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Co-written with Clara Barbara.

“You tell me to quiet down cause my opinions make me less beautiful but I was not made with a fire in my belly so I could be put out I was not made with a lightness on my tongue so I could be easy to swallow I was made heavy half blade and half silk difficult to forget and not easy for the mind to follow”

― Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey

The music industry is a dangerously seductive environment. From the outside, the public sees a world of glitter and gold, of fame and prestige. As such, it is understandably difficult for consumers to see the vast imbalances that lie within the framework of such a popular and public industry. With Rihanna, Adele and Beyonce as some of the most powerful artists in music, it is then assumed that the gender gap does not exist. This could not be further from the truth. Similarly to the way Hollywood is capable of creating an illusion of grandeur in film, the music industry isn’t what it looks like.

As the theme of Midem 2017 suggests, we are on the verge of a new golden era in the music industry, and so it is time for us to implement the changes we have been talking about for the past few years. We need to re-build archetypes and eliminate the gender gap. Let’s look to the re-vamp and extreme growth that we have seen in the Distribution/Streaming sector of the industry and aim to keep up. Things are changing with product, rapidly, yet the structure of the business itself has yet to fully adapt or accept these changes.

The relatively young Valencia campus of Berklee College of Music, however, has been rather fast in:

  1. Identifying there IS a problem
  2. Challenging the status quo of the current industry in order to try to solve it.

Efforts to encourage and empower Berklee Valencia’s female student body have been spearheaded since the launch of this international campus as part of the institution’s commitment to diversity in the broadest meaning of the word… After all, diversity is literally in Berklee’s DNA.

Addressing the reality of the gender gap within the music industry has been a firm commitment of the Berklee community through events such as Berklee’s Women Empower Symposium, the Mediterranean Roots Festival in favour of the HeForShe campaign, and the Women and Conducting Symposium with the aim of constantly reminding ourselves of what women can achieve within the industry if we just watch them fly (check out Berklee Valencia alumni projects such as Project Next Up and Instant Love to see the blossoming of such spirit already filtering into the music industry).

It was only fair therefore that we continued this line of work with the help of some phenomenal speakers on our latest event (top photo). We brought in experienced professionals from the technology, public relations, live, and educational spheres of the industry to help shed some light. Each featured speaker brought their own unique personal experiences to the table, which helped contextualise the issues at hand for those non-industry folk in the audience, as well as giving the Berklee students some wonderful role models as they pursue their careers in the music industry.

“My husband is an amazing mother to our children”, Yvette Noel-Schure proudly stated on the stage of the Aula Magistral, in the beautiful Palau de la Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain. This type of sentiment is exactly the way in which Berklee is trying to Shift the Conversation. Our latest attempt to bring awareness to and confront the disparity between men and women in music took place on March 22. Berklee took the conversation to another level by partnering with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals Fund to create a space from which to address some of the current problems within the music industry through what is hoped to be the start of a long-standing collaboration between Berklee’s Valencia Campus and the SDG Fund.

Noel-Schure is a long-time publicist working in the Music Industry and has worked with such talents as Mariah Carey, Prince and Queen Bey herself. In exclaiming how great of a mother her husband is, she underlines the fact that the silent partner home no longer exists. We are in an era where women have proven time and time again that we are just as capable, just as qualified, to be senior executives and breadwinners.

The theme of parenthood and family ran throughout the panel conversation, moderated by Sustainable Development Goals Fund Director Paloma Duran.

Pablo Munguia, Program Director at Berklee Valencia for the Music, Technology, Production and Innovation Master’s Program, Audio Engineer, and Producer focused heavily on the need for a shift in the way we educate the youth and raise our children, as a society. “The most important thing we can do is to educate men that this culture exists and to not propagate it” he stated.

Collectively, it was identified that home and community life were where fundamental changes need to be made in order for society as a whole to begin to shift the way we portray and see women. It is all well and good to speak of cultural norms that need to change on a larger scale, but it is important to also focus on the issue du jour, which are specific to the Music Industry.

To prepare for the conversation, we dug into what few statistics were available in regards to the female representation in the Business. (The lack of data available is a red flag in and of itself, speaking candidly). Only 5% of audio engineers are female (source) , senior executives in the UK are only 30% women, yet entry-level positions are more than 50% occupied by females (source), and 78% of women interviewed for one report in the UK have experienced sexism within the Music Industry (source). These facts can not be ignored.

The perceived absence of women in technology is one of the main issues easily identifiable in the current music industry. Salomé Limón, Latin Grammy award winning audio engineer and producer from Madrid, and many months pregnant at the time of the panel, is part of this 5% and believes in showing, not telling. “The way to educate men is to show them. You don’t have to say anything. Show you are as able as them to do the work as good as them” she stated in response to a question about what can be done to correct the imbalance. She is, of course, correct.

In contrast, however, Limón’s co-founder of an Association of Producers and Audio Engineers for Iberoamerica called PI Audio, Patricia Abdelnour, former head of international relations for El Sistema, said that “bias and the culture of prejudice is so ingrained in our global culture that I think sometimes it’s hard to spot […] It’s our duty to […] work towards implementation of policies that will regulate the behaviour of men and women to try to fix these things.” As Abdelnour’s background is more heavily rooted in education and international relations, she leans towards taking actions in terms of enforceable rules. If we are to teach our children, and the generations to come, perhaps new policies are, in fact, the answer. It is sad to say, but putting our faith into a hope that eventually people will do ‘what’s right’ is not enough.

Alf Olofsson, event producer/ artistic director/ faculty at Berklee Valencia put it so simply, “I can’t see a simple answer why we’re not equal, its 2017.” That may be true, but as he is the first to admit, it’s easy for him to say. As a white male in his 50’s, he hypothetically fits into the stereotype of the type of person who is the main problem with the music industry. It is a constant battle between a distaste for the current state of the industry and disinterest in working with the people in power. How, then, do we reconcile these two feelings? Mentorship. Mutually recognised by all panelists as well as our moderator, and the Berklee students and staff involved, mentorship programmes need to be implemented.

The future of the music industry lies in the hands of the 20-somethings, and the current male-dominated Power 100 have a lot of information and experience to offer — what will be done with the information passed on is yet to be determined.

 

The gender gap will be a key issue at Midem 2017, with Women in Music notably organising a networking session and rooftop brunch. More info here


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About Author

Hannah Lebel

Hannah Lebel is a Master’s student at Berklee Valencia, almost finished with a degree in Global Entertainment and Music Business. She is working towards a career in Entertainment Law, and is very focused on and dedicated to making the Music Industry a more balanced place on behalf of women all over the globe.

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