Wtitten evidence from the F-List [0034]


Vick Bain[*] and Dr Metka Potočnik[**]



Executive Summary


0.1 This submission is on behalf of The F-List for Music (The F-List), a not-for-profit Community Interest Company representing over 5,000 female and gender nonconforming musicians in the UK.  In this submission we answer the questions asked by the Women and Equalities Committee and we report on the high levels of misogyny, sexism, and gender-based harassment faced by musicians and those working in the business workforce in the UK.  We submit that we do not support censorship of musical lyrics but instead stress the answer is for the industry to invest in and support more female and gender nonconforming musical talent. We outline the white male dominated hierarchies of the industry and therefore that there are few organisations who are conducting specific research and offering help for women who are experiencing sexism or misogyny. These organisations require better signposting and awareness. There is also fragmented support and reliance on under-funded initiatives to combat sexism and misogyny in the live music space, again which needs better funding and coordination.  We outline the greater expectation of women in music, dampening and sometimes derailing their careers, and we end with numerous recommendations for government, the music industry and for further research in this vitally important area. 



1 Introduction to The F-List for Music CIC


1.1 This submission is on behalf of The F-List for Music (The F-List). The F-List is the first directory of its kind to feature up-to-date information on UK-based women and gender nonconforming musicians, songwriters, and composers, in all genres of music.[1] Built on a WordPress web-platform and with approximately 4,000 individual musicians and over 1,300 bands with women in them, it is a growing community, supported by a not-for-profit Community Interest Company which officially launched on 23 November 2020.[2]


1.2 The board of directors (including the authors of this submission) consists of 12 women from across the United Kingdom (UK), representing all genres of music and is diverse in terms of location, age, sexual orientation, religion, parent status, and ethnicity. The board is committed to creating a future where gender equality is celebrated and represented throughout the music industry. It is still a fact that many women and gender nonconforming musicians, especially those of Black, Asian and minority ethnic heritage, do not receive the professional opportunities their male counterparts may enjoy.


1.3 Analysis has shown 86% of signed songwriters and publishers; and just over 80% of signed artists on record labels in the UK are male.[3] This results in 74.5% of the artists booked to headline 50 large UK festivals in 2022 being male only acts[4] and significant inequality in the popular UK music charts[5] and on radio airplay.[6] On average, music creators signed by record labels earn more than those who are not signed; and male music creators earn £7,000 a year more than women in the sector.[7] This is despite 46% of 100,115 music performance degree students in the UK over the five-year period to 2018 being female.[8] It is submitted, there are several social barriers resulting in these statistics and sexism is one of the most prevalent, it being an important control mechanism used against women.[9]


1.4 Sexism is the belief that women are less competent than men and on the continuum misogyny as a hatred of women an extreme, hostile, form of sexism.[10] This prejudice often leads to discrimination and has a range of forms from benevolent sexism[11] to outright hostility.


1.5 The F-List has been created as both, a response to this situation, and as a solution to help UK women and gender nonconforming musicians overcome structural barriers endemic in the music industry, including sexism and misogyny, by providing training and facilitating professional and profile opportunities.  All of The F-List board have experienced many of the issues that are raised in this paper but we are not going to divulge personal experiences, rather that of anonymous research and evidence as it is safer to do so. Moreover, The F-List is committed to the principle of excellent and robust research, resulting in evidence-based campaigning. In May 2022, we launched the F-List Gender in Music Research Hub,[12] with a steering group consisting of numerous top UK university Professors, Doctors, and PhD researchers; an inter-disciplinary research group exploring gender in music from differing standpoints.


1.6 We are therefore submitting evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee because we are well placed to do so. Our response is grounded in our lived experiences as women working in the music industry combined with our expertise as feminist music industry researchers.

2 What correlation exists, if any, between misogynistic lyrics and violence against women and girls?


2.1 The vast majority of popular music content is created by male songwriters, even of songs that eventually end up being performed by female artists. The influential Annenberg report Inclusion in the Recording Studio[13] concluded that a mere ten male songwriters were responsible for 22.4% of the 1,000 most popular songs from 2012 to 2021 in the US Billboard charts with many of these songs crossing over into the UK charts too. Only 12.7% of songwriters on these songs are female. Less than 1% of those same songs were written by only female songwriters, 57% had no female writer at all. This leads to a gendered distortion in who gets to convey the stories and messages that are embedded in our popular culture and repeated countlessly in pubs, clubs, festivals, on our radio airwaves and on demand via streaming services all over the globe. And this music influences what become our social norms. 


2.2 The gendered language in music lyrics has long been recognised.[14] Songs written and performed by men about women can often appear innocuous. In addition, many could be considered benevolently sexist, such as referring to women in gendered stereotypical ways that could be seen as positive but fragile or subordinate and in need of protection[15] with terminology such as “baby, “sweet,” “lovely” and so on. The portrayal of women in traditional gendered roles crosses over many music genres such as rap, hip-hop, country, rock, alternative, and dance[16] and which is also ageist, racist, and heteronormative.


2.3 There has also been a corresponding increase over the past five decades in outright misogynistic language describing and referring to women in derogatory ways in music lyrics.[17] Researchers examining 100 top US Billboard chart songs found emergent themes relating to men against women including: men and power; sex as a top priority for men; objectification of women; sexual violence; women defined by having a man, and women as not valuing themselves.[18] And there is further research that indicates violent song lyrics increase negative emotions that can lead to aggressive thoughts and attitudes and a greater acceptance of and desensitisation towards the use of violence against women.[19] However, whilst there is a strong correlation with music which impacts the attitudes of society and vice versa, it is more difficult to prove a causal link and we call for further research to be conducted in this area.


