 8 March, Saffron will be hosting a six-session introduction to music production course. The aim of the course is to show you the tools, tips and tricks to begin producing your own music at a foundation level. To join Saffron For Sound: Music Production Course click here.

Rina Sawayama

Rina Sawayama, a Japanese-British singer-songwriter, released her debut studio album Sawayama last year to widespread critical acclaim. However, despite living in the UK for 26 years, Sawayama discovered she was not eligible for top awards such as the Brits or Mercury Prize. As Japan does not allow dual citizenship, she cannot have a British passport.

Sawayama first spoke about the situation in an interview with Vice last year, which led to the hashtag #SawayamaIsBritish to trend in the UK. The singer was able to meet with the BPI, the British recorded music industry's trade association, and convinced them to review their criteria.

Thanks to Sawayama, artists now have to meet one of three criteria to be eligible:

  • They were born in the UK.
  • They are a UK passport holder (this includes those that hold more than one passport).
  • They have been a permanent resident in the UK for more than five years.

PRS Foundation are the leading funder of new UK talent, from unsigned band showcases and professional development programmes to music commissions and composer residencies. Since March 2000, they have supported more than 7,300 new music initiatives through their open grant schemes. 

Women Make Music is a grant offered by PRS Foundation to support the development of outstanding women, trans and non-binary songwriters and composers of all genres and backgrounds at different stages of their career. They will be accepting new applications starting from May 2021, to apply click here.

Annie Mac

Annie Mac is a DJ, broadcaster, festival founder and novelist, known most for her BBC Radio 1 show, Radio 1's Future Sounds. A few months ago, Mac took to Twitter to address the unfair treatment of female producers in a powerful thread.

"I find it so frustrating that it's always women who get accused of not making their own records, when I could count on one hand the men I have encountered who write, play, produce and mix all their own music," she tweeted.

"Starting out as a female producer is getting easier and easier which is amazing. But I still see and hear the snide comments about women needing help to make records. It is standard practise to work with people in music production! There are many male producers who go as far as buying other people's productions and calling them their own. Why are women always held to a higher standard?"

"There’s such a huge amount of incredibly gifted female producers coming through right now," Mac added.

"We need to uplift them and celebrate their arrival onto a playing field that is still hugely disproportionate. It’s better for everyone."

Are you a woman aspiring to enter a career in music? Or an industry veteran with advice to share? We’d love to hear your stories via social media @ytlarenabristol.  

Monday 8 March is International Women's Day, an annual celebration which recognises women’s social, economic, cultural, political, and historic achievements. This year's theme is #ChooseToChallenge – calling out everyday gender bias and inequality. To join in, strike the Choose to Challenge pose and share on social media using #ChooseToChallenge #IWD2021 to encourage further people to commit to helping forge an inclusive world.