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Marissa Cetin
30 January 2024, 13:41

Misogyny in music industry is "endemic", requires urgent action, WEC warns

The UK Parliament committee said the "boys club" of the music industry persists despite increased participation by women and recommended reforms like nixing NDAs

Misogyny in music industry is "endemic", requires urgent action, WEC warns

A new report by the UK Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) has confirmed "endemic" misogyny in the music industry and urges government and industry bodies to correct course.

The UK Parliament published the Misogyny in Music report today (30th January), stemming from a 2023 inquiry by the specialised Commons Select Committee. It found that despite an overall increase in participation and representation by women, the music industry remains a "boys club" — especially at the top of companies and lineups — "where sexual harassment and abuse is common, and the non-reporting of such incidents is high", the committee said in a press statement. They underlined, "These issues are intensified for women facing intersectional barriers, particularly racial discrimination". 

"Women in the music industry have had their lives ruined and their careers destroyed by men who have never faced the consequences for their actions", the report summary reads. "People in the industry who attend award shows and parties currently do so sitting alongside sexual abusers who remain protected by the system and by colleagues. The music industry has always prided itself on being a vehicle for social change; when it comes to discrimination, and the harassment and sexual abuse of women, it has a lot of work to do".

Among the recommended actions, the WEC proposes forming the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) to oversee policies, develop actionable solutions, and serve as a watchdog across the artistic industries. The WEC clarified the body would "not [be] a panacea for all of the problems in the industry, other reforms remain crucial, and time will tell whether it has the powers required to drive the changes needed". 

The WEC pointed to the prolific use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which inquiry evidence found frequently "threatened [victims] into silence”, and recommended the government consider a retrospective moratorium on NDAs. The committee also proposed a requirement for record labels and companies with more than 100 employees to regularly publish diversity statistics of their roster and workforce, and suggested extending and enforcing discrimination and safety protections to contract and freelance workers. 

Black Lives In Music chief executive Dr. Charisse Beaumont said the report "validates our experiences, particularly those of Black women in the music industry." "The data mirrors the challenges we face and amplifies our voices, calling for an industry where everyone, regardless of background, can flourish", she continued. "However, it is crucial that our voices not only be heard but also acted upon, the government expects the music industry to act on all of the recommendations in this report and so do the industry workforce and creators... It's essential that together we foster an industry that is safe, respectful, and empowering for all". 

"Given my 34 years in the industry I have witnessed, experienced and campaigned against the inequalities and discrimination sadly still faced by women in music", Association of Independent Music CEO Silvia Montello said. "And as one of the 'relatively few’ women in the upper age bracket I can attest to the many challenges of navigating through and maintaining a successful music career and achieving a leadership position. It should not still be this hard, here in 2024, for women to be supported to succeed and to be taken as seriously as our male counterparts".

“The findings of the Misogyny in Music report by the Women and Equalities Committee are very concerning. Matt Griffiths, Youth Music CEO, said. "Every young person, regardless of their gender, should feel safe pursuing a career in music. 

"Misogyny in all forms is unacceptable and needs to be changed by those in power — which, in the music industry, is largely men. Ultimately, it’s men’s behaviour that must change.

"Our own past research has shown how many barriers women and girls face in accessing the music industries. For example, women aged 18-25 are less likely to be currently earning from their music careers than their male counterparts.

"There are vast numbers of incredible women-led collectives and gender equality initiates in the industry, such as Keychange, SheSaidSo, Saffron Records, Foundation FM, Women Connect, Selextorhood to name just a few. We must listen to their voices and invest in their projects, if we want to see real change at scale.”

An April 2023 report found "pitifully low" numbers of women and non-binary people working in audio production and engineering. Jaguar's foundation published a report on gender disparity in UK dance music in August 2022.

Read the Misogyny in Music report in full here.