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Women in Music: A Year in Action

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Here we go again! One year on from our article ‘Women in the Music Industry’ and the overwhelmingly supportive response that followed we’re ready to take a retrospective look at what’s been happening in the world of music since then. We’ve brought together a collective of new commentators, including musicians, writers, PRs, event organisers, managers and a radio producer, to give their spin on what it’s currently like for women in the music business.

This time around I asked each of our contributors the same three questions; since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music? what are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry? moving forward, what changes still need to happen? The answers are a window in a community who are extremely passionate about this topic, and whilst it’s essential that we shed light on the serious issues, the overriding message is one of celebration and positivity.

I've definitely noticed a more tight-knit community between women in music, which we need to only continue and strengthen.
Missy Scheinberg, Lunatic Entertainment

Last year one of the hot topics surrounding gender inequality in music was the lack of female representation at the majority of music festivals. Most notable was Reading and Leeds Festival, as highlighted by Crack in the Road editor Josh Dalton with his viral editing of the line-up, which revealed a paltry ten female and mixed acts. The unapologetic response from Festival Republic boss Melvin Brenn, who rather naively stated that “gone are the days where a band was four guys” (via Gigwise), further emphasised how deeply ingrained ignorance of this issue is. While Festival Republic still appears unable to provide a single female headliner - 2016’s choices are an unimaginative selection of Biffy Clyro, Fall Out Boy, Foals, Disclosure and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers - other events are making moves to correct this imbalance. In an interview with Noisey, Glastonbury Festival organiser Emily Eavis states that “we are strong on women this year” and her enthusiastic mention of female MCs like Little Simz and Lady Leshurr is encouraging.

Some have taken it even further by offering female-only line ups at their events, such as Burger Records’ festival Burger A Go Go. Not only is this an excellent name, but their no-dudes rule made room for awesome headliners Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls in 2015, as well as instantly recognisable names like Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Cat Power and Kathleen Hanna (in new project The Julie Ruin.) Speaking to Broadly., co-organiser Lee Rickard explains that the festival is “more of a fun statement than a feminist statement. We're not overtly political, but obviously it does reverberate. I think it makes a statement without having to make a statement; that we can easily put together a bill of this caliber. Hopefully it will make other festivals think twice.” One of our own contributors Erika Alvarez is also hoping to interrupt the pattern with her non-profit event A Great Escape Festival, and she has her own view on why there’s a favourable bias towards male musicians at festivals: “When a band’s demographic is mostly female, they are automatically deemed as unworthy of respect, but if their demographic is mostly male the words “legendary” and “influential” are the first to come to mind.” Being judged primarily on their gender or that of their fans is also a concern for mixed alt-rock band Wyldest, whose female members Zoe Mead and Holly Mullineaux cringe at the idea of their fans liking them simply because of they are women. With this in mind, they give a nod to Savages as a band who aren’t evaluated by their gender but by their music. Mullineaux even paraphrases a statement from Savages’ Jehnny Beth in an interview with Broadly., "Being a woman in music is like being a woman eating a sandwich." Basically, these females musicians don’t consider that they’re doing anything outside the realms of normality, they’re just being themselves.

It’s incredible to meet both male and female musicians at shows, but when I’m playing within a female dominated line-up, I really have this sense of affirmation with the other female musicians.

This view of music festivals as a world of extremes - either as a blatant machoism or feminist statement - is one that we’ve become rather used to, but hopefully not for long. One event that has already achieved the ideal of equal gender representation is Wavelength Festival, which this year welcomed a mixed bag of headliners (including Duchess Says, Foxes in Fiction and Foxtrott) and more than 50 percent of the stage slots were filled by female musicians. The real achievement lies in the fact that this fair representation of artists regardless of their gender is actually unintentional, as outlined by Artistic Director and co-founder Jonathan Bunce: “It's happened three years in a row, so this theme has just sort of emerged. It wasn't like we sat down and said, 'We have to have a female headliner every night.' There was no grand design. There are just so many talented women making music right now and I think that us, as programmers, are just responding to that” (via Noisey). Missy Scheinberg, who works at Lunatic Entertainment, also urges talent-buyers to take note of these mixed line-ups, especially Australia’s Laneway Festival, which this year has topped their bill with Chvrches, Grimes, Beach House, and Purity Ring. This emphasis on deserved recognition as opposed to the more forced positive discrimination is definitely the way forward for everyone involved in the music industry.

One area of the music industry that still leaves a lot to be desired in terms of the attitude towards women is music videos. These visual aids are an incredibly powerful tool that has flourished throughout the MTV years and onto a generation of YouTubers. Considering this, it’s quite extraordinary that amongst all of the beautiful, artistic, groundbreaking, politically and culturally charged videos out there that the majority of our focus lands on those with the most skin on show. From Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” to Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” to Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to Iggy Azalea and Jennifer Lopez’s “Booty”, these controversial and highly confusing examples of female objectification are well within the view of the public. As Daily Telegraph journalist Justin Coulson questions, “They might be masquerading as empowered femininity, but what are they selling?” accompanied by a natural concern for what his daughters will come to know as normal behaviour. This power struggle is brought further into the light by Louise O’Neil at The Irish Examiner in her piece ‘Are music videos too sexual or do they represent power in women?’, which details that in recent years two camps have emerged in the world of music videos. On one hand, there are those who “have decided to either completely reject the pressure to perform in a sexually suggestive manner”, and on the other, there are those who “have claimed ownership of their sexuality and their bodies.” What’s important here is that artists should have the choice to use their public visibility to explore all forms of identity, rather than one that is forced upon them by society’s warped expectations. As music journalist Christal Yuen quite rightly states:

