Who run the world?
International Women’s Day is coming fast and what better way to celebrate this day than to hail the women who’ve made history in the music industry?
And because we all know it’s not that easy to crack the code if you’re a woman, let’s continue on to the most likely challenges women in music encounter and the top tips female musicians have for their fellow female musicians.
But first… let’s take a look if girls do actually rule in the music industry.
STATISTICS OF WOMEN IN MUSIC
After continuous research, data have proven that the music industry still is a male-dominated industry, sadly.
Women are still underrepresented in many roles and careers available in the industry as well as in the occurring genres of music. Even award shows, like the Grammy Awards, show this disparity between sex.
The numbers above, which was part of a blog post published in 2019, summarizes how the music industry is lacking in women in the three creative roles given. They are most especially low on female producers.
In more recent data, statistics show that only 12.9% of popular songs were written by female artists which was clearly a decrease compared to the 2019 14.4%. Additionally the average percentage of female songwriters per year is 12.5%.
There has been only 21.7% out of 800 popular songs that were performed by female artists and a 37 to 1 male-female ratio of producers out of 500 popular songs.
Grammy awards nominees also have a low percentage of female nominees with only 20.5% of them.
So basically, Beyonce wasn’t right. Girls still don’t run the world.
Now don’t be discouraged by the statistics we’ve shown.
Actually, those data should be the reason why women should push for their place in the music industry.
INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN MUSIC
The world has changed for the better and women have become more in charge with their careers now. However, in the past, this was not the case. For the music industry to be what it is today for female musicians, there have been women who rose to the occasion and helped break doors and barriers.
#1 ELLA FITZGERALD
“First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz”, and “Lady Ella”
The very first on the list of influential women in music is Ella Fitzgerald who is called the “First Lady of Song”. The woman is very well known for her pure tone, flawless diction, and great improvisation, specifically her scat singing.
She has won 13 Grammys, sold over 40 million albums, and recorded around 200 or more albums throughout her career. Additionally, Lady Ella was the first black woman to have ever won in the Grammys.
#2 DOLLY PARTON
Country music royalty
Dolly Parton is known for being a legend in a male-dominated country genre. She was known for pioneering the interface of both country and pop music. She has half a century of musical experience and along the way she has had tons of musical achievement and more than 30 awards.
Included in those awards are two Guinness World Records, “Most Decades with a Top 20 Hit on the US Hot Country Songs Chart” and “Most Hits on the US Hot Country Songs Chart by a Female Artist”, awarded to her in 2018.
She has written more than a hundred songs that have mostly topped charts and has sold 100 million records in the span of her career.
#3 TINA TURNER
“Queen of Rock” or “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”
Tina Turner started her career in music with her husband Ike Turner, she then pursued her solo career after leaving him. She was known for her swagger, gravelly vocals, and her unparalleled stage presence and energy.
Tina Turner, like Dolly Parton, was also given a Guinness World Record for having the largest paying audience for a solo performer with 180,000 in 1988. She was also the first female and Black artist to have ever been a cover of the magazine Rolling Stone.
Salt-N-Pepa aside from being pioneers of the hip-hop genre, they’re also the first female rap group to win a Grammy. They showed how women can still succeed in the masculine-fueled genre where they showed and stressed women empowerment.
The rap duo won the Grammys for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group with None of Your Business, their third single for fourth studio album Very Necessary. The duo released a platinum limited vinyl record for the album that included their signature as well as a studio licensed custom frame.
#5 SPICE GIRLS
Spice Girls showed the world what “girl power” really meant with their hit single Wannabe. The girl group invaded the US with the single and dominated the radio and TV. They led the teen pop genre revival in the 1990’s with the “Princess of Pop”, Britney Spears.
TOP CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN IN MUSIC
#1 SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND OBJECTIFICATION
This has been a prevailing problem not just in the music industry, but also in other fields of work. There was a 2021 survey with a total of 401 female respondents by TuneCore and MIDia Research showing 64% of the respondents naming sexual harassment and objectification as a major problem in the music industry.
Sexual harassment is most prevailent among starting and/or young female musicians or those who are not yet famous. Male executives and producers offer them a way to fame in exchange for sexual pleasure. This is very true and is not just rumors.
Lady Gaga was raped when she was 19 by a music producer and Kesha was sexually assaulted by producer Dr. Luke. Knowing these stories from popular female artists, imagine how many more have been subjected to this.
Ageism is how we think, feel, and act towards others based on their age and this has become a big obstacle in the careers of female artists. The music industry has an affinity towards younger girls.
This affinity has, partially, something to do with the industry’s obsession with youth, but it’s more of the idea of making them successful before they are too busy with their children.
Because of the very concept of motherhood, starting female artists who are on the older side of the age spectrum are not preferred and maybe less supported.
This challenge is really not isolated to only female artists since male artists are stereotyped by their looks, too. However, it can be a lot worse for the female ones because it’s not their only problem as women in the music industry.