2.4 Female artists have increasingly been attempting to take back control of society’s misogynistic narrative about them. From the punk artists of the 1970s (e.g., The Slits, Siouxsie Sioux, Poly Styrene), to the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s (e.g., Bikini Kill, Hole, Babes in Toyland), to more recent female rappers of the past decade (e.g., Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, Megan Thee Stallion), women have reclaimed control over their position in society by singing about their viewpoint as women, their sexuality, their bodies, their relationships and place in society. Often the lyrics used are controversially explicit and, to some shocking because women are not expected to take up such roles and do not conform to the ‘right’ (or ‘accepted’) type of femininity.[20] Ironically, there is often a misogynistic backlash to such female artists with a corresponding racist element to such responses that upholds both patriarchy and white supremacy.[21] This corresponds to broader behaviours towards ‘women that dare step out of line’ as reported by researchers.[22]


2.5 This situation also needs to be balanced with artistic freedom of cultural expression. There are corresponding similarities between music and the artistic forms of novel writing, theatre and film making and indeed there are problematic depictions of women in music videos and on social media. Music videos are often created through a male gaze with dubious and narrow portrayals of women as little more than sex objects with no agency.[23] All of these cultural forms of expression can contain negative and misogynistic views towards women[24] and whilst there are warnings given by the British Board of Film Classification[25] in prohibiting films shown to certain age-groups; outright bans remain rare. The BBC for many decades pursued a semi-official policy of banning or censoring certain songs either for political or sexually explicit content reasons[26] but now state they do not have such a ban in place and as such is left to individual DJs and radio stations to make censorship decisions.


2.6 Hate crimes are acts of violence or hostility directed at people because of who they are and can include verbal abuse. UK Law, however, does not yet include sex or gender in its description of hate speech and in the recent Law Commission’s report on Hate Crime Laws[27] recommended that sex or gender specifically not be included, citing that despite a vast amount of campaigning supporting the move it could cause barriers to justice by creating a requirement for further evidence.[28] Whilst we do not support that view, there are also convincing recommendations in that report to create protections for performers in plays and films which may portray content of inciting hate.[29]  At the same time, there is no ‘morality clause’ in copyright law, which would prevent misogynistic lyrics from copyright protection.[30] As long as the lyrics are the author’s own intellectual creation they will attach copyright protection of the owner of copyright.[31]


2.7 It is our position that whilst we do not approve of, like, or support lyrical content if there is glorification of or overt incitement to abuse or harm women, we recognise this needs to be balanced with artistic freedom of expression. We submit that the solution for reducing the sexist and misogynistic nature of music must lie in a re-balancing of songwriting and performance of music from a woman’s perspective. Women’s stories need to be heard in increased numbers. The music industry needs to invest in more diverse talent both in terms of its songwriters, composers, and its performing artists by signing (financially investing in) equally and proportionally men, women, and non-binary musicians. Only when this happens will greater and more diverse viewpoints, stories and life experiences be expressed in both music lyrics and how women and gender nonconforming individuals are physically represented in music promotional materials and videos


3 What types of support exists for women experiencing sexism or misogyny in the music industry? How can they report problems or abuse?


3.1 There are numerous membership organisations representing various facets across the music industry depending on work specialisation although few of them, only the Musicians Union and the Incorporated Society of Musicians, have conducted research or given specific support to women experiencing sexism or misogyny. Most of the representative industry organisations and ‘the Majors’[32] remain white male dominated in both their leadership and their membership and many continue to have a racial element too, with Black women being particularly underrepresented.[33] Male dominated industries tend to have higher incidences of sexual harassment and abuse.[34] 


3.2 Sexual harassment is unwanted sexual conduct causing a hostile environment[35] and is a form of misogyny which acts as a control mechanism to inhibit and remove women from the workplace, sometimes with potentially devastating impacts.[36] This is despite legislation making it unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.[37] 


3.3 A notable exception to the male dominance in membership bodies is the Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM) with a predominantly female leadership team and membership.[38] The ISM offers legal advice, including employment rights advice, to all of its members free of charge and handles several hundred such cases per year.[39] ISM also offers a telephone counselling service and signposts to other relevant support organisations. And while numerous membership organisations represent various forms of musicians (e.g., composers, musicians, studio professionals) and business owners including music managers and record labels the only representative organisation for those working in the supporting workforce, as well as all forms of musicians; it is the ISM who ‘represent those working professionally in music.[40] 


3.4 In 2018 the ISM published two reports into harassment and discrimination in music. The first report titled Dignity in Work[41] revealed that 60% of the nearly 600 respondents stated that they had experienced discrimination, including sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour, with 71% of this group identifying as female and 1% as ‘other. The second report, titled ‘Dignity in Study,was co-authored with Equity and the Musicians Union.[42] This report investigated harassment and discriminatory behaviours in education settings, and found that abuse and harassment start in education with 37% of respondents having experienced gender-based discrimination whilst studying. The ISM has recently finished gathering evidence for a further Dignity at Work report which will update on progress, if any, made over the near 5-year period since the first research was conducted. One of the authors of this inquiry report, Vick Bain, is also co-authoring the ISM report, which will be published later this year, 2022 (and can be supplied to the Committee, as soon as available)


3.5 Sexual harassment is prevalent across all parts of society and in our workplaces, but we argue that in music it takes specific forms because of the focus on, and sexualisation of, women’s bodies as performers and in the extreme power imbalances that come about particularly with male musicians or record label owners[43] who have achieved the vast financial rewards, status, privileges, and protection that come with music industry success. Workers in the music industry in Australia, to which the UK bears many similarities, described a normalised industry culture of sexual coercion and threat, toxicity, inequality, and the subordination of women.[44] Research, published by Jones and Manoussaki in 2022, investigating bullying and harassment in the UK music industry, describes these actions as being “completely entangled in its [the industry’s] fabric” with 99% of women who responded to their survey reporting having been bullied and 96% having been harassed.[45]  The Musicians Union surveyed their members in 2019 indicating 48% of the respondents had experienced sexual harassment but 58% had witnessed it,[46] the disparity perhaps caused because of the higher percentage of male musicians in their membership.


