When women and nonbinary people step into the spotlight, magic happens. Not just on stage, but in recording studios, lighting booths, boardrooms, and tour buses. Bustle UK has scoured the country looking for
initiatives that encourage women and nonbinary people in music to find their spotlight, wherever it may be, and carve out a space for themselves in the industry.
In Feb. 2019, a statistic published by the University of Southern California made headlines in the entertainment world. Their finding that, of the top 100 songs from 2018, only
17 percent were made by women shocked a lot of people — except women working in the music industry. As the BBC reports, singer Mabel was unsurprised by the finding. "I think we still have a lot of work to do," she said.
Speaking specifically about the UK, the BBC reported that, in 2018, there were
no fewer women in the charts than there were a decade earlier. "In 2008," the BBC wrote, "30 female acts were credited on the best-selling 100 songs of the year. In 2018, the figure was still 30." They continued: "But the number of men has risen by more than 50 percent as the number of collaborations has grown over that time — from 59 men in 2008 to 91 in 2018. Which means the gender gap has grown."
The teams responsible for the 14 initiatives below are aware that there is no one solution to the problem of gender inequality in the music industry. Having more women in the top 100 charts would be a huge — and very visible — signal of movement in the right direction, but it wouldn't necessarily break down barriers for aspiring producers, tour managers, CEOs, and sound designers. These initiatives, which are located in all four corners of the country, look at the parity problem from every angle, not only encouraging women and nonbinary people to step on stage and perform, but also teaching them new skills including coding, soldering, scheduling, and networking. On top of that, they're tackling problems that persist for women and nonbinary people interested in music, such as sexual assault at gig venues.
The people behind these 14 initiatives know how much more must be done to integrate women and nonbinary people across all areas of music, and they're looking to change the record for good.
WOMB 2/WXMB 2 — London WOMB 2/WXMB 2 — whose name is a play on words, with womxn having traditionally been relegated to Room 2 at music events — is a team of five music enthusiasts who support and encourage female-identifying and nonbinary people looking to break into the industry by hosting panels, workshops, networking events, and live shows. Through their work, they hope to “make everyone feel welcome and supported and ultimately create an equal gendered industry.” Slut Drop — Leeds Slut Drop is a DIY collective based in Leeds that supports female, nonbinary, BAME, and LGBTQ+ creatives in the electronic music scene through their Open Deck sessions, where participants can learn DJ skills, and club nights that promote diverse talent. Their mission is to “inspire people of all backgrounds, people who maybe don’t feel they can,” a Slut Drop rep says. They want their members to know that “whatever you think you might be capable of, more is possible.” Young Women’s Music Project — Oxford
Young Women’s Music Project is an educational charity based in Oxford that provides a space for young women aged 14-21 to make music and learn new skills. Their free music sessions and workshops allow young women to make and record music, plan and hold events, and discuss issues affecting young people. “We hope to have one of these projects in every city,” director Zahra Haji Fath Ali Tehrani says. “The need for support and safe space for women in music is imperative if we want to see a more diverse and inclusive industry.” Saffron — Bristol Saffron’s many different initiatives offer practical advice and industry training. “We provide womxn with industry mentoring, artist development, access to music tech education programs, and also the opportunity to record and release their music through our own independent label,” creative development manager Lizzy Ellis explains. “We hope to provide womxn with the leadership skills and strategic vision to take full creative control of their music careers.” Sister Shack — Newcastle Sister Shack is a collective that supports not only women musicians and DJs, but also entrepreneurs and women in all creative fields. “Our goal is to provide women with safe spaces to showcase their talent, no matter what that is,” founder Chantal Herbert says. "We are always looking for people to take part in our events and we also have a 'women we love' section on our website, where we dedicate a page to promoting a particularly talented woman." Yorkshire Sound Women Network — Yorkshire
Since its establishment in 2015,
Yorkshire Sound Women Network have run over 80 workshops and events offering hands-on experiences for womxn in DJing, live coding, audio workstations, location recording, soldering electronic instruments, and more. Plus, they recently joined Spotify’s EQL Partner Board to help shape their equity work. Their mission, development manager Heidi Johnson says, is to foster an audio industry that “welcomes, encourages, and progresses the inclusion of women at all levels from studio floor to boardroom.” The Cambridge Female Composers Festival — Cambridge
Cambridge Female Composers Festival spotlights female and nonbinary composers both past and present through its series of concerts, recitals, evensongs, and talks. Festival chairs Laura and Claire always found that female and nonbinary composers were chronically “under-performed and under-studied,” creating a “vicious cycle” of male monotony that needed to be broken. The CFCF aims to challenge the status quo and “provide inspiration” for future generations of composers, music course creators, and concert organisers. FemRock — Brighton FemRock is a DIY event held at Brighton’s Green Door Store that aims to showcase and celebrate women and nonbinary people in music by putting them in the spotlight. “We believe in the radical power of women on stages to change and challenge the status quo,” their manifesto reads. “We will raise our own voices and raise up platforms for other unheard voices.” Girls Against — Glasgow Girls Against is a campaign working with bands, venues, and fans to raise awareness of, and ultimately end, sexual harassment at live music events. “Sometimes crowds can be intimidating and women may still feel out of place or not listened to,” founder Bea Bennister says. “That's why it's so important to have a growing female population in the scene, not just in the audience but in larger areas of the music industry too.” Dumfries Music Conference ‘The Female Takeover’ — Dumfries Dumfries Music Conference’s Female Takeover is a month-long project consisting of live music events, discussions, and workshops that focus on celebrating and supporting women in Scotland’s music scene. The aim is to “bring people together to engage in an important conversation about gender equality in the music industry, and what action people can take to combat this, and how to work together towards levelling the playing field between men and women in the industry,” DMC digital media manager Kirstin McEwan says. Girls Rock School — Edinburgh Girls Rock School runs free classes in vocals, guitar, drum, bass, and more for womxn. “We believe that there's no sensible reason why music festivals are dominated by bands of skinny white straight boys in their 20s,” says chair Caro Kemp. “We don't see why age, race, gender, money, or anything else should be a barrier to playing music. We also don't see why women should have to look 'hot' to get anywhere in music, while men can turn up in a dirty t shirt. We're not gonna be the cute girl playing keyboards in the indie rock boy band anymore, and we're not sorry!” Cardiff Music Women — Cardiff
Through a series of special events, training workshops, and industry meetups,
Cardiff Music Women fosters and celebrates female musical talent in the Welsh capital and its surrounding areas. The organisers are dedicated to keeping their followers informed about all the latest goings-on in the music industry, regularly posting opportunities and news on their website. Ladyfest MCR — Manchester Ladyfest MCR is an inclusive festival that aims to celebrate the music and art of Manchester's “talented, radical, and creative women.” They also host various other events throughout the year, including panel talks and workshops about working in the music industry. Their Facebook page reads: “We aim to create a sense of community amongst those who attend and participate in our events and activities, to bring together those interested in music and feminism in the local area and inspire people to work together to bring about social change.” Women’s Work — Northern Ireland Women’s Work is “a festival celebrating the contribution that women make to music in Northern Ireland, while joining the global movement towards a more equal playing field,” explains founder Charlotte Dryden. “It showcases great talent, ignites conversations, debates wider issues facing women, and aims to build confidence and raise the visibility of female talent.”