There's a lot of misplaced eroticism in painting women as direct projections of their songs.
Christal Yuen, writer for HumanHuman and Sodwee

There are plenty of current musicians who use their artistry and physicality to embark on new ways of defying gender stereotypes. Examples such as FKA twigs who lines up portrayals of femininity like dominoes in her “MSLL155X” video and Rosie Lowe whose dual metaphor for strength and vulnerability is seen in the undressed frankness of her single “Woman”. Another example is Grimes, who is well known for her array of performance personas and in The FADER’s ‘Art Angel’ documentary, Claire Boucher explains that “Grimes as one person cannot represent more than a couple of ideas. That’s why I started developing some of the other characters - like, really abstract from who I am or how I am [...] Not everything has to fully reflect you.” This willingness to explore how an artist can portray themselves, female or otherwise, has the power to directly influence others in the industry. Our contributor Tsar B, an emerging artist known for her dark and multi-cultural sounding pop, finds Grimes extremely inspiring, especially “the way she emphasises her autonomy and strength, as well as her unacceptance of parochialism.” As we see in the documentary, it’s not only her stage presence that Grimes has under complete artistic control, but the production aspect of her music is also her sole responsibility.

Sometimes women in the music industry are perceived as an attractive medium between a bunch of guys that make the music and the general public, while actually people fail to realize that they are the foundation of the whole story.

One artist who has been determined in sharing her whole story is Lorely Rodriguez AKA Empress Of, who released her debut self-produced record Me in September last year. Contributor Alliz Espi, who runs Songololo Music, picks up this album as her personal highlight: “her work as a producer (beat-making included) of her own record, has been one of the first on the scene which was instantly celebrated, rather than being a question - ‘did she really do that?’” Empress Of’s evolution into producer and sound engineer is testament to what can happen when musicians are forthcoming about what they want. Rodriguez recalls the result of being team up with another producer where “It just ended up sounding like that person's music. I thought, ‘this is my first record, I need it to sound like it's coming from me’” (Beggars Music). After that epiphany, she was able to discover herself as a recorder, producer, artist and most importantly as a person. However, it’s not always the case that production credits are placed with the right person. A recent example would be Björk and her Vulnicura LP, in which it was initially misreported that Arca produced the album, rather than the truth which is a co-production between Björk and Arca. In an interview with Pitchfork, Björk talks about the courage it took the put the world right, “I didn’t want to talk about that kind of thing for 10 years, but then I thought, “You’re a coward if you don’t stand up. Not for you, but for women. Say something.”” It’s important for these prominent women to speak up, but it’s equally essential that men within the business lend their voice, such as Björk associates the Haxan Cloak and Matmos who insistently correct the media on their secondary role in the production of these records.

We have evolved away from a history of music-engineering being male dominated, we've ditched the lab coats and clipboards (literally). But it still is a numbers game.
Alliz Espi, Songololo Music

As Alliz Espi suggests, it is still numbers game, but the books are finally starting to balance, as reflected in the increased recognition of females at certain awards shows. Keeping on the production theme, the contribution from Women Produce Music (a social media community that promotes female producers, engineers and musicians) highlights this year’s Music Producers Guild Awards, in which Olga Fitzroy received a gong for Recording Engineer of the Year, Catherine Marks was recognised as Breakthrough Producer of the Year, and FKA twigs won UK Single for “Pendulum” and UK Album of the Year for LP1 - both of which she co-produced. It wasn’t only the MPGs where we saw a truer reflection of the arts industry, as Regina Valdameri points out, “At this year's Grammys in the Best Rock Performance category, for example, Foo Fighters were the only all-male band, with Alabama Shakes, Florence + the Machine, Wolf Alice and Elle King filling up the remaining nominations.”The Fives Ws Of editor also remarks that seven of the fifteen artists who made the BBC’s Sound of 2016 longlist were women, including runners-up Alessia Cara and Nao. This is certainly a start for greater equality amongst musicians, but the scene isn’t so rosy everywhere.

Another opinion maker Katerina Koumourou (ANASA PR, JD Management and Cozy Mag) draws our attention to Billboard’s Power 100 from this year, which was critiqued by Suzanne Harrington in The Independent for being made up of 127 men and only 14 women. This same article also discusses the unavoidable topic of current music media, that is the recent Kesha case in which her allegations of sexual assault against producer Dr Luke and request to exit the contract with him were dismissed by a New York Supreme Court Judge on the grounds that it’s “commercially reasonable” for Kesha to remain in the contract. This outcome reveals just where the priorities lie for those at the top of the industry food-chain, and for many it’s sickening to think money comes before an individual’s safety and artistic freedom. However, there is a positive side to this story and that’s female solidarity, with Kesha’s peers publicly expressing their support for her, such as Adele when accepting her awards at the BRITS, Taylor Swift with her $250,000 donation and Lady Gaga’s stand of solidarity at the Oscar’s to name a few.