3.6 Several research papers confirm that sexual harassment is prevalent in creative organisations, with women considering it a part of their work culture and a normalised aspect of business they have to learn how to negotiate.[47] Researchers in the Netherlands working in the creative industries found that there are four root causes contributing to its prevalence: (1) industry cultures; (2) gendered power relations; (3) informal social networks and (4) high competition for jobs which all contributed to tolerance for sexual harassment.[48] Gendered power relations refer to the unequal power dynamic of those who are harassing them (someone further up the hierarchy who may have power over their careers) which means they could lose their job/role/label contract, especially for young artists just starting out, and also the fear of being given a reputation for causing trouble, with a potential consequence of not being able to secure further work in music at all


3.7 There is also an intersectional compounding of harassment with Black women being particularly susceptible to racism as well as gender-based abuse. Campaigning organisation Black Lives in Music, set up at the end of 2020, published important research in 2021[49] into the experiences of nearly 2,000 musicians and music professionals, revealing a high level of systemic racism throughout the industry.  Women are particularly affected: reporting more instances of abuse, 80% of respondents had experienced discrimination, and other impacts such as lesser pay and career progression resulting in lower levels of mental well-being as a consequence


3.8 There is also an increased risk of being harassed or losing one’s job/role for women who are pregnant or have children. The ISM’s Dignity at Work research reported quotes from women who were either told outright that they were not being kept on because they had had a baby or they simply lost their roles more covertly.[50] This is the lived reality, despite the prohibition of direct discrimination in relation to pregnancy or maternity in the Equality Act 2010 (although there is no specific provision against indirect discrimination in relation to pregnancy or maternity). UK Music’s biennial Diversity Workforce surveys have since 2016 demonstrated the disappearance of women from the workforce whilst in their 40s, the period when many women are raising children.[51] In addition, research from charity Parents & Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA) and Birkbeck University revealed that 12% of respondents (parents in performing arts) had left the sector as a result of bullying and discrimination.[52]


3.9 Reporting of problems, such as abuse, remains fraught with challenges. People in all industries rely on the Equality Act 2010 to give them protection from sexual harassment but in the ISM Dignity at Work research it was demonstrated that only 23% went on to officially report the harassing behaviour. Under-reporting is an issue in the music industry. Of the 77% who did not officially report it, 81% of them cited fear (of losing work/not being taken seriously/of perpetrator) as the reason they did not do so. In 2019 95% of creative companies were micro-businesses (fewer than 10 employees) which is higher than in the rest of the economy[53] and may lead to issues reporting harassment in such small teams. Currently victims bear the burden of holding harassers and employers to account, with all the subsequent potential risks. We therefore support the recommendation from the Women and Equalities Committee in 2019 for a mandatory duty on employers to be proactive, rather than simply reactive, in protecting workers from harassment and for a statutory code of practice to support them in doing this.[54]


3.10 In non-employment relationships (freelance, contractual, …) alternative solutions will have to be legislated. 72% of those in the music, performing and visual arts workforce in 2018[55] and 83% of all musicians are self-employed[56] and their precarious working conditions mean that despite the fact they may be protected under the terms of the Equality Act 2010, many remain unsure of who to complain to, or indeed whether it is (at all) practical to do so, when they were (only) contracted for a one-night or other short-term engagement. It is therefore crucial that the Equality Act 2010 is broadened to specifically include self-employed creative workers in its scope of protection, including those that have signed recording and/or publishing contracts. 


3.11 There is also the fear of victimisation from the perpetuator to carry out further, more harmful, behaviour. And just as troubling is the growing phenomenon of employers inhibiting complaints procedures in order to protect their reputation, or indeed to protect ‘valuable’ male perpetrators, a process known as institutional betrayal.[57] Or indeed carrying out retaliative actions against the victims including pushing them out of their jobs and sometimes their chosen industry, derailing their careers, often silencing them through the widespread use of Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs).[58] Researchers in the US have explored this phenomenon noting in the US legal system at that time 25% of all employment claims included complaints about employer retaliation.[59] 


3.12 Following on from the report on Dignity in Work, the ISM, alongside the Musicians Union, initiated an industry-wide Code of Practice to which nearly 120 organisations have signed-up.[60] We welcome such public statements of action but are cautious in believing this will eradicate incidences of sexual harassment in music. We submit stronger protections must be given to people coming forward with complaints and stronger penalties awarded against organisations that are found to have retaliated against victims of sexual harassment. Without significant consequences or robust enforcement mechanisms, regulations are unlikely to reach beyond ‘good intentions.’


3.13 The F-List supports the campaign group Can’t Buy My Silence[61] in their work of banning the use of NDAs in cases involving sexual harassment and discrimination with over 60 UK Universities, including numerous specialist music providers, who have signed up to the Can’t Buy My Silence charter. We call on the organisations of the music industry to follow suit and which would include a retrospective moratorium on NDAs signed up to date with a promise given to those that have signed them that they will not be pursued for cost recovery if they discuss their experiences of misogyny and sexism in the music industry. In the US there is also proposed legislation called the Stop Silencing Survivors Act,[62] which would prohibit employers from barring employees from disclosing information related to any future allegation of human rights law (including sexual harassment and discrimination) being included in their employment contracts.


