Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift are all examples of female musicians finding huge success alongside their male counterparts, but can the same be said for the women behind the scenes in the music industry?
We spoke to some of the most powerful women working in music, to find out if their dream industry is as male-dominated as rumours still suggest…
The new generation of popstars are still hitting headlines with raunchy videos, provocative stage costumes and social media controversy, so, it’d be easy to assume that men are still calling the shots, but, behind the music videos, a host of inspirational women hold some of the most influential jobs in music.
‘The industry feels a lot more balanced than when I first started over 10 years ago,’ says Katie Parsons, radio presenter and journalist. ‘Back then most gigs were what we affectionately called “sausage fests”, where all the PRs, managers, record label teams, journalists – and even fans – lingering at the back of gigs were predominately lads.
‘These days, it feels like a balance has been struck. There are certainly jobs within the industry that appear to have a gender lean – more female PRs, more male tour managers – but discrimination feels like it’s on the way out.’
Sarah Maynard, founder of Major PR, agrees: ‘It’s pretty commonplace for a woman to be doing publicity for a band, but there are other areas in music where it’s much less likely you’re going to be dealing with a woman.
‘I know women who are doing phenomenally well as road crew, managers and agents, but do become frustrated when they’re not taken as seriously as their male counterparts.
‘It’s definitely not ok when people are making assumptions about your ability to do a job you work extremely hard at based on your gender,’ Sarah adds.
While the female to men ratio appears to be balancing out across the industry as a whole, it’s in practice – on tour and at gigs – where the women we spoke to noticed the most divide.
Sarah explains: ‘It can be difficult to establish yourself in that environment as someone who is actually working and involved in the process. There are always going to be people who dismiss you as a super fan, or worse, and that’s certainly not a good feeling!’
Similarly, head of Public City PR, Emma Van Duyts, told us: ‘I’ve not really had any kind of sexism directed at me. Only by security people at venues, until they figure out I’m working.’
‘I think it’s always going to exist,’ Emma adds. ‘It’s the nature of the beast, but there are some incredible women working in the music industry, who are very well respected, and those are the ladies to aspire to be like.’
So can being a female in the industry sometimes work in your favour?
‘It can work both ways,’ says Libby Maguire, Publicist at The Noise Cartel. ‘I’m sure there are times where I have perhaps won a client or someone has remembered my name and not a male colleagues.’
Of her own experiences in the music industry, Libby is one woman who says she has faced gender discrimination throughout her career. ‘I once worked at a major label and remember having a meeting with my boss once about the fact things weren’t going great and I wasn’t 100 per cent happy.’
‘His response to that was “you’ll be fine, you’re young and pretty”,’ Libby recounts. ‘While his response to an older female colleague taking a disliking to me was that, “she probably just assumes you’re not that bothered because you’ll end up marrying someone in a band and not working anyway”.’
‘I’ve never been so shocked and those quotes have stayed with me forever. Never should appearance or age be a factor and I would put money on the same conversation being very different if I was male.’
For Katie Parsons, her role in the public eye has left her facing harsh criticism and trolling online, with derogatory comments aimed at her because of her sex. ‘There was an instance where I’d been on the road with a band and written a tour feature for a magazine. Some of the band’s fans didn’t like the way they’d been portrayed in the piece, and there were comments online saying, “well that’s what happens when you send a woman out to do a man’s job”.
‘That was pretty hurtful at the time. Since then, internet trolling has grown and there have been shedloads of YouTube comments on my old video interviews saying my hair looks stupid, I’m ugly, that I sound too posh for rock.’
‘None of that actually bothers me,’ Katie admits. ‘But the ones that claim I don’t know what I’m talking about or don’t understand the music have been pretty cutting in the past.’
About the future, at least, these women are unanimous on one thing – and that’s that women will run the (music) world eventually.
Katie says: ‘As time goes on, the women who entered the industry a few years ago will rise up the ranks and hold equal positions.
‘For now, there might well be some old school gents hanging onto jobs at the top assigned many years ago. Have patience, ladies, your time will come soon enough.’
Noise Cartel Publicist, Steph Van Spronsen, also says: ‘When you look further up the food chain, I see that the CEOs and directors of many companies are predominantly male.
‘I think this stems back to the 80s and 90s when the industry was very male-dominated and women were seen mainly as receptionists and PAs. These days women are breaking through and climbing their way up the ladder to work towards more senior positions.’
Adding: ‘I am very proud of myself, not just because I am a woman working in the music industry, but because I am actually working in the music industry. Music was the one passion I had when I was younger and I’m so proud that I managed to pursue my passion and make it a career.’
Charley Bezer, Head of PR at Live Nation, has some similar advice for those breaking into the music industry: ‘Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up.’
‘Believe in yourself and stand up for your ideas, but also learn to pick your battles,’ she advises. ‘Learn when it’s important to push and when to just let it go.
‘After a while, it’s easy to forget how lucky you are to work with incredibly talented people. Savour the great moments, there will be many of them, and try never to take it for granted.’
Looking for more career inspo? It’s not too late to book tickets for Marie Claire’s @ Work Live, in association with Cointreau and Next. A one-day event on 23 April 2016, featuring advice, tips and inspiration from incredible speakers.