Females standing together for their voice to be heard is empowering and I guess it's comforting that she is not standing completely alone with this.
Katerina Koumourou, ANASA PR, JD Management and Cozy Mag

We might still have a way to go, but it’s a fact that women are stronger than ever before in the music industry, as publicly displayed by Kesha’s celebrity supporters, but also by the growing number of successful women in the business. Whether that’s a music PR like Charmfactory’s Director of Communications Lorraine Long, who has never experienced prejudice on the basis of her gender and strongly believes that “Your sex should be irrelevant, it should come down to being the best person for the job and if you're doing a good job you should be rewarded fairly and equally.” Or a radio producer like Elise Cobain, who works on BBC Radio 1 and 1xtra and is especially enthusiastic about the progression of women in her business sector. Cobain provides a roll call of prominent BBC radio presenters: Annie Mac, Clara Amfo, A Dot and Jamz Supernova, and the list goes on once you step into radio production territory. It’s not only the traditional airwaves that are now transmitting a more representative voice, but online radio is also a bastion of equality. The Electronic Beats listing in ‘Meet the women who are killing it in online radio’ praises significant producers, hosts and managers of digital radio stations. A standout comment made for the article by Tabitha Thorlu-Bangura, a key figure of NTS Radio, asserts the need for greater variety within the industry. As Thorlu-Bangura states “it’s really crucial to work with people from a diverse range of backgrounds in order to have a wide range of perspectives on music and life in general.”

I'm seeing more and more that women who work hard are being rewarded with brilliant jobs and career progression seemingly regardless of their gender. This change in attitude is something to be celebrated.
Elise Cobain, BBC Radio 1/1xta Producer

That need for a more diverse demographic across the board is one that is echoed throughout all of our contributions. Katerina Koumourou asks “Is there enough diversity (regarding gender AND race) within these corporations to encourage the changes needed?” and at this moment in time the answer is probably no, at least not yet. This questioning attitude is shared by Tracy Dempsey, a Music Psychologist and creator of Sofa Sessions, which is a music-art showcase hosted at various venues throughout Belfast. This event offers a regular roster of mixed gender artists, but Dempsey believes that she should open up the diversity even further by “showcasing people from various minority groups who might be struggling for visibility, not for tokenistic reasons, but to break a self-perpetuating cycle of invisibility leading to more invisibility.” That’s probably the most important message for International Women’s Day, to break the cycle of invisibility, and where the music industry is concerned we’ve already taken considerable steps to do so, particularly in the online world. As Christal Yuen points out “the digital world of music allows for these artists to release music and be judged on their skill rather than their appearance.” There’s a reason that so many musicians release music virtually and why journalists now live on laptops rather than in newspapers; the internet can be a megaphone for the marginalised.

The democratisation of the internet, allowing anyone to share their story, be heard, and have that story amplified by others joining in, is hugely powerful.
Tracy Dempsey, creator of Sofa Sessions and Soulambition

For my last question to the opinion-makers, I asked them “Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?”, and the general consensus is that we should continue to celebrate women in the music industry, we should keep asking questions, and we shouldn’t settle for anything less than equality amongst all genders. Like Songololo Music’s Alliz Espi puts it “the more it’s celebrated now, the more female musicians may dare to take that journey.” Therefore, it’s our responsibility as current commentators and members of the music community to transmit a message of positivity and change, not only for ourselves, but for future generations. No one puts this intention more candidly than music blogger Regina Valdameri, who believes “The ultimate goal is that we won't be surprised anymore when a woman has success in the music industry, or in any industry really, because it will have become the norm.” If we continue down this path of positive visibility and mutual support (all genders included), then one day seeing a woman in the music industry will be as surprising as seeing a woman eat a sandwich.

Tracy Dempsey

I’m a coach, writer and speaker (soulambition.com and dreamdolove.com). I'm a musician and am currently finishing a master's in music psychology, researching how music learning can promote wellbeing, and how mindfulness, positive psychology and coaching can deepen the learning process. I’ve also just an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology – I use positive psychology in my work to help individuals and organisations to flourish, and will be conducting research into self-esteem. I believe unhealthy self-esteem (either too low or too high) is a major root cause of many of the world’s ills and inequalities, including issues of female disempowerment.

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

What has stood out for me has been an increase in women sharing their stories in public, highlighting the extent and severity of the issues women in music face. The democratisation of the internet, allowing anyone to share their story, be heard, and have that story amplified by others joining in, is hugely powerful. Jessica Hopper’s Twitter call for stories from girls and other marginalised people in and around the music industry got a flood of responses from women sharing stories of being dismissed, belittled, harassed and even sexually assaulted. It was an incredible public spotlight and has really widened discussion and debate.

The Straight Outta Compton film sparked a renewed focus on instances of violence against women, as people spoke out about the glaring omission of reports of abuse against Dee Barnes, Michel'le Toussaint and others. Having those stories back in the spotlight in the age of the internet and social media gave the victims of violence another chance to be heard, to counter the glamourised depictions of stories which in reality involved violence and abuse.

In January, we had Amber Coffman calling out music publicist Heathcliff Beru for sexual assault, followed by a wave of women sharing similar stories about him - a critical mass that led to a (somewhat half-assed) apology from him, to music industry professionals condemning his behaviour and refusing to work with him and to Beru's resignation. Pre-internet, it would have been much harder for someone to have her story heard, to find others with similar stories to share, and for all of that to be out there in the open with the resultant pressure for a response and corrective action. It was important too that men in the industry were speaking out against him; when any group has dominance over another, change needs to be facilitated from within that group as well as from outside. We need to ensure that working towards parity of 'women in music' means working for all women, whatever their race, ethnicity, age, ability/disability, sexual orientation or whatever.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

Well, there's always talk about a new rise in “girl power” in music, always focused on a small number of high-profile, young (frequently white) singers. But that's a very narrow, simplistic viewpoint. Again, the internet has been instrumental in raising awareness of women's limited visibility in 'best musician' lists, radio playlists, award nominations, etc. I think it's important to highlight the disparity, but also to put the majority of work into rectifying that behind the scenes – making efforts at the input stage (programming events, creating playlists or nomination lists etc.) to more quickly move towards it just being normal to see diversity in the music scene. We need to share best practice in how to ensure diverse representation, and we need to show how diversity can be good commercially. As consumers, we have power of influence through our listening and purchasing habits. In whatever capacity we're acting, publicly asking questions keeps the pressure on people in positions of influence to listen and respond.

