Sexism, Ageism and Lower Pay: Female Musicians Struggle for Equality in Male Dominated Industry

Breanna De Vera

Breanna de Vera is dot.LA's editorial intern. She is currently a senior at the University of Southern California, studying journalism and English literature. She previously reported for the campus publications The Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media.

Sexism, Ageism and Lower Pay: Female Musicians Struggle for Equality in Male Dominated Industry
Photo by Tony Pham on Unsplash

Who run the world?

For Beyonce, the answer is "girls!" But, it doesn't feel like that in the male-dominated music industry where sexism and ageism reign supreme, according to a new report. Despite megastars like Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Madonna, women in the industry still feel it's difficult to climb the ladder of success and that it's causing women artists to quit.


MIDiA Research, in collaboration with digital music company Believe and its subsidiary TuneCore, released "Be the Change: Women Making Music 2021," a report on female creators' experiences in the music industry.

While most female creators surveyed believe transparency and discourse about gender equality have improved, over 80% of the respondents surveyed said it's still harder for female artists to receive recognition than their male counterparts.

"The main challenges are sexual harassment and objectification," said Mark Mulligan, MIDiA's lead music analyst who worked on the report. "Those are two different things, but they're also causally linked… [and they] are amplified or magnified within the music business — so many female artists are presented in a way that male artists are much less so."

MIDiA surveyed 504 respondents — of which are 401 female creators — around the globe. These respondents are all part of the music industry, as singers, songwriters, DJs, artists and producers. They have different degrees of independence as well — some are independent artists, others are their own managers or are signed to labels.

The vast majority of the women surveyed find that the music industry treats women differently. Eight out of 10 women surveyed experienced sexual harassment at some point in their careers.

"The representation of women in music, even at the top of the charts, has not improved in the last decade ... in some cases it has actually gotten worse," said TuneCore Chief Revenue Officer Andreea Gleeson.

Over 90% of women experienced unconscious bias — one singer-songwriter was told another female singer-songwriter on the festival bill was her "serious competition," when there were plenty other artists on the lineup. A female sound technician says she was told she was unable to move up in her career by male counterparts who were no more skilled.

As a result of their experiences in the industry, many women choose to work alone or exclusively with other women. Dominique — a singer-songwriter that participated in a panel presenting the study's findings — said she decided to work alone after being brushed off by male producers.

"You don't feel like your ideas are being taken into account, and you always get shot down," Dominique said. "Regardless of how bad my music may come out, I want to be the only person working on it."

She wound up writing a hit song called "Girls Can't Produce," which went viral on TikTok; the song's title was taken from a snidely sexist comment posted beneath a video she made detailing her aspirations.

These biases and attitudes toward women translate into experiences that make female artists uncomfortable, less confident, and ultimately, more likely to leave the industry, the report found. One anonymous respondent cited in the report said: "Why do women leave music or not go into it? For some, there's 'only so much sh*t you can take.'"

The study was partly inspired by TuneCore's examination of the artists that use its digital music distribution services. The company said it found only 28% of its artists are female. Although that percentage is higher than the 11% of female artists represented in the industry as a whole, TuneCore found it surprising, said Gleeson. Because its artists are pursuing a DIY distribution path by using their platform, they might expect a lower barrier of entry.

The survey asked respondents what urgent changes are necessary to improve the music industry for women. The most popular response was "more equality and opportunity."

"Now that might sound like a fairly self evident thing, but it's also really quite subtle," Mulligan said. "They just want to have the same opportunity to succeed — their male counterparts have the same aspirations, they work in the same industry — but the industry treats them differently."

🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
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Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

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In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

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Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

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Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

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