People have ideas about what it’s like working in the music industry. Travelling the world in luxurious tour buses and private jets, partying with celebrities in exclusive clubs. And the truth is, for some, this is the reality. But like many other industries, these benefits, and the countless others it affords, have traditionally been enjoyed mostly by men.

On March 8th, the world marks International Women’s Day, an event that celebrates the invaluable social, cultural and economic contributions that women make to society, many of which are often overlooked. The UK is often thought of as a progressive country, and in comparison to many others it is. But there are still glaring inequalities between men and women that need to be addressed.

There is a general assumption that industries based arounds arts, such as music, might be more equal than others, but this is far from the truth.

How are women affected?

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Gender pay gaps are the differing amounts that men and women are paid for doing the same job. Until relatively recently, the pay gap was considered by many to be a myth, and even today there are some who contest whether it really exists. However, a law was passed in 2017 that required any UK company with over 250 employees to release their gender pay gap stats, and the results were startling.

In 2018, across the three biggest music labels in the UK, Warner, Sony and Universal, the average difference in pay between men and women is 29.6%.

Admittedly this figure saw a decrease of over 4% from the year before, when the figure was closer to 34%, and any decrease in the gap is positive, but it is undeniable that it needs to be closed more quickly. While there are complex reasons that go beyond simple, unacceptable sexism, they nowhere near make up for the huge inequality between male and female wages.

One of the more encouraging figures that comes up when researching gender gaps in the music industry is that almost 50% of industry professionals in the UK are women. However, when it comes to artists booked at live events, the results are vastly different. A 2018 BBC study found that of 756 acts playing at major music festivals across the UK, 583 were all male, with only a further 76 with mixed gender lineups. 

So how can we make the music industry a more inclusive environment?

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Fair Representation

Many of the gender gaps have been closing in recent years, but none of this is by accident, rather it is often down to concerted efforts by individuals and organisations. The 1975, fronted by ACM alum Matt Healy, have publicly announced they will no longer play festivals that do not book an equal amount of male, female and non-binary artists.

Another, and perhaps the most prominent, of these initiatives is Keychange 50:50. Set up by Reeperbahn Festival, PRS Foundation and Musikcentrum Öst, companies signing the Keychange pledge aim to make the music industry gender-balanced by 2022. With over 300 companies, ranging from small venues to major festivals and organisations, signing the pledge across the world, there is real change coming.

Some would argue that, in terms of percentages, the festival lineups are in line with the amount of female musicians active in the UK. So since the majority of popular acts are male, from a business perspective festivals make more money from booking majority male acts. But this doesn’t help to make the music industry a more inclusive environment. As an industry, music should be actively encouraging more women to enter the industry as performers, and one of the most effective ways of doing this is to have more female representation at live events.

Educate yourself and others

Outside of international pledges, one of the main ways to fight against these inequalities is education. Facts and figures can be boring, but when they are from legitimate studies, they become incredibly hard to disagree with. Many are still unaware of the disparities between males and females in the music industry. Since around half of music industry professionals in the UK are women, they may look around their offices and not understand that the problems run deeper than just the amount of women employed. Simply broadcasting the facts can effect change.

What’s ACM doing this year?

IWD Panel Screen (1)Each year ACM joins in with International Women’s Day celebrations. This year, Ellie Fitzgerald, Director of Marketing and Brand, is hosting an event at ACM Guildford. Head to the Electric Theatre on 6th March for networking and a panel discussing the role women play in the music industry. As well as this, each campus has posters on display celebrating the female members of staff and their achievements.

ACM International Women’s Day Spotify Playlist

Featuring acclaimed artists, as well as some of ACM’s finest:

The reality is that while women are the people who are most negatively affected by sexism in the music industry, it’s everyone’s problem. Institutionalised sexism cannot be effectively fought if it isn’t being combated by everyone. Companies can afford to pay men and women equally. Festivals have a duty to fairly represent genders. If you are aware, and you care, spread the word.


If you dream of achieving success in the creative industries, come along to one of our Open Days. We can’t wait to see what our alumni do next – and we’d love to welcome you into the ACM community.

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