My own experience has been at the local level, as an events producer and occasional performer. I run sporadic arts events called the Sofa Sessions, which are all about bringing together artists from different fields - music, fine art, poetry, film, literature, comedy, dance - to inspire collaborations and innovations. I never consciously aimed for gender balance, except for one event for International Women’s Day where I had an almost exclusively female line-up. For all the other events, I just programmed for talent from the artists I was finding and meeting in Belfast and beyond. When I went back to look at my roster of artists recently, I saw that it was about 50-50 male/female anyway. I think that’s a hugely positive sign, but I've also realised I need to be more conscious about diversity in general, in the future. I should be making sure I'm actively looking for and showcasing people from various minority groups who might be struggling for visibility, not for tokenistic reasons, but to break a self-perpetuating cycle of invisibility leading to more invisibility.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

Clearly there are systemic issues in the music industry, which of course reflect wider issues in society. So at both an industry and a societal level, there needs to be continued public debate and calling-out of abuses and offenders. Many shameful ideas and actions can flourish behind closed doors and inside cliques; once they’re out there in the public, they can be acknowledged and dealt with. Former gatekeepers don't get to control the narrative, or cultural trends, in the way they used to – they still have massive influence, but now the diverse masses have influence too. At the same time, we need to have even more positive discussion about what works – especially at a grassroots level – championing artists and people working in the industry who're blazing trails and promoting diversity. From a positive psychology perspective, highlighting and building on strengths rather than focusing mostly on what's broken is what helps us flourish. We don't want people to feel stuck in anger or helplessness, but rather to feel determined, assertive and inspired.

I personally would like to see less 'women-only/women-led' branded events and products; I don’t like the message being given that we need our own “special” or separate events in the general run of things. One-off events as part of a bigger programme of debate and conversations focused around issues and solutions are important, but widespread labelling of stand-alone gigs or CDs or whatever as a “special ladies' edition” to me perpetuates the problem by focusing on division and 'otherness'. I completely respect that others disagree entirely with that; discussions about diversity need diversity too, after all! I just strongly believe that improving diversity within the mainstream is the best way forward. 



Finally, at the most fundamental level, I think embracing diversity starts with developing healthy self-esteem in individuals. The most vicious commentary against minority groups of any kind shows a lot of anger and fear, whether we're talking about people being misogynist, misandrist, homophobic, racist or whatever. When people have healthy love and respect for themselves, they don't feel a need to attack, shut out or diminish others. They don't rely on in-group reinforcement of their identity, and are assertive enough to call out injustice and channel their anger into positive, constructive progress, building up their peers and those who are following. (As Jack Lemmon said, “send the elevator back down”.) They build healthy, positively-reinforcing relationships with others, contributing to healthier families, groups, industries and societies. With advances in positive psychology, cognitive psychology and neuroscience, we're learning so much about the development and negative impact of unhealthy self-esteem, and how we can promote healthy self-esteem and human flourishing instead. That's where I plan to focus my work, and indeed my music.

Zoe Mead

Zoe Mead, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist in Wyldest

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

The highlight for me has been seeing more and more female musicians emerge. It really feels like this is the beginning of the future of the music industry. Generally, you still feel a little bit more of an anomaly as a female musician, however especially in the last year, I’ve seen that really beginning to shift. Savages are owning the music scene at the moment and really hitting home the message that female line-ups should not be judged by their gender. We’ve played shows with various upcoming female led bands like Peluche, Black Honey and Dog in the Snow – who have all been wonderful people to meet.

It’s incredible to meet both male and female musicians at shows, but when I’m playing within a female dominated line-up, I really have this sense of affirmation with the other female musicians. Also, I’ve been hearing more and more that young females are taking up playing instruments and have a go at writing. Females are producing their own music from their bedrooms and are really starting to believe they can be self-sufficient and not just stereotypically singing at the front of a function band.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

Your visible representation as a female artists is about feeling comfortable and doing what comes natural to you. Exposing yourself to sell records alone, is not something any woman should ever feel obligated to do. Unfortunately it is an issue though.

We’d be ignorant to say that the visible representation is the same with both genders. The sexualisation of women is perhaps at its most extreme level ever. When you get images of a female musician posing naked for some big internet magazine, it’s all a marketing façade, aimed at generating attention - and not necessarily for her musical talent. If that woman made the decision to pose in such a way and she felt happy and comfortable about it – it is up to her.

I think there’s a clear difference between females that look good and females that look sexual. The music industry is full of beautiful and talented women, who look tastefully attractive (whether they show a little cleavage/leg or not). Their fans buy into both their music and their personality.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

I still think there’s a bit of ignorance to the fact women are beginning to be self-sufficient. People still believe because a young female emerges, she must have a veteran producer behind her. Or if there’s a band full of males with a female front-woman, much of the time people (including myself sometimes) assume she is a singer and the other members write the music, which is not necessarily always true. There is still a bit of a stigma attached to men being better players and the attitude of ‘she’s good for a girl’. It works both ways as it’s certainly been known for people to get behind a band full of ‘far- less-than-average’ female players, but as they are female, they ‘get away with it’ – that is frustrating for both males and females. As a female musician, I’d hate to think that our fans were fans, because me and Holly were female. I’d like in future for bands to be judged by merit and songwriting alone – male or female, old or young, fat or thin – if it’s a good song, it’s a good song and that’s all there should be to it. It’s a working progress, but we’re certainly getting there.

