Women In Music Meeting
“Everyone knows what Nicki Minaj’s bum looks like. No-one knows what Ed Sheeran’s bum looks like”- a quote from an attendee of the Women in Music event, which perfectly summarises the reason the Roundhouse brought together a group of approximately 50 young women and men involved in the creative industries to discuss the issue of inequality and disadvantaged treatment towards women in the music industry.
The event was inspired by The Roundhouse’s executive producer Nicola Thorold after realising the lack of females that the Roundhouse are in contact with when being used as both a venue and also in the Young Creatives programme, stating how all the promoters, managers, and PR’s that are in contact to use the venue are men, and usually working to put up male artists. Simultaneously, Thorold observed the disproportionally larger number of young men involved in the youth music programmes held at the Roundhouse than young women. Organised by the Roundhouse staff Lucy Scott and Sylvia Harrison, with inputs from the Roundhouse Youth Advisory Board, the event was put together for the weekend coinciding with International Women’s day.
The day began with motivational speeches from music publishing’s Paulette Long and Roundhouse Resident Artist’s Ophelia and Fran Lobo, all sharing unnecessary experiences faced due to their sex when working in the industry. Paulette drew on many experiences in the industry, the most memorable comment being how she had no choice but to change her dress to “stark coloured suits and flat boots” in order to be taken seriously by her colleagues, and also revealed shocking statistics that only 13% of PRS membership- a songwriting royalty collective society- is female, having dropped from 14% last year.
Featuring an intense panel discussion in the afternoon with XFM presenter Lliana Bird, Rizzle Kicks’ Jordan Stephens, Iconic Artists co-founder Zoe Stainsby, Red Bull Records’ Angie Somerside, and musician VV Brown, led by Roundhouse Resident Artist Cecilia Knapp, a group discussion and debate was formed on the topic of how women are currently treated, analysing why this potentially is the case, and how we could take action to change this. The panel discussion was not only thought provoking for the audience, but the panel members themselves, as Zoe Stainsby commented on how when she arrived, she believed she had never faced sexism in the industry. However as the event went on and she had heard more about others’ issues in the industry, Stainsby remembered comments towards her such as “buy a bigger coat so you can wear a lower top” that had come her way in just the past few weeks, showing to everyone present how even subtle comments like that need to be addressed and eradicated from the music industry.
A very positive and hopeful note that is taken away from the panel discussion was made by Angie Somerside, who has had a history of 20 years working in the music industry, 13 of which were spent in Sony Music. Somerside commented how there has been evident change in the music industry with a significant increase in the number of women in senior positions, however it is merely that these changes are not publicly visible, which perhaps is a whole other issue in itself. It was discussed how the media have a responsibility in making sure women and men are given equal media attention in these business matters, as role models are important to encourage aspiring female music industry participants.
Although the event had predominantly female participants, men were also present, actively taking part in the event, with one attendee stating he was there in order to “learn about his privilege.” Panel member Jordan Stephens brought an important angle to the event, showing how strong men also feel about the issue and proving why men should be involved. Stephens also brought in significant parallels between the discrimination he felt on his journey in the music industry due to his mixed race, often not being accepted into hip-hop due to not adhering to the typical stereotype associated with the genre, and thus related strongly to the issue women face in the music industry.
The Roundhouse’s Women In Music event offered a new perspective and newfound awareness of the issue of gender inequality and imbalance in the music industry. A three year plan has been put in place at the Roundhouse to address and change this matter in the music industry, with the Roundhouse working with partner organisations in London and across Europe to implement this change.