#PressForProgress: part one

carla marie williams music

To mark International Women’s Day 2018 tomorrow (Thursday), women from across the music industry tell us where the business is at right now and what more can be done to tackle gender inequality.

This year, International Women’s Day organisers have chosen the #PressForProgress campaign theme, calling for collective action to drive gender parity across all areas of society.

The campaign arrives against a backdrop of growing frustration with the current status quo, fuelled by the recent World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, which found that gender parity is still over 200 years away.

Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp have done much to encourage activism over recent months, and while momentum continues to grow, there’s an opportunity to make real gains.

With that in mind, we hear from producers, publishers, songwriters, artists, promoters, campaigners, industry executives, DJs and composers on their most pressing issues and what practical steps we can take to bring about meaningful progress.

The first of our three-part series includes BRIT Award-winning songwriter and Girls I Rate founder Carla Marie Williams, DJ and promoter Michelle Manetti, MPG Awards’ Producer of the Year Catherine Marks and BAFTA Award-winning composer Jessica Curry, who is also co-founder of gaming studio The Chinese Room.

Carla Marie Williams (pictured above), songwriter, artist, founder of Girls I Rate
@CarlaMarieUK / @GirlsIRate

Where do you think the music industry is at right now in terms of gender equality?
I feel the awareness has been triggered, the numbers are moving up, and more efforts are being made to showcase female talent and creatives, but we still have a long way to go before women are truly represented across the industry.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressForProgress – what is the most pressing issue you would like the industry to address? 
I would like to address “sisterhood” as we have so many small female focused movements and events manifesting – we really need to work together. Our missions are the same so why divide our power when the power is in numbers? I’d like more women to join or collaborate with Girls I Rate and help push our mission and message as together with multiple skillsets, I’m sure the change will happen much faster than us individually fighting the same causes. I would also like the industry to address representation: it’s like we get diversity but forget about equality… As much as I am now seeing more diversity it’s still VERY male dominated in terms of the artists and acts that are been pushed forward. It’s one thing chasing the culture, but it’s another if it’s just an extension of the boys’ club.

And, finally, how do you think we can make positive change in the area you have identified? 
I still feel we need to open up more financial space in the industry to educate and develop female creatives. I’m hoping this year to get the funding to launch the Girls I Rate Arts Academy, which will run on a weekly basis and be a space for females to develop and learn about all aspects of the industry. I’m also releasing an all-female empowerment EP which I’m hoping will push some of the UK’s freshest talent to the forefront and give them a platform to #GetHeard.

For more info, see www.carlamariewilliams.com 

michelle manetti femmme fraiche

Michelle Manetti, DJ, singer, promoter, Femmme Fraiche
@MAnnikManetti / @FemmmeFraiche

Where do you think the music industry is at right now in terms of gender equality?
The music industry has been such a male dominated arena for such a long time, in all genres and areas of the industry and certainly pertaining to my field of electronic dance music, (house and techno). From DJs to producers through to promoters, bookers and the people running labels and behind the scenes, it’s been a boys’ club since the beginning. But it does feel like, slowly, progress is being made in terms of gender parity.

So many more discussions are being had, to raise awareness of gender equality; networks like SheSaidSo, and high-profile campaigns like Red Bull’s #NormalNotNovelty and Smirnoff’s ‘equalizing music’ as well as female collectives like Discwoman, Rhythm Sister and Siren are highlighting and positively addressing gender issues. This in turn is not only supporting the women who are already in the industry, but also encouraging more women to move towards music, where before they might have been intimidated or disinterested due to the patriarchy of the system. It feels like giant steps are being taken to highlight issues and educate people in how to proactively make positive changes and, although we still have such a long way to go, it seems at least were moving in the right direction.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressForProgress – what is the most pressing issue you would like the industry to address?
From a DJ perspective, there are still so many male-only line-ups for major clubnights and festivals, and with the amount of incredible female DJs breaking through and making waves there’s just no excuse for the lack of female representation. It is being addressed, but while we are coming on leaps and bounds, this year’s festival line-ups still fall far short, of what they could and should be.

And, finally, how do you think we can make positive change in the area you have identified?
Excitingly last week, PRS Foundation announced its international Keychange initiative, with 45 music industry conferences and festivals pledging to achieve or maintain a 50/50 gender balance across their festivals by 2022. This is such an important, positive and progressive step, and will hopefully kickstart other festivals to fall into alignment and be more consciously aware of their booking policies and selections. All the while, we need to continue discussions and highlighting, educating and calling out gender inequality.

Catherine Marks producerCatherine Marks, producer
@cjmarks

Where do you think the music industry is at right now in terms of gender equality?
I think there is still a long way to go but we are heading in the right direction! Organisations such as the Music Producers Guild and its community are championing women because they understand that equality and diversity is important. They are encouraging of women who want to get involved. It’s important we continue the conversation but there is definitely a positive shift.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressForProgress – what is the most pressing issue you would like the industry to address?
We should be celebrating the women who are successful in their chosen careers. All types of women in all circumstances.

And, finally, how do you think we can make positive change in the area you have identified?
To encourage women to step up and lead by example.

jessica curry gamesJessica Curry, composer, co-founder of The Chinese Room
@jessicacurry2 / @ChineseRoom

Where do you think the music industry is at right now in terms of gender equality?
We still have a really long way to go but I’ve been hugely inspired by PRS Foundation’s Keychange project. It’s doing exciting and crucial work in amplifying women’s voices within the music industry and it feels like change is coming.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2018 is #PressForProgress – what is the most pressing issue you would like the industry to address?
There is a huge problem in the industry with sexual harassment – especially young artists being pressured by male executives. It doesn’t feel like the industry has had its #MeToo moment yet and for me it can’t come soon enough.

And, finally, how do you think we can make positive change in the area you have identified?
As ever, women should continue to protect each other, to speak out for one another and be friends and allies. I make a conscious and daily effort not to pull the ladder up from under me – I advocate for, and champion, fellow women composers and in that way we have supportive and safe networks that we can turn to for help and advice.

Tomorrow, we hear from songwriter, artist and From Me To You founder Roxanne de Bastion, songwriter and artist Raphaella, Vanessa Reed, chief executive of PRS Foundation, and Gill Tee, Black Deer Festival organiser.