3.14 The F-List, as a grassroots start-up not-for-profit organisation, does not currently have the funds to offer specific legal advice or replicate the services of long-established organisations such as the ISM. That notwithstanding, it does sign-post to over 60 Sister Organisations who arecampaigns, feminist initiatives and other women in music directories we support primarily aimed at promoting women in music’ and also other relevant organisations which may offer relevant advice.[63] These incredible initiatives are primarily run by passionate and committed women in music, usually with little or no funding and official support, in order to help other women in music in a variety of ways such as mentoring and advice useful to their survival in the industry or campaigning to raise awareness in specific musical niches and genres. We give special mention to WeAreMusic[64] who are a recently launched initiative signposting to help and resources for those working in music find help and support about bullying and harassment.


3.15 The F-List has held just under thirty free, online, seminars and workshops in the past 18 months with over 600 women and gender nonconforming musicians. All who participated were given a safe space in which they have learned about various aspects of the music industry, technical and artistic proficiency, and coaching sessions. For many women this is the first time they have experienced an all-female learning environment and the response has been enormously positive. In addition, the F-List launched an all-female commercial studio training program, supported by Help Musicians branded as a Culture of Belonging. This program takes four or five women or gender nonconforming musicians into a top commercial studio (Miloco Studios) and gives them an entire focused weekend gaining experience and confidence in a professional studio environment with a top female production and engineering team. Considering the often-negative experiences women can face in studio environments,[65] again the feedback from these weekends is overwhelmingly positive and we will be conducting longitudinal impact assessments with all participants. Finally, we remain committed, as stated at the start of this response, to high-quality and robust research into women’s experiences of music and that is organised under the auspices of the F-List Gender in Music Research Hub.[66]


3.16 We therefore submit that effective misogyny prevention, including sexual harassment and abuse, demands action at educational, music industry, societal and legislative levels with the message that misogyny, including sexual harassment, is never acceptable. This will involve more awareness of the organisations that can help, such as the ISM, and also more funding available to grassroots organisations such as The F-List to enable them to further carry out their support for women and gender nonconforming individuals in music.  


4 How safe do women and girls feel at live music concerts and festivals?


4.1 Research indicates that safety for women and girls at live music concerts and festivals remains a serious issue. Experiences of safety and crime are gendered, and women are significantly more likely to experience sexual harassment and sexual assault than men. In pubs, clubs and festivals large amounts of alcohol can be consumed, alongside the use of recreational drugs, and can leave women in a particularly vulnerable position to predatory men. In 2017 alcohol awareness charity Drinkaware reported that 54% of students had been sexually harassed on nights out with 51% saying this happened every time they went out.[67]


4.2 Festivals in particular, are unique environments in that they usually involve multiple nights camping with oftentimes many tens of thousands of party revellers. Festivals of certain genres and sub-cultures may promote themselves as being progressive and libertarian, adding to an atmosphere of freer behavioural codes and egalitarianism but conversely women are still very much at risk. Festivals may seem fantastical, other-worldly and beyond the usual day to day humdrum but in fact they mimic mainstream society’s rules and prescriptions, magnifying gender-sexual power dynamics and all its concomitant risks.[68] 


4.3 Reports of incidents of sexual violence at music festivals has increased in recent years. In 2018, YouGov reported that 22% of all festival goers, 30% of all female festival attendees and 43% of women under 40 have experienced some form of unwanted sexual behaviour at a UK festival. Academic researchers are now focused on the issue of sexual violence at UK music festivals. A recent paper reported similar statistics to the YouGov report arguing that while many felt totally safe at festivals (with good networks around them), a third of women had been harassed and 8% had been sexually assaulted.[69] Alarmingly few, only 1%, reported their experiences to festival staff and even fewer to the police. This displays an almost total lack of trust in the authorities, who are in principle entrusted with the maintenance of order, and where needed, the protection of women. 


4.4 Further research centred on the music scene across Leeds found sexual violence mostly being perpetrated by men against women. This can lead to women no longer feeling comfortable in the venues where the assaults occur, which in turn promotes male dominance; ultimately meaning women reduce or stop going to live music events.[70] Whilst other research conducted last year by the Women at Night Taskforce set up by Lady of the House and SaveNightLife reported 72.5% of respondents felt comfortable approaching venue staff and/or security for help if needed, with only 7% of security staff being women[71] and only a third of music venues having policies about sexual harassment more can be done. They are ultimately reducing their economic viability by not appropriately tackling this issue.[72]


4.5 Numerous organisations and initiatives have been set up in the past few years in order to raise awareness of the risks, to educate people about how to keep safe and to be able to better protect ones friends when they are out, to signpost people to helpful resources, and also to train organisations to better protect their attendees and staff whilst at, or working at, gigs and festivals. These include Safe Gigs for Women,[73] Good Night Out,[74] Safety in Music,[75] the Association of Electronic Music Diversity and Inclusion initiative,[76] the Mayor’s Women’s Night Safety Charter,[77] UN Women Safe Spaces in Music,[78]  Safer Spaces,[79] Girls Against[80], the Association of Independent Festivals’ Safer Spaces at Festivals Campaign[81] and the above mentioned Women at Night Taskforce.[82] There is also a safety in commercial studios charter recently launched by female collective Cactus City[83] (studios are another space of male domination). There are also several campaigns aimed directly at men, educating them about consent, such as White Ribbon[84] and who have a presence at festivals such as Glastonbury. But with over 1,000 music venues in the UK,[85] just under 7,000 nightclubs,[86] countless pubs who host music nights, and nearly 900 festivals running in 2017[87] before the pandemic, these laudable initiatives remain underfunded, uncoordinated, and un-monitored.