Alliz Espi

I'm Alliz, an Artist Manger and Director of Songololo Music working with artists, producers and engineers in the US. Like me, they are entrepreneurs, multi-media driven, and risk takers in their own genres. You can find me in the UK, US, or soaking up sun in Cape Town, South Africa.

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

More people have adapted to the idea that women also produce awesome records. For me, my highlight has been "Me" by Empress Of. Since last year, her work as a producer (beat-making included) of her own record, has been one of the first on the scene which was instantly celebrated, rather than being a question - "did she really do that?" It is STILL rare to come across a female vocalist like Lorely Rodriguez (Empress Of), who self-produced, composed, engineered and programmed beats for a record in the alternative, electronic, or pop genre. Most of the time, Female Vox is sub-genre made by producer in the background, or in a collab like Sylvan Esso (who I also love). We've got a long way to go to change that landscape, and I try to with my work too. But the more it's celebrated now, the more younger female musicians may dare to take on that journey.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

We are greater in numbers each year. It's been a pleasure to work with women also doing new and great things in every corner, almost. But, there's definitely not many well known upcoming female producers, self-produced acts, or beat-making programming-producers in the hot seat. We have evolved away from a history of music-engineering being male dominated, we've ditched the lab coats and clip boards (literally). But it still is a numbers game. Maybe they're some aesthetic hurdles in programming in DAWs that's a bit of a turn off for young women. I don't know...but something doesn't add up.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

More celebration, acceptance and women creating opportunities for others. I would like to see more opportunities for female producers, engineers leading record production. It's starts with us. We can create that. Even when I was Berklee, the numbers of women taking Music Production Engineering or Electronic Production Design were small, but it was growing and it was really encouraged. Women are taking the courses, crafting their mastery, and producing themselves. I want to hear more of this music. Maybe what's needed now more than ever is a continuity of opportunity at each stage, from early music education to professional work like in a major label. We need to be sure there is access to those roles, grants, and open discussion about women self-producing, or producing others from a younger age. I'm not a producer, but I sure would love to represent more women who produce.

Women Produce Music

Women Produce Music (WPM).

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

This year’s MPG Awards, in which Olga Fitzroy received a gong for Recording Engineer of the Year, Catherine Marks: Breakthrough Producer of the Year, and FKA twigs: UK Single (Pendulum) and UK Album (LP1) of the Year - both of which she co-produced. Producer Sylvia Massy received the MPG Inspiration Award, and became the first women to lead a Mix with the Masters weeklong production seminar.

Bjork’s interview with Pitchfork: The Invisible Woman, in which she spoke candidly about the misreporting of her album Vulnicura as having been produced by Arca, instead of co-produced by her and Arca; her reluctance to talk about “that kind of thing” for the past 10 years, and her realisation that “it would be cowardly if she did not stand up. Not for herself, but for women.” Grimes, publicly stating: I Am My Producer, Stop Asking To Produce My Songs.

In the U.S., Women’s Audio Mission (WAM) securing new premises for their world-class recording studio - the only studio in the world run entirely by women; a significant and inspiring achievement given the current economic climate, and a testament to the integrity, determination and hard work of Terri Winston (founder and executive director) and team. In the UK, Yorkshire Sound Women Network (YSWN) enabling more women and girls to explore sound and music technology.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

We are encouraged and inspired by the network we see forming, in particular, we’d like to give a mention to: @female_pressure, @feminatronic, @GirlsIRate @SoundGirls.org @kitmonsters @EBeats, @ElectricityClub, @ElectronicMagUK, @tapeopmag. The blogs, articles and interviews – all of which are making a difference. We are particularly encouraged to find that 50% of our followers are men.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

The ‘music industry’ has three distinct strands: major, established independent and DIY/ independent. We have faith that the independent and DIY sector will positively inform and shape the future of our industry. However, as Bjork’s statement highlights, many of us remain conflicted, uncomfortable and/or fearful about “talking about that kind of thing.”

Regina Valdameri

I'm Regina and over at The Five Ws Of I like asking five essential questions to emerging artists and bands to get to know them and their music better. Each featured act also gets a lovely personalised artwork. Come have a look if you fancy!

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

I love seeing more and more female-fronted bands in the spotlight. Wolf Alice, Black Honey, Hinds, The Japanese House, The Big Moon... they are all doing great! And hopefully this isn't just a fading trend but something that is here to stay, that will pave the way and inspire young girls.
Also, it was good to see women nominated and being recognised at Awards. At this year's Grammys in the Best Rock Performance category, for example, Foo Fighters were the only all-male band, with Alabama Shakes, Florence + the Machine, Wolf Alice and Elle King filling up the remaining nominations. Also, out of the fifteen artists who made the BBC Sound of 2016 Long List, seven were women and two of them (Alessia Cara, NAO) were in the top three spots. Two female artists (Frances, Izzy Bizu) were shortlisted for the Brits Critics' Choice Award 2016 as well. So, I think, even though there's still a long way to go it is good to see and celebrate this positive boost.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

I think, sadly, there is still a lot of over-sexualisation of women in music, that makes it looks as if you can only be successful if your body and moves take over your musical talent, or lack thereof.
At the same time I have happily noticed a stronger support system amongst female artists, where they stick together for the common good as well as back each other's work and success. No need for that 'prima donna' attitude that can only worsen and damage how women are perceived within the music industry, rather a 'together we can make a difference' way of thinking is what we really need.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

It's been encouraging seeing women fronting bands and I hope this will continue to grow in the future. But I'd also love to see more female engineers and producers be recognised and brought to light! And to have more women in management positions in the music industry. I think greater awareness has been raised on the issues women have to deal with within the music industry. People are talking about this matter more and more and that's important. The ultimate goal is that we won't be surprised anymore when a woman has success in the music industry, or in any industry really, because it will have become the norm.

