Women in the music industry – Empowerment in a ‘f*cked up’ system

Woman and Music 2

LAST YEAR, Renowned Danish Festival Roskilde had a tiny 15 female artists perform out of 170 total acts. This figure was presented in the documentary “Ride the Balance“, alongside statistics showing a 90 per cent majority of male teachers at the Danish Music Academy, and that 88 per cent of Danish copyright agency ‘Koda’s profits go to men. This gives off a very clear message: women in the Danish music industry are a minority.

Global Nakedness

These statistics aren’t isolated to Denmark. In 2012, it was found throughout the music industry that, ‘overall’, less than a third of industry insiders were female. The same year, PRS for Music reported only thirteen per cent of their songwriters and composers were women out of  95,000 total members. On average, female artists are paid comparatively less than their male counterparts.



In instances where women in the business do ‘make it’, they often conform to the economic capital guarantee of objectification and sexualisation, argues Danish rapper Linkoban (Ling Ly), within the documentary:”There’s a huge excess of something extremely naked…and then comes the music”, she says.

American artist Amanda Palmer – who left her former record label after they disapproved of her clothing and body image in a music video – takes this argument even further. She questions if even the women in the music industry who consider themselves to be empowered through sexual objectification really can be so, when the power comes at the cost of ‘playing a game’ in a ‘fucked up system’.

Empowerment or otherwise. It’s argued by Canadian website Sheknows that – with the exception of Adele –  it’s “rare to see a women in the top 100 best selling tracks who keeps her clothes on”. This general acceptance of pornography in mainstream entertainment, argues female artist Jomi Massage, provides inadequate role models and messages and can be damaging to young girls.



Talent-less female artists as more degrading than nudity 

So what can be done? Practically, there are positives and negatives stacked up on each side of the debate on affirmative action. Positively discriminating in favour of female artists or staff risks putting women into a tainted industry before they are ready to take it on. Similarly, quotas suggest a disregard for talent, and seem like charity or pity options for many of existing artists.

In our interview with Lydmor, she argues that this sort of pity is ‘degrading’ to women in the industry. Arguing that men are actually less liberated than women in some respects of the business, she believes that there’s nothing wrong with the industry other than the problems of the job itself:

“I mean, it can be really shitty to make music. You’re broke all the time. The industry is narcissistic and a little bit alcoholic. I don’t know if you want to push someone into it, if they aren’t sure that they really want it. Then it’s better to do something else”.

Grass Roots Drummers 

The problem isn’t at the top – it’s at the bottom, a general consensus concludes within the documentary. We need to educate young women in rhythmic instruments and healthy desires to learn and experiment in music from an early age.

Nelson Can's Maria

Nelson Can’s Maria

Nelson Can, in their interview with Pandeia, agree with the sentiment, adding that the issue is proving to young women that they can be whatever sort of musicians they want:

“It’s not necessarily a problem that there aren’t more women in music, but it’s a problem if someone feels that they are held back from doing it. We want to show that you can do it, and that you can be a different kind of band”. 

In response to the disproportionate number of women in the industry, Denmark has joined other nations (notably, Sweden and the USA) in the introduction of rock camps for teenage girls to learn and have hand at performing. Denmark’s “Pop Pilot”, a camp which launched in 2012 boasts to bring in the best in the industry to teach 20 young lucky teens how to play, write and perform through an intense training program.

Getting women ‘behind the drum kit’ (so – according to the documentary – “they can become the boys themselves”) and into music production at an early age seems to be a crucial part of tackling gender inequality in the music industry. Denmark, and its female artists, have shown a willingness to see this strategy through for the next generation of their musicians. The question is whether industry elites – in Europe and internationally- will pay heed to the rallying cries of diversity and equality, against the backdrop of a continuously fucked up system.

Lucy love

Lucy love


Words: Rachel Barr 

Photos: Martin Nauton, Tatiana Tilly

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