Additionally, there is a lot of judgment when women appear less or more than the stereotypes men have on women. There have been stereotypes on how they should look, how they should act and what their overall image should be.
This challenge is the root of all other challenges that women have. Sexism is the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination based on sex, which is mostly against women. Because of sexism, female artists have been heavily judged and scrutinized for things that male artists are guilty of too.
We had Taylor Swift being criticized for her long list of celebrity ex-boyfriends while artists like Chris Brown, who have a history of domestic violence, did not get the same treatment.
Additionally, Ariana Grande faced heavy criticism when she released her hit single 7 rings, all because the song’s lyrics were shallow and selfish. However, we didn’t see any heavy criticism for the misogynistic lyrics some popular songs had, like Drake’s Hotline Bling.
TIPS FROM WOMEN IN MUSIC
#1 DON’T GET TOO AFFECTED
“Keep doing what you love and don’t get so sidetracked by the press.” -Taylor Swift, singer-songwriter
There will always be people who will be against you and who will try to bring you down. There will always be bad comments thrown at you. To counter these negative things, you will have to not get affected by what they do or say.
Just keep doing what you love doing, which is making music and performing it, and don’t get too affected. The more they see a reaction from you the more these negative things will be said and done to you.
#2 MAKE YOUR MUSIC ACCESSIBLE
“Make sure that your music is really accessible to everyone that could want to find it.” -Maisie Peters, singer-songwriter
Peters said that she knows for a fact that people are looking for new music. There are a lot of managers and publishers that are looking for and scouting new musicians. So it’s better to have your songs released on accessible platforms like YouTube, Spotify, or others.
#3 LEARN ON THE JOB
“It’s about working with other producers and making yourself invaluable to a studio environment.” -Catherine Marks, music producer and mixing engineer
If you’re an aspiring music producer, it would be best to get an internship in a producing company and learn there.
You can try Miloco’s program where they offer a 2-week internship. This will help you know the ropes, work with great producers, and even make connections with a lot of people in the industry.
#4 FIND SUPPORT
“Surround yourself with like-minded people who support you.” -Rhiannon Mair, producer, engineer, and artist
This is an important tip you need to do because it’s a cutthroat industry. Your journey here will surely not be all rainbows and sunshine. You might have rejections or criticism raining on you for some time.
This might wear you down. But if you have people who will be there to support you, I’m pretty sure you will be standing right back up.
Even with all those rejections and criticisms, if you have people that would be there to comfort and cheer you up, you won’t feel like quitting this road you’ve taken.
#5 MAKE IT A NORMAL THING
“The best thing that we can do is be a band and not make our femaleness the main thing about our personality; we’re about our music, about our songs.” -Celia Archer, band member of The Big Moon
You see, we women are also the reason why we are being stereotyped. We celebrate things we achieve as a woman not as a person. If you’re a female artist, you don’t have to proudly say, “I achieved this and that in spite of being a female.”
That line just digs a deeper hole for sexism to reside on, never to be removed from our society. Continually making it look like female artists are a novelty and is not a normal thing.
If you want to be acknowledged for your work, you don’t have to brag about being a female. Make it a normal thing, and people will surely be able to focus on your talent.
#6 WORK WITH GOOD PEOPLE
“Align yourself with people that are willing to give you opportunities and get yourself a great music lawyer.” -Carla Marie Williams, singer-songwriter
When you look for people to work with, choose those that are willing to give you opportunities and to let you grow and learn. If you feel like the people you are with are hindering your growth or are not being supportive of your work, then you can abandon them.
Also, you have to get a good music lawyer. This is to help you protect yourself and your rights as a musician. You already know how copyright infringement and plagiarism is widespread in the music industry.
Since you’re a woman, people might think that you’re an easy prey since they’re sure you won’t be fighting back. Make them see that you aren’t afraid, by having a music lawyer that would protect you and your music.
#7 DON’T GET JEALOUS OF OTHER FEMALE ARTIST
“Surround yourself with other women and don’t see them as competition, but rather as a network of strength and mutual support.” -Emmy the Great, musician
You don’t have to see other female artists as your competition. It’s already a hard place for you women due to sexist males, so having competition and jealousy among you females would make it even harder.
It’s better to support them and have them support you too. You can also have them as your inspiration or maybe your standard instead of being jealous of what they have. Don’t get jealous and just do everything you can to be better than your past self.
#8 MAKE CONNECTIONS WITH FEMALE ARTISTS
“Make significant and long-lasting connections with inspiring female artists & music business ladies. Always connect the creatives with the business!” -Angel Lebailly, DJ and producer
Last is to make connections with other female artists. It’s alright if they’re not as deep, as long as they’re long-lasting. This will be a great support system as well as a great source for collaborations.
Which means that you get to have good friends, and have good workmates that would help you expand your music and your fanbase as well.
It’s not easy being a woman, it’s not easy being a musician. It’s definitely not easy to be a female musician. And this should challenge you to keep striving. Not only will you make your mama proud, you’ll be a role model to many girl.
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.