Lorraine Long

Lorraine Long, Director of Communications, Charmfactory.

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

Seeing Taylor Swift give two fingers up to Kanye West at the Grammys. She did it with class and style. No man, or other person for that matter, should take away from someone else's success. It's a very ugly and undignified thing to do, and shows insecurity and jealousy. She dealt with it impeccably.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

Going on my personal experience, I've always seen women well represented within the music industry, from the companies and labels I work with and the artists we represent and have had the good fortune to work with some very strong female role models. That said, I know this is not the experience of all my female counterparts.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

Fundamentally, equality. Your sex should be irrelevant, it should come down to being the best person for the job and if you're doing a good job you should be rewarded fairly and equally.

Elise Cobain

I am a Producer at BBC Radio 1-1Xtra. I've spent my career working in music radio at online, commercial and public service broadcasting companies.

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

My personal highlights have been very concentrated on my business sector (radio/broadcast) so I'm sure I've missed a few! Radio stations have traditionally been pulled up for a male heavy staffing, particularly in specialist programming, but 2015 has been a fantastic year for women for those that I work on. Annie Mac being given the flagship show for specialist on BBC Radio 1 following Zane Lowe's departure to Apple Music, Clara Amfo took over from Fearne Cotton's show with seamlessly, A Dot was promoted to a 5-day a week show on BBC Radio 1Xtra and newcomer Jamz Supernova gained not only a regular weekend show on the same network, but has launched the flagship R&B show. Within production I've seen two successful BBC producers go on to gain high-level jobs at the newly formed Apple Music, one as Head of Music which is usually perceived as a very male dominated sector. I myself have also recently been given a highly competitive role as Playlist Programming & Curation Manager for Filtr UK (Sony Music UK's playlisting brand). The team is lead by three men and I never once felt my gender (or the way I looked or dressed for that matter) affected my chances. I'm seeing more and more that women who work hard are being rewarded with brilliant jobs and career progression seemingly regardless of their gender. This change in attitude is something to be celebrated.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

Radio is a prime example of positive 'visibility'. Annie Mac is being turned into a household name for new music/ BBC Radio 1 and new female faces are cropping up across radio stations in the UK. I pick up publications such as Music Week or receive reports from Next Big Thing in my inbox and see females in the lead. On the other hand, I have definitely visited other music labels or companies where there are considerably less females in the office or in certain parts of the business. I can't speak for all of them as I've not worked there and can't comment on the culture, but I think so many companies have changed their views on women in the workforce. I think there will be a delay in that the ramifications of that though that aren't going to be felt instantly. You can't hire a woman into a senior role just for the numbers to balance when other men are still in the position or have better experience; positive discrimination towards women isn't something I think is fair or necessary and I think the make-up of music sectors will become less skewed with time naturally.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

I'm fortunate enough to have not been caught up in any gender-biased sexism, scandal or bullying (mild or otherwise) in the workplace. My current employer/department within the BBC is actually female skewed, however, the top jobs are currently held by those in (to quote a colleague) "smart suits and brogues" (aka men). In this environment I feel like the success of a female lies in her decision to work hard, gather evidence of her skills and expertise and chase her dreams. It's encouraging, it's empowering and I don't think it'll be long before woman are taking those top roles as they gain the relevant experience to make them a suitable candidate. In this instance I want this culture to spread and become the norm.

But it's not always been so good. Previously in other commercial companies I did feel like women are still seen as a servicing and functional, rather than innovative, creative and leading. I worked in a role about 4-5 years ago where I felt talked down to be certain individuals and in one instance I was belittled by a senior member of staff, but I must stress these' individuals' are just that. Sadly it seems some of these individuals do have powerful positions and therefore can affect working practice, expectation and culture. My response to this culture was to leave; not only did they lose a blossoming member of the music/broadcast community but they tarnished their reputation as an employer, all due to one or two individuals.

I find it very sad to think some of my fellow female colleagues won't be allowed to have their chance to shine due to an archaic stereotype or viewpoint, passed down through older generations of managers, CEOs and work 'culture'. I can only urge that anyone working in this environment challenges this behaviour whether it be via an impartial service of reporting or a face-to-face chat and for companies to have a clear and measurable recruitment and promotional process to reduce unfairness. I also think the 'changes' will start to generate organically from us women. We can be just as confident and skilled as our male counterparts and those that work hard are being rewarded. I think we need to patient; a man who has worked 30 years in the industry, who has gained valuable experience and skills and worked hard for his company delivering results (along with a few other qualities and quirks) absolutely deserves a senior position. Women's lifestyle and attitude changes mean that soon a woman with the same profile will also be commonplace and I predict that those top level roles will start to diversify as woman aspire to achieve them.

Christal Yuen

My name is Christal, and I'm a music writer for HumanHuman and Sodwee.