4.6 With a lack of consistent and trusted protection from venue and festival staff, part of the education of women on how to keep safe in these environments also comes from sometimes hard-learned personal experience and informal peer to peer conversations.  Women learn to set up buddy systems, never take drinks from strangers, cover their drinks to prevent ‘spiking’, and often carry self-protective tools such as rape alarms, sprays, or knives (even if illegal).[88] This culture of self-reliance stems out of what cultural academic Christina Scharff refers to in her paper ‘Prepare Her for Sexism’[89] in that girls and young women are taught to handle sexism themselves individually rather than a movement towards challenging gendered attitudes and behaviours at a societal or sectorial level


4.7 Women who work in the night time industries also suffer.  Research in 2021 found that 74.8% respondents had adapted their behaviour to overcompensate for their gender and 60.5% had experienced sexual discrimination, harassment, or assault.[90]   Female musicians are also at risk from audiences and fans.[91] The statistics laid out above indicate atmospheres of male dominance and it is in these spaces that female and gender nonconforming musicians have to perform.  Women on stage may be seen as ‘easy targets’ and receive higher levels of verbal abuse, heckling, disruption, unwanted touching, and physical assault than their male counterparts, all heightened by alcohol intoxication.[92] The anonymity in these spaces and lack of intervention by venue security leads to a toleration of such behaviours and increased risk to female musicians. The lower levels of women on event and festival line-ups are almost certainly influenced by the working conditions we have described above.  Post-performance abuse can also extend beyond the actual performance into the digital arena and whilst there is growing amount of research into online abuse, and how it is gendered,[93] across society there is a gap in our understanding of how this specifically impacts female performers. We submit female and gender nonconforming musicians need protection from third party harassment and this needs reinstated into the Equalities Act 2010.


4.8 At festivals and clubs where music is performed The F-List recommends a call for greater awareness of gender-based sexual harassment and assault via specialised training for all security teams and staff and information provided to audiences. The safety initiatives outlined above need significantly better funding and coordination with appropriate authorities. There also needs to be better understanding of the issues that female musicians face in these environments with separate and safe changing areas provided as a minimum and zero tolerance cultures for women on stage being heckled or threatened. We also submit there needs to be greater education and understanding in society as a whole about enthusiastic consent and the definitions of rape and sexual assault and countering rape culture myths. This needs to start in secondary education through to the university and conservatoire system and continue onto industry with regular training provided to organisations of all sizes about employer responsibilities towards all of its employees including the freelancers and musicians on their creative rosters.  


5. What expectations are there on women working in the music industry compared to men?


5.1 There has also been an increased participation over the five­years to 2018 for women in higher education in all areas of music specialisation, with women at undergraduate level increasing their participation from 38.94% to 43.02%, and women at postgraduate level from 47.59% to 49.40%; just under half of all students. These statistics suggest that women are increasingly using education to overcome discrimination and to further their careers. However, research shows that education numbers growth notwithstanding women operate in a vertical hierarchy with only 26.63% of those working as musicians[94] and 19.69% of those signed to record labels being women;[95] and in the executive workforce women making up 51% of the bottom quartile jobs but only 36.5% of the top quartile jobs.[96] 


5.2 It is a noted phenomenon that women have to attain a higher standard and quality of creativity than their male counterparts. In 2019 researchers analysed the music of over a quarter of a million songs produced and released between 1955 and 2000 and concluded that female songwriters were more creative and novel in their output but were less likely to be recognised as creative despite their low representation as songwriters and performing musicians.[97] Evidence also shows that men do not appreciate creative works made by women, whereas the reverse is not true.[98] In addition, women are not taken as seriously as music creators, which results in difficulties in receiving credit for their contributions in the sense of authorial contributions.[99] As a broader phenomenon this is referred to as the ‘authority gap.’[100]


5.3 There are also additional requirements on women's appearances that men do not experience, double standards. Research shows that women are invariably only accepted as singers in contrast to most other types of musicianship and this is restrictive to women’s music careers and ambitions.[101] With female singers, traditionally, there is an absolute emphasis on appearance, image and visual performance that creates an objectification which seems more socially acceptable to other band members, music critics, and audiences alike.[102] It does not matter what the genre of music is, there are more female singers than instrumentalists, with an overarching emphasis on appearance and almost unattainable levels of Western beauty standards. This also includes ageism. This is an issue throughout society and especially in our workplaces[103] but in music, it is magnified.[104] These requirements of looking, sounding or acting a certain way, or to be acceptable,’ are not expected of men. Moreover, it is clear that men can be more political or controversial in their music content and/or style, whereas women have to be more conforming or they receive misogynistic backlash. Female performers are expected to display the right type of femininity with women consigned to archetypes of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ with all of the consequences.[105] 


6. What steps should the Government and other industry bodies take to tackle misogynistic and sexist attitudes towards women in music?


6.1 The UK music industry is considered an exemplary economic and reputational success, even during the pandemic was generating over £5 Billion to the UK economy, as well as producing numerous intangible benefits to the reputation of UK plc through its high-quality music output.[106] This has all come about because of a tradition of excellent musical education, performance opportunities and a highly developed industry with its attendant robust management of intellectual property and legislative framework.  It is an industry imbued with excellence, glamour, and financial success with British artists achieving international fame and wealth.


