As numbers show, it’s clear that the music industry is a man’s world. To find out the story behind the sad statistics, which show that women take only a small percentage in jobs such as promotors, managers and production, I talked to two women who not only work in music themselves, but are very much involved with the topic.
MUSIC’S A MAN’S WORLD
Gaëlle Vanhaverbeke works for booking agency Toutpartout, promoting bands such as Raketkanon, Kurt Vile and Chantal Acda. She also organizes her own showcase festival named Jakhals, by far the most exciting thing that happens in the village of Desselgem. Moreover, she wrote a masterful master thesis on the subject, researching the disparity gender in the industry. I had a chat with Gaëlle about why there are so few women to be found backstage and what her view is on how to help the situation.
Gaëlle went to every music organisation in Belgium and asked them about their employees. Next she did a statistical analysis to see how many women are employed in the industries and what kind of jobs they have. Her hypothesis got confirmed: the sector is overtly male in every kind of job, except for communication and assistant jobs. Following, she did some depth interviews with the women who are working in the industry and asked them about their experiences to find out why women are so underrepresented in this creative sector. She came to the conclusion that the sector doesn’t explicitly excludes women, but there are different factors having an influence on how it’s harder for women to start working, and moreover, to keep working in music.
The music industry is in a large way a reflection of our larger western society, where gender roles and stereotypes play a large influence on someone’s life. From our birth onwards, we’re taking decisions based on our “being a girl” or “being a boy”. The music industry is a hard business and the values that are seen as typical masculine – being though, professional, live to work – are the ones appreciated in the industry. A lot of women feel that they need to “give up” on their femininity if they want to keep up with the men. They often feel like they have to fight twice as hard to be taken as seriously as a man.
Working in music goes together with a certain lifestyle. Most people work as freelancers, meaning that there’s less financial security, and you are often on the job in the weekends at nights. This makes it very hard to combine your job with a family, and since it’s still traditional for women to take up the biggest part of the care, a lot of women stop working in music when they’re starting their family. It’s hard to tell your co-workers to cancel a concert on Saturday night because you have to take care of your child.
Gaëlle likes to emphasize that the music industry isn’t all that different from professional life in general and if we want to make a change in the part women we play, it’s not about one or two measurements that need to be taken, but more a change in culture. It’s also very important that when we see sexism happen, that we speak up. Women are often cautiaus to say something, cause they don’t want to be seen as “the one that nags about sexism.” But the most important thing according to Gaëlle is that women could work together more. Now, a woman often has the sense that she has to defend her job, because there’s already so little place for women in music. We need to support each other more. More equality between gender can only have a positive influence on the sector.
THE WOMEN ARE SAYING SO
Eline Van Audenaerde has always beein involved with music. She started playing in a band when she was fifteen, started her own blog and later helped out in a Brussels record label of a friend. Now she has two radio shows and her own company in which she coaches artists to develop their talents. Foremost, she is the leader of shesaidso Belgium, a network of women who work in the music industry.
Shesaidso started out by Andreea Magdalina in London in October 2014 because she felt like there was a need for a go-to place for women working in music. Although music’s mostly a boys’ club, there are of course lots of women working in it in all different kind of jobs, producers, managers, radio people, lawyers,… But you don’t often hear of them. That’s why shesaidso started out as a platform where these women can support each other carreers and form a community. Shesaidso is an online community, connecting all different kind of women in music who help each other out, give advice and share stories. Next to that, shesaidso also organizes networking events that are very popular, limited to only 30 places so you can easily get to know each other and hold a constructive discussion.
Since September 2015 shesaidso has a Belgian Committee, under the lead of Eline. Her experiences have taught her that women have a different approach when it comes to music and doing business in general and she wants to use shesaidso to highlight and acknowledge these differences. Women in general have more eye for detail and approach business in a more intuitive manner, while men are more focused on result and the practical side of things. It’s important to be conscious of these differences so women and men can work better together and Eline strongly believes that an organization which has a good man-woman balance results in a better product.
Eline herself has experiences with sexism working in the music industry but rather to get angry about it, she tries to get a discussion going. Shesaidso tries to get a positive discussion going on in which the focus is on how to solve a certain problem instead of pointing at the bad guy. If women’s position in music want to get better, there has to be change in culture and that’s not going to happen from one day to the next. Therefore the organization also wants to focus on education, organizing workshops and allowing students to come do an internship at shesaidso and help people to start a carreer in the music industry.