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

My highlight for women in music is seeing more female artists band together and refusing to play the media game of her vs her (or she vs she).

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

I realized that when it comes to music I haven't paid much attention to visuals. I also think that listening to songs from under the radar (female) artists these days is much more symbolic, raw, and relatable. Recently I've been feeling really empowered listening to female vocalists like Sylvan Esso, Banks, Marian Hill, Transviolet and especially TĀLĀ. Maybe it's just how I listen to music, but in all these cases, the music came before the face. At the same time, I think the digital world of music allows for these artists to release music and be judged on their skill rather than their appearance. A contrasting example would be Taylor Swift. Her personal life (not her fault) is so exposed that her songs are hard to really connect to. Maybe things will change as the other artists rise to fame and start living under the same scrutiny.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

The recent verdict on Kesha' case is probably one of the few examples that upset me. I think, especially in the music industry, it's also about how the media chooses to portray an artist. We need to learn to separate music from the artists, especially with women in the music industry. There's a lot of misplaced eroticism in painting women as direct projections of their songs. Men get to play roles and their identity is given a lot more flexibility. But for women in music, they have to live their role - for an album concept (Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry) or for life. They're expected to maintain that image into their personal life as well. A female musician's personality ebbs and flows, just like anyone else's.

Erika Alvarez

My name is Erika Alvarez and I am the founder of A Great Escape Music Festival, an ambassador for School of Doodle and an active feminist advocate. I founded A Great Escape as a non-profit event that hopes to combine woman empowerment roots with social/environmental change and our passion for live music.

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

This year has been an incredible year for women in music. There has been a level of hope and honesty that has clearly been missing in the last couple of years. Artists such as Haim and Ellie Goulding have found their big break headlining the largest music festivals in the world, and slowly but surely gaining the well-deserved respect of the industry.

Thanks to mainstream female bands, young girls now have the opportunity to look up to bands that don’t consist of 4-5 male band members. As culturally diverse bands like Fifth Harmony and Little Mix rise to the top of the charts, they are given the opportunity to look up to people of all races, appearances and backgrounds for inspiration. With the recent Kesha controversy, powerful women in the music industry (such as Taylor Swift and Brit Award Winner Adele) have taken social media and other platforms to advocate or show support for women’s issues inside the business. As we continue to shed light on the problems women face, we have gathered a greater audience that is willing to listen to women and what they have to say.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

I think it’s still common for listeners to categorize women in music as fragile and whiney, but if they delved deeper into the strong female performer of our generation, they will find that artists like Lana del Rey and Florence Welch are not only vocally diverse but they are also fully capable of producing material of the same quality (or even greater) than the men who have sat on the throne for a couple terms too many. We also need to dismantle the idea of sex being the only marketing point for women. Sexualization of artists is not only superficial and antiquated, but it is also harmful to the artform.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

While women have been more included in the industry throughout the past year, women of color still need more support. Now our focus should shift from women in general to female minorities. Last but not least, I think it is important to voice the validation of young women’s music taste. It’s saddening to see teen girls being talked down to because their music taste is popular and prominent. When a band’s demographic is mostly female, they are automatically deemed as unworthy of respect, but if their demographics is mostly male the words “legendary” and “influential” are the first to come to mind. We need to make sure to include females in the industry, but we also need to approve of the opinions of young females.

Tsar B

Tsar B - artist based in Belgium

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

The Grimes documentary The Fader shot. I like the way she emphasizes her autonomy and strength, as well as her unacceptance of parochialism.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

Sometimes women in the music industry are perceived as an attractive medium between a bunch of guys that make the music and the general public, while actually people fail to realize that they are the foundation of the whole story.

Missy Scheinberg

I'm Missy and I work in management at Lunatic Entertainment and write for a handful of music blogs (Unrecorded, The Most Definitely, Sodwee.com, and the occasional one-off freelance piece).

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

If you've been following any blogs the past twelve months, you'd see the meteoric rise of female-fronted DIY garage rock bands. Sleater-Kinney's long-awaited return seemed to usher in a new era of similarly raw, guitar-led acts, with new releases from everyone from the raucous sounds of Hinds, Dilly Dally, Sheer Mag, Bully, Savages, Waxahatchee, and Hop Along to the lo-fi vibes of Girlpool, Frankie Cosmos, Colleen Green, Florist, Palehound, and Diet Cig. And don't forget about the Grammy-nominated(!!) Courtney Barnett and Wolf Alice! It was truly a banner year for the DIY space, which - excitingly enough - had its women at the forefront.

I think we need to shift all of our focus from the negative to the positive, as these past few months in the music industry have been tough for women with all of the coverage on Heathcliff Berru, Dr. Luke, and the lopsidedness of the Billboard Power 100. And while those are still serious issues, there's still so much good going on for women in the music industry that we should remember: Adele broke all the sales records, Katy Perry was the highest-paid musician of 2015, and Taylor Swift took live music to new heights with her all-star concerts. New artist Halsey sold out Madison Square Garden around six months in advance so incredibly early in her career; Rihanna released a stellar album with dark hip-hop-heavy production, which rose to the top of a usually male-dominated space; and while there's still a ways to go, women in country music like Kasey Musgraves, Maddie & Tae, and Cam only pushed harder after the notorious #SaladGate.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

As is evident by the Billboard Power 100, the music industry is very much a male-dominated game. But even so, there are so many power women who are slowly rising in the ranks. Beyond the obvious executives, there are many women agents, managers, A&Rs, publicists, talent-buyers, music supervisors, writers, curators, and tastemakers out there. Though with all the bad that has been happening with Berru and Dr. Luke, I've definitely noticed a more tight-knit community between women in music, which we need to only continue and strengthen.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

There's still this misconception that we can't do as good of a job as men if still there. I consider myself very lucky to be in a supportive environment, but there are still way too many lady friends in the music industry being mistaken for groupies or "someone's girlfriend". We need to somehow change our mentality.

