A 2017 report from The University of Sydney Business School points out that male advantage is a prominent issue in the Australian music industry. By collecting more data, researchers hope to stimulate discussion and action for change, by prioritising inclusivity as a core value of  the industry.

Shanti Lane, a Melbourne based musician and member of the all-female band TomGirl says:

“We are in a time of cultural change, and it is important to talk about it. If you’re a man, you’re probably not really aware of it because you don’t receive the same treatment.” Shanti also describes the conscious effort that female musicians have to make to be taken seriously in the scene. “Women often feel like they have to act more like a dude, or the contrary, they have to underline their female sides to get attention.”

Shanti playing in an art gallery. Picture by Julia Hick

Data shows that  female artists earn 44 per cent less for their creative work than their male counterparts. Making up 45 percent of qualified musicians, women represent only one-fifth of composers and songwriters registered with the Australian Performing Rights Association. At major Australian music festivals, lineups are mainly, sometimes entirely, dominated by male performers.

Michael Scarlett, director of Victorian festival The Town, consciously promotes diversity at his events, while also prioritising artistic quality. “Gender diversity is crucial for a good lineup, but I’ve never booked someone just because they’re female. I’m always after women who are incredibly talented artists.” Michael says.

It has been proven that women represent only 28 percent of senior and strategic roles in key industry organisations.

Figure 1: Boards of Directors on National Music Industry Peak Bodies, by gender, 2017

“People in higher positions such as producers, bookers or festival directors are mainly males, so it is a different relationship.” Shanti explains. The artist also notices a strong group of creative women working in Melbourne. A supportive and non-competitive network of female musicians seems to be growing, with the potential to change common hierarchical structures in the local scene.

Shanti playing with her band TomGirl at Northcote Social Club. Picture by Julia Hick

Bringing attention to the quality and success of female performers and seeing a higher number of women in leading industry positions will serve to bring more equality to the Australian music scene.

Tanya El-Gamal is a mother, a performer, and founding director of the Melbourne live music venue Rubix Warehouse. She emphasises that she didn’t have to use her sexuality to get her to where she is now. She has had her successes, but also her struggles being a woman in a leading position in the music industry.

“There always has been people who tried to push me, treated my kindness as a weakness.  Knowing I’m a mother, knowing that I’m nice to them, they were trying to push the boundaries a lot”, Tanya explains.  

At the same time she underlines the huge potential that women in the industry have. Her advice for females who want to make it in Australia’s music industry is to “just be yourself. Believe in yourself. We are magic! Honestly, we can do whatever we want, if we just believe in ourselves.”