6.2 However, research and statistics outlined above clearly indicate a darker side to the industry and one in which requires coordinated intervention, funding, and support to tackle. Despite ad hoc efforts to support awareness and education about the prevalence and impact of sexism and misogyny, the UK music industry’s upper hierarchies are dominated by white men and they in turn continue to invest in, sign, and support more white men into the creative ranks of their rosters than women, especially those of Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic heritage. In addition, the organisations in charge of commercial exploitation of music (PRS for Music and PPL)[107] are equally lacking in representation, resulting in concentration of power in the same group as with commercial music businesses. This dominance leads to a lack of impetus and commitment to tackle the widespread prevalence of sexual harassment and outlined in this submission and reported in several research reports


6.3 We therefore submit the following recommendations to the Committee to start addressing the misogyny and resulting discrimination in the music industry by focusing efforts concurrently through (a) strengthening legislation, (b) improving practises across the music industry and (c) funding further academic research.


(a)   Legislative Action:


(b)  Industry Practices


(c)   Further Research:  




July 2022             


[*] Vick Bain is President of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, former CEO of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers & Authors, trustee of charity Parents & Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an equality, diversity and inclusion consultant to the music industry and researching for a PhD in women’s careers in the music industry in the Centre for Research in Equality and Diversity at Queen Mary, University of London, she is also a regular lecturer for Falmouth University Music Business MA. Bain is the founder and a board director of The F-List for Music, a director of music-tech start-up Delic, and a Steering Group Advisor to Durham Brass Festival, Donne UK, the Night Time Industries Association Women at Night Task Force, Moving The Needle and the UK Coalition for Cultural Diversity.  More: https://vbain.co.uk.

[**] Dr Metka Potočnik is a Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Wolverhampton), a qualified lawyer in Slovenia (since 2008), and a graduate of Queen Mary University London (PhD), King’s College London (LLM), University of Ljubljana (LLB) and University of Wolverhampton (PGCert), with academic appointments at University of London and Aberdeen University. Dr Potočnik is a Member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College and the Assistant Director, International Programmes at the Institute of Intellectual Property Law and Social Justice (US). Her research focuses on feminist critique of intellectual property laws, exploring the lived experience of women and gender expansive artists in the UK creative industries. Dr Potočnik is a board director of The F-List for Music. More: https://researchers.wlv.ac.uk/m.potocnik.

(All links in this report were accessed on 16 July 2022).

[1] F List Directory: https://thef-listmusic.uk.

[2] Companies House Record: https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/12969896.

[3] Bain, ‘Counting the Music Industry (2019). Available: https://vbain.co.uk/research/.

[4] Festival Headliners Report (BBC Data Unit, 2022). Available: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/newsbeat-61512053.

[5] Anglada-Tort et al, Popular Music Lyrics and Musicians’ Gender Over Time: A Computational Approach (2021) 49(3) Psychology of Music.

[6] Why Not Her, ‘Gender Disparity Data Radio Report on UK Radio (2021). Available: https://whynother.net/2020/08/01/gender-disparity-data-reports/.

[7] Women reported earning only £13,057 in 2019 (on average): see Intellectual Property Office (IPO), ‘Music creators’ earnings in the digital era’ (23 September 2021) 18. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/music-creators-earnings-in-the-digital-era.

[8] Data received from the Higher Education Statistics Authority (2019). Available: https://www.hesa.ac.uk/.

[9] Glick et al,Beyond Prejudice as Simple Antipathy: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism Across Cultures (2000) 79(5) J Pers Soc Psychol.

[10] Available: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/.

[11] An affectionate but condescending form of prejudice http://psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/prejudice/benevolent-sexism/

[12] The F-List Gender in Music Research Hub (2022). Available: https://thef-listmusic.uk/what-we-do/the-f-list-research-hub/.

[13] Smith et al, Inclusion in the Recording Studio? Gender and Race/Ethnicity of Artists, Songwriters and Producers across 1,000 Popular Songs from 2012-2021 (March 2022). Available: https://assets.uscannenberg.org/docs/aii-inclusion-recording-studio-20220331.pdf.

[14] Freudiger and Almquist, Male and female roles in the lyrics of three genres of contemporary music (1978) 4(1) Sex Roles: A Journal of Research.

[15] Glick et al, Beyond Prejudice as Simple Antipathy: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism Across Cultures (2000) 79(5) J Pers Soc Psychol.

[16] Neff, Sexism Across Musical Genres: A Comparison (Honors Theses, 2014).

[17] Krüger Bridge, Gendering Music in Popular Culture (2020) The International Encyclopedia of Gender, Media, and Communication.

[18] Bretthauer et al, A Feminist Analysis of Popular Music: Power Over, Objectification of, and Violence Against Women (2007) 18 Journal of Feminist Family Therapy.

[19] Anderson et al, Exposure to Violent Media: The Effects of Songs With Violent Lyrics on Aggressive Thoughts and Feelings (2003) 84(5) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Fischer and Greitmeyer, Music and Aggression: The Impact of Sexual-Aggressive Song Lyrics on Aggression-Related Thoughts, Emotions, and Behavior Toward the Same and the Opposite Sex (2006) 32(9) Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin; Tropeano, Does Rap or Rock Music Provoke Violent Behavior? (2006) Journal of Undergraduate Psychological Research.  

[20] Rambour, An Analysis of Gendered Tensions In Pop Music, Focusing On Female Solo Artists from 2010 Until 2020 (Masters Thesis 2021).

[21] Ortiz, Breaking the Charts: Analyzing Racialized and Gendered Sexuality in Music Videos (April 2021). Available: https://theclassicjournal.uga.edu/index.php/2021/04/07/breaking-the-charts/.

