From Performers to Producers: Women in the Music Industry
By: Hannah Smith
Despite the ever-increasing prominence of female artists scattering the top charts, the music industry is still very much a male-dominated sphere. This is the reason for much of the emphasis placed on the “sex sells” mantra that fluctuates throughout not just in music, but in every industry. We see women assuming a position of powerlessness, even degradation, in the presence of a male figure all too often. This is sometimes the case even when the music video is featuring a female artist. She wears revealing clothing, whether by choice or demand from the director. With only 5% of producers and engineers being women, it is no surprise the music industry is catered to and for the male population.
Because of the rise in female artists, the assumption would be there is also an increase of women behind the scenes taking part in the creation of music. Unfortunately, this is not the case. 95% of music producers and engineers were male as recently as this year and for as long as music has existed, the percentage of women in the industry has only risen to 5 percent. Some women in the field go so far to say this is a generous estimate. There are many factors contributing to the lack of women executives in music. Because there is such an imbalance between genders, female producers and engineers receive very little or no credit at all for their work. This isn’t just a problem for women in these positions; it is also an issue among female artists as well. On April 16, singer/songwriter Lily Allen expressed her disdain for this lack of recognition. She stated, “You will also notice of those big successful female artists, there is always a ‘man behind the woman’ piece”. When an album is successful, most often the recognition is given to the producer. In nearly all these cases, the producer is a man .
This lack of recognition is enough to dissuade anyone from taking a position in this industry, regardless of gender. If you can’t take credit for a successful work of art, why waste all your time and energy in producing it?
Artists looking to make an album aren’t quick to claim a female producer to assist in its creation. We typically think a successful music producer to be someone assertive, even demanding. Automatically, one would attribute these characteristics to a man. A woman in this position of power comes off as mean and hormonal, along with a few choice words. Women are expected to be patient, agreeable, and careful. Given this expectation, artists aren’t flocking to female producers and engineers because they need someone who isn’t afraid to give their honest opinion and take risks in order to create a legendary album. The assumption is that a man is capable of doing this. Because so few women have produced in the past and they’re not always granted recognition, there is little evidence to prove they are just as capable.
Now that you’ve read some negative aspects of the music industry, allow me to draw your attention to some progress women have made just within the past month. The Academy of Country Music Awards took place on April 6. A big win for women took place in the category for Album of the Year. Newcomer, Kacey Musgraves, took the award as the only woman nominated in this category. Upon accepting her award, she said “I’m really proud to be a woman representing country music”. The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction took place April 10. One of the biggest moments of the night was the tribute to Nirvana. The question of the night was who would be courageous enough to take on Kurt Cobain’s presence as the lead singer. Women, of course ! Joan Jett kicked off the tribute, followed by Kim Gordon, Annie Clark (St. Vincent), and concluded with Lorde. This performance showed just how capable women are of being recognized as prominent figures in music.