In observance of Women’s History Month, MIDIA Research and TuneCore/Believe have released a new study on the challenges faced by female creators in today’s music industry.

The report, BE THE CHANGE: Women Making Music 2021, collects the views of 401 female creators –artists, songwriters, producers and DJs – from around the world, many of whom are independent artists. Some are self-managed, running their own labels and production companies, while others are signed to labels or establishing themselves as songwriters.

The report sets out priorities for progress based on what women creators around the world say they need now and in the future, to make the music industry more welcoming to women, and so that women creators are better represented, recognized and rewarded.

Find the full report here.

Highlights from the study include:

  • Gendered expectations have skewed recognition and reward in the music industry: of 401 women creators around the world, 81% think that it is harder for female artists to get recognition than male artists
  • Linked to this is the fact that there are not as many female role models for independent creators (81% agree, 49% ‘agree strongly’)
  • Almost two-thirds of female creators identified sexual harassment or objectification as a key challenge, making it by far the most widely cited problem
  • Sexualisation and objectification are a consequence (or symptom) of unbalanced power dynamics, as shown by the ‘big three challenges’: ageism (identified by 38%), lack of access to male-dominated industry resources (36%) and lower pay (27%)
  • These major challenges are symptomatic of deeper issues of systemic male dominance permeating industry attitudes and behaviours – over 90% of respondents said that they had experienced unconscious bias – nearly half of them frequently
  • Music composition, production and sound has long been connected primarily with men, so it is no surprise that the majority of female creators (63%) feel excluded from the composition and production, which makes this aspect of music creation highly ‘genderised’
  • Although the overall representation of women in society has increased over the past few decades, 84% of women still feel that there exists a perception that women are expected to take on the primary role of parenting duties. The music industry wants female artists to be young – partly a symptom of the industry’s youth obsession, but also so that women become successful before they are presumed to decide to take on the role of motherhood
  • To bring more female creators into the industry, women want changes to come from within organisations and from leaders across the music industry through diversity, policies and culture, with 42% stating this as a ‘top 3’ reason to encourage more women into the industry. Meanwhile, 38% of female creators want to see this organisational change underpinned by legislation
  • The most practical starting point is in female-friendly resources and safe work spaces (34%) and 35% women creators want more change to come from learning and shared experiences, in the form of coaching and mentoring
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Stated Andreea Gleeson, Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Head of TuneCore, “When I discovered that only 28% of TuneCore artists are female, I was surprised. While that’s better than the industry standard which indexes around 11%, it’s still not good enough. We partnered with MIDiA to figure out, when the barriers to entry are low, why then are women still so grossly underrepresented? The study reveals the main reasons behind why female creators feel unsupported and identifies key areas of improvement. It arms us with the information we need to do better.”

Denis Ladegaillerie, Chief Executive Officer of Believe commented, “At Believe, we take gender equality very seriously and it is part of the company’s DNA. Within the music industry, we collectively have a responsibility to change mindsets and behaviors in order to create a better environment for all women in our community.”

Srishti Das, MIDiA Research consultant and one of the co-authors of the report said: “Men have an important part to play in resolving the gender gap and being inclusive of all genders is where this begins. Ultimately, mixed-gender work environments will benefit from the separate and diverse skills of different genders – this seems to be the key message from women creators.”

Survey distributors

Women in Music




The F List


Gender Amplified

Women in Live Music

Featured Artists Coalition

Music Managers Forum (MMF)

Association of Independent Music (AIM)

PRS Foundation

Music Publisher Association (MPA)

British Phonographic Institute (BPI)

Association for Electronic Music (AFEM)

British Council

UD (prev. Urban Development)

Help Musicians

Musicians Union