[22] See for a broader research discussion: Kate Mann, Down Girl; The Logic of Misogyny (Penguin, 2018) 33 (“For misogyny, though often personal in tone, is most productively understood as a political phenomenon. Specifically, I argue that misogyny ought to be understood as the system that operates within a patriarchal social order to police and enforce women’s subordination and to uphold male dominance.").

[23] Ponterotto (2016) Resisting the Male Gaze: Feminist Responses to the "Normatization" of the Female Body in Western Culture (2016) 17(1) Journal of International Women's Studies (2016), Article 10. Available at: https://vc.bridgew.edu/jiws/vol17/iss1/10.

[24] White, How Do We Deal With Violence Towards Women in Film? (9 December 2019). Available: https://laidlawscholars.network/posts/57309-how-do-we-deal-with-violence-towards-women-in-film.

[25] Available: https://www.bbfc.co.uk/.

[26] Available: https://www.thelineofbestfit.com/features/listomania/ten-songs-banned-by-the-bbc-123298.

[27] Law Commission Report on Hate Crime Laws (7 December 2021). Available: https://www.lawcom.gov.uk/project/hate-crime/.

[28] Ibid, 152.

[29] Ibid, 553.

[30] Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988 as amended (CDPA), section 1.

[31] CDPA, sections 1 and 3.

[32] The major record labels consisting of Universal, Warner and Sony Music making up 75% of the UK market: see Association of Independent Music (AIM), ‘Written Evidence for the DCMS Select Committee Inquiry into the Economics of Music Streaming. Available: https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/15352/html/.

[33] Women in CTRL, A Seat at the Table’ (July 2022). Available: https://thebritishblacklist.co.uk/women-in-ctrl-release-a-seat-at-the-table-report-on-diversity-in-the-music-industry/.

[34] Raj et al, Gender Parity at Work and Its Association With Workplace Sexual Harassment (2020) 68(6) Workplace Health & Safety.

[35] Available: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/sexual-harassment-workplace.

[36] Hitlan et al, ‘Upsetting Behavior: Reactions to Personal and Bystander Sexual Harassment Experiences’ (2006) 55 (3-4) Sex Roles.

[37] Equality Act 2010. Available: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents.

[38] Available: https://www.ism.org/news/vick-bain-president.

[39] Available: https://www.ism.org/membership/full-membership-benefits/legal.

[40] Available: https://www.ism.org/routes-to-membership.

[41] Available: https://www.ism.org/news/dignity-at-work-ism-releases-report-on-discrimination-in-the-music-sector.

[42] Available: https://www.ism.org/news/dignity-in-study-arts-students-at-risk-of-discrimination-bullying-and-sexual-harassment-finds-equity-ism-and-the-musicians-union.

[43] As outlined in Dorothy Carvello, Anything for a Hit: An A&R Woman’s Story of Surviving the Music Industry (Vigliano Books, 2018).

[44] Crabtree, Workplace And Sexual Harassment In The Music Industries of Australia and New Zealand’ (Zebra Collective, 2021). Available: https://womeninmusicawards.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/WORKPLACE-AND-SEXUAL-HARASSMENT-REPORT-web-awma-reportv2.pdf

[45] Jones and Manoussaki, Bullying and Harassment in the Music Industry "Completely entangled in its fabric" (University of Winchester, 2022).

[46] Available: https://musiciansunion.org.uk/legal-money/workplace-rights-and-legislation/the-equality-act-and-guidance/sexual-harassment-at-work/report-on-sexual-harassment-in-music-industry

[47] Jones and Pringle, Unmanageable inequalities: sexism in the film industry (2015) 63(1) The Sociological Review.

[48] Hennekam and Bennett, Sexual Harassment in the Creative Industries: Tolerance, Culture and the Need for Change (2017) 24(4) Gender, Work & Organization.

[49] Black Lives in Music, Being Black in the UK Music Industry’ (2021). Available: https://blim.org.uk/report.

[50] Available: https://www.ism.org/news/dignity-at-work-ism-releases-report-on-discrimination-in-the-music-sector.

[51] Available: https://www.ukmusic.org/equality-diversity/.

[52] McDowall et al, Balancing Act:” PIPA’s Survey Into The Impact Of Caring Responsibilities On Career Progression In The Performing Arts’ (2019). Available: https://pipacampaign.org/uploads/ckeditor/BA-Final.pdf.

[53] Available: https://pec.ac.uk/news/national-statistics-on-the-creative-industries.

[54] Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Women and Equalities Committee (2019). Available: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmwomeq/725/72507.htm.

[55] Available: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/727257/Tables_20-30-DCMS_Sectors_Economic_Estimates_Employment_Creative_Industries_Subsectors.xlsx.

[56] Bain, ‘The Original Gig Economy – Gendered Precarious Working in The UK Music Industry (Women’s Work in Music, University of Bangor, 1 September 2021): analysis of Labour Force Survey Musicians Employed/Self-employed data gathered by the Office for National Statistics, available at https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/datasets/aps168.

[57] Smith et al, Sexual Violence, Institutional Betrayal, and Psychological Outcomes for LGB College Students (2016) 2(4) Translational Issues in Psychological Science.

[58] Sara Ahmed, Complaint! (Duke University Press, 2021).

[59] Wednt and Slonaker, Sexual Harassment and Retaliation: A Double-Edged Sword (2002) 67(4) SAM Advanced Management Journal.

[60] Available: https://www.ism.org/campaigns/dignityatwork/ism-mu-code-of-practice. 

[61] Available: https://cantbuymysilence.com/.