Also, while I may be a bit biased because my company works on Australia's Laneway Festival, other festivals need to start taking notice; while most festival lineups have been notably very male-heavy, the most recent Laneway bill was topped by Chvrches, Grimes, Beach House, and Purity Ring. Talent-buyers, take note!

Katerina Koumourou

Digital Music publicist at ANASA Music PR, assistant music manager at JD Management and music contributor to COZY Mag.

Since last year’s International Women’s Day, what has been your highlight for women in music?

I wouldn’t say there’s been a particular highlight for me, but there have been a few. It’s been amazing to see so many female DJs getting recognition and shining throughout their sets, either live, online via Soundcloud/Mixcloud or on air. To name a few that I’ve either seen or heard absolutely kill their mixes recently - Hannah Faith (Soulection), Val Fleury, Alia Loren (Radar Radio), and Cõvco (NTS).

As someone who works with a lot of independent artists, I have to say that seeing Little Simz honoured on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, being chosen as one of 2016’s Hip-Hop Cash Princes (the first UK rapper to make this list), as well as Dazed Magazine’s #Dazed100 - is incredibly inspiring and she is constantly proving herself as an advocate for the UK Rap scene. To see her journey further ascend, while remaining true to herself and her craft, is motivating - especially as a successful black UK-based woman in a music scene saturated with men.

What are your thoughts on the visible representation of women in the music industry?

Despite the obvious misogyny and patriarchal views within the workings of the industry, in my direct experience with the industry in the last year I’ve personally come across a lot more women in visible positions of power - more so than I had done during the year prior. Most of the music editors that I’ve recently been dealing with are females. The blog I contribute to was started by a very driven young woman, who is noticed and praised for her passion and focus. My boss at JD Management is one of the most incredible people I have met in the industry since I began working within it, whose exceptional impact and insight into the industry - especially in the UK - has been rewarded on numerous occasions, recently winning the BMI sponsored Writer/Producer Manager Award.

I am representing/ have represented a lot of talented artists in the past year, a lot of whom are female and are being recognised for their talents both in the online world and beyond, such as Wolfie, Nadia Nair, Basheba, Haula and Emmavie. In my line of work, I feel a responsibility to support and represent female artists who have something important to say through their creativity and form of expression. Especially as the artists I have had the pleasure of working with write all of their material; some (like Emmavie) producing a lot of their music as well. Nadia Nair started her own label so she could release a body of work that she truly believes in, and in which she has poured her whole heart and passion.

Further than what I see within my reach of the industry and what I deal with in my own work, on a wider scale, the representation becomes a lot more questionable. Billboard’s Power 100 list this year, as pointed out by Suzanne Harrington for The Independent, is made up of 127 men and 14 women. One of the sentences that struck me in Billboard’s introductory article to the list - “The top three are so closely bunched, each deserved a cover of his own.” If you look at the top half of the Official Charts Top 40, as it stands on 5th March - there are only 4 songs by women (this excludes women who are feature vocals on male artists’ tracks): Rihanna feat. Drake - “Work”; Zara Larsson - “Lush Life” Adele - “When We Were Young” and Little Mix feat. Jason Derulo - “Secret Love Song”. When taking these two things into consideration, amongst other factors, it becomes unsurprising that awards ceremonies like the BRIT Awards are not more reflective of the phenomenal art being created by so many women. I think it’s quite offensive that one of the British Female Solo Artist nominations was Amy Winehouse - not as a disrespect to the legacy she has left after passing, but there are many living, breathing female artists that deserve recognition for their contribution to the UK music scene.

Kesha’s recent court case to break out of her contract with producer Dr Luke, who she claims drugged, raped and abused her, has been causing a stir online - and rightfully so, as it indicates where the priorities lie for those in control of the industry. Sony declining Kesha’s request to terminate the contract that ties Kesha down to work with Dr Luke, is a total dismissal of what should be a basic human right, for a woman to be able to work in an environment in which she feels safe. It’s pretty disgusting that the same label Kesha has previously made money for is now turning its back on her for the sake of making more financial gains. A positive to take from the situation, however, is that it’s encouraged Kesha’s female peers to publicly express their support for her: Adele when accepting her awards at the BRITS, Taylor Swift with her $250,000 donation, Lady Gaga, Grimes, and Lorde to name a few. Females standing together for their voice to be heard is empowering and I guess it's comforting that she is not standing completely alone with this. But when taking a closer look into the case it re-emphasises the under-representation of and lack of support for women within the industry.

Moving forward, what changes still need to happen?

I think the last two paragraphs in my last answer touches on parts of the industry that need to be revised and amended. But I feel like change must come from beneath the surface of these fancy awards shows and the charts. There is a formulaic machine working behind everything that is presented to us as a final product, and I think many are very quick to react to the final stretch of the marathon that makes up the industry. We must first look at the foundations - who are the chairmen of the MMF, who are the heads at the major labels, and who are the judging panels that put together the nominations and lists that the whole industry turn to for approval of what’s hot? Is there enough diversity (regarding gender AND race) within these corporations to encourage the changes needed?

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