A scathing report from a UK parliamentary commission asserts that women face “endemic misogyny and discrimination” in the music business – though the report does note significant progress in women reaching parity with men within the industry.
The “Misogyny in Music” report, released on Tuesday (January 30) by the Women and Equalities Committee, describes “a ‘boys’ club’ where sexual harassment and abuse is common, and the non-reporting of such incidents is high. Victims who do speak out struggle to be believed or may find their career ends as a consequence.”
Despite a continuing increase in the presence of women in the industry, “women encounter limitations in opportunity, a lack of support and persistent unequal pay,” the report stated.
“Female artists are routinely undervalued and undermined, endure a focus on their physical appearance in a way that men are not subjected to, and have to work far harder to get the recognition their ability merits.”
Some of the report’s harshest criticisms were focused on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, with the report alleging that women who make claims of harassment may face retaliation.
“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,” stated the report, which was released five days before the 2024 Grammy Awards.
“Organizations should not assume a low incidence of reported cases means they do not have perpetrators of harassment and sexual abuse within their employment.”
Misogyny in Music Report
It cited the testimony of a number of women, including singer-songwriter Rebecca Ferguson, who has had four top-10 albums in the UK since coming in second as a contestant on X Factor in 2010.
Ferguson told the committee that she faced severe retaliation by her management company after alleging sexual harassment.
“Staff were instructed to ruin my personal relationships, staff were told to ignore calls from my children and to not pass messages on when they tried to call me… Comments were said to me or spoken of me such as; ‘When you earn as much money as you do, you do as we fucking say’,” the report quoted Ferguson as saying.
“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that non-reporting [of sexual harassment] is high,” the report stated. “Organizations should not assume a low incidence of reported cases means they do not have perpetrators of harassment and sexual abuse within their employment.”
However, the report did note “encouraging” signs that women are making inroads into the music industry, citing a 2022 report from Music UK showing that the share of women in higher level roles in the industry is growing, with women in senior-level roles rising from 40.5% in 2020 to 45.1% in 2022. In mid-level roles, the share of women rose from 51.2% in 2020 to 53.3% in 2022.
“Across the record labels there are significantly more women in frontline roles than ever before,” the report stated.
Citing written testimony presented to the committee, the report said the major recording companies reported near or above parity for women in senior leadership teams: 50% at Universal Music UK, 55% at Sony Music UK and 48% at Warner Music UK.
“With respect to A&R, a department that has traditionally employed more men than women, the labels told us that they now had dedicated programs to consider barriers to entry and increase the representation of women,” the report noted.
“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.”
Silvia Montello, Association of Independent Music
The report set out a number of recommendations, including the creation of a licensing regime for artist managers, studios, music venues and security staff; expanding the UK’s Equality Act to include protection for freelance workers; and a retroactive moratorium on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to prevent their use to cover up sexual harassment.
“The Misogyny in Music report makes for uncomfortable but sadly unsurprising reading,” said Silvia Montello, CEO of the Association of Independent Music (AIM).
“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. 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.”
She added: “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.”Music Business Worldwide