[62] Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2022/07/14/senate-aims-to-end-silencing-of-sexual-harassment-victims-with-new-nda-bill/?sh=2dc826e92863.

[63] Available: https://thef-listmusic.uk/who-we-are/sister-organisations/.

[64] Available: http://wearemusic.info/.

[65] Marie, Conversations With Women In Music Production: the interviews (Backbeat Books, 2022).

[66] Available: https://thef-listmusic.uk/what-we-do/the-f-list-research-hub/.

[67] Available: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/news/sexual-harassment-tops-list-of-risks-for-female-students-on-nights-out.

[68] Motl, ‘Well, Don’t Walk Around Naked... Unless You’re A Girl’: Gender, Sexuality, and Risk in Jamtronica Festival Subcultural Scenes (2018).

[69] Bows, King, and Measham, Perceptions of safety and experiences of gender-based violence at UK music festivals’ (2022) XX(XX) Journal of Gender-Based Violence 1–19.

[70] Hill, Hesmondhalgh, and Megson, ‘Sexual violence at live music events: Experiences, responses and prevention’ (2020) 23(3) International Journal of Cultural Studies 368–384. 

[71] Women’s Inclusion and Safety in Nightlife. (2021). Lady of the House and SaveNightLife CIC.

[72] Webster et al, Valuing Live Music: The UK Live Music Census 2017 Report (2018).

[73] Available: https://sgfw.org.uk/.

[74] Available: https://www.goodnightoutcampaign.org/.

[75] Available: https://www.safetyinmusic.com/.

[76] Available: https://associationforelectronicmusic.org/initiatives/diversity-and-inclusion/.

[77] Available: https://nighttimeeconomy.com/night-time-safety/279/.

[78] Available: https://www.unwomenuk.org/safe-spaces-in-music.

[79] Available: https://www.saferspaces.co.uk/.

[80] Available: https://www.girlsagainst.co.uk/.

[81] Available; https://aiforg.com/initiatives/safer-spaces/.

[82] Available: https://savenightlife.com/womens-safety-at-night-taskforce/

[83] Available: https://www.cactuscity.org/.

[84] Available: https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk.

[85] Available: https://connectsmusic.com/listing-category/venues/.

[86] Available: https://stampede.ai/blog/the-uks-irrepressible-hospitality-sector-2022-industry-growth-report/.

[87] Available: https://www.festivalorganisers.org/news/49/So%2C+how+many+festivals+are+there%3F.

[88] Motl,‘Well, Don’t Walk Around Naked... Unless You’re A Girl’: Gender, Sexuality, and Risk in Jamtronica Festival Subcultural Scenes’ (2018).

[89] Scharff, Prepare her for sexism (2019) 27(1) European Journal of Women’s Studies 3–8.

[90] Women’s Inclusion and Safety in Nightlife. (2021). Lady of the House and SaveNightLife CIC.

[91] For The Love of Music; Ending Sexual Harassment in The Music Industry. (2019). The Musicians Union.

[92] Crabtree, ‘Workplace And Sexual Harassment In The Music Industries of Australia and New Zealand’ (Zebra Collective, 2021). Available: https://womeninmusicawards.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/WORKPLACE-AND-SEXUAL-HARASSMENT-REPORT-web-awma-reportv2.pdf.

[93] Pew Research Center, Online Harassment’ (October 2014). Available: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/.

[94] Bain, ‘The Original Gig Economy – Gendered Precarious Working in The UK Music Industry (Women’s Work in Music, University of Bangor, 1 September 2021): analysis of Labour Force Survey Musicians Employed/Self-employed data gathered by the Office for National Statistics, available at https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/datasets/aps168.

[95] Bain, ‘Counting the Music Industry’ (2019). Available: https://vbain.co.uk/research/.

[96] Available: https://www.musicweek.com/talent/read/vick-bain-on-the-music-industry-s-gender-pay-gap-problem/080328.

[97] Askin, Are Women More Creative Than Men? The Gendered Effects of Networks and Genres on Musical Creativity(2019).

[98] Sieghart, The Authority Gap: Why Women are Still Taken Less Seriously than Men, and What we can Do about It (Doubleday, 2021) 158.

[99] Potočnik, ‘Exposing Gender Bias in Intellectual Property Law: The Music Industries’ in Steven D Jamar and Lateef Mtima (eds), Handbook of Intellectual Property and Social Justice: Access, Inclusion, Empowerment (Cambridge University Press, in press, 2022).

[100] Sieghart, The Authority Gap: Why Women are Still Taken Less Seriously than Men, and What we can Do about It (Doubleday, 2021).

[101] Bain, ‘Counting the Music Industry’ (2019). Available: https://vbain.co.uk/research/.

[102] Bayton, Frock rock: women, popular music, and the conditions of performance (Oxford University Press, 1998).

[103] Swift, Abrams and Cuthbert, Old And Unemployable? How Age-Based Stereotypes Affect Willingness To Hire Job Candidates’ (2017) 1(Supp.1) Innovation in Aging 117–117.

[104] Jordan, 10x The Talent = 1/3 Of The Credit: How Female Musicians Are Treated Differently In Music (University of Central Florida, MA Thesis, 2006). Available: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1945&context=etd.

[105] Rambour, An Analysis of Gendered Tensions In Pop Music, Focusing On Female Solo Artists from 2010 Until 2020 (Masters Thesis 2021).

[106] Available: https://www.ukmusic.org/research-reports/this-is-music-2021/.

[107] UK Collective Management Organisations (CMOs). For further information on UK CMOs: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/licensing-bodies-and-collective-management-organisations.

[108] UK General Data Protection Regulation. More: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/.