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International Women’s Day remains an incredibly important annual event. Campaigning for equality and fighting against discrimination to create a better world for everyone, this annual day brings fantastic events and food for thought.

Women still face inequality and are underrepresented in many areas, one of these areas being the music industry. Despite the spectacular array of talented women across the globe, the music industry is still male dominated. This occurs across many genres of music. As a female musician and songwriter, who is also trying to build a career in marketing music, I’m only too aware of the imbalance of women in the industry. However, there are people trying to change this. Women In Music (WIM) is a non-profit organisation fighting for greater representation for women in the industry.

Statistics from WIM reveal the imbalance in the industry:

  • 22% of all performers across the 600 most popular songs from 2012 to 2017 were female.
  • 12% of songwriters of the 600 most popular songs from 2012 to 2017 were by women.

The imbalance of women in the industry is not just present amongst the artists. Women are under represented in other areas including producing, PR, marketing, and sound engineering to mention a few.

  • 15% of label members are majority owned-by women.
  • 50% of freelance women earn less than £10,000 annually (UK).
  • 16% of PRS [royalties, copyright and licensing] members are women (UK).

The imbalance in the music industry is not a hidden secret. Over the past few years, numerous articles have been published highlighting the issue in the mainstream media including publications such as the New York Times.

The figures and information above apply to the music industry more generally, encompassing all genres of music. The genre of music I am most interested in is metal, and all of its subgenres. The discussion of women involved in the metal scene is being discussed to a far greater extent than it used to be, and the scene is seeing more female artists enter the genre.

Certain sub-genres of metal encompass more female vocalists and musicians than others. The sub-genre, symphonic metal, has been a huge influence in bringing women into metal and opened the door for many.

Symphonic metal began to emerge in the 1990s, predominantly in Europe. Symphonic metal giants and pioneers Nightwish and Within Temptation both formed in 1996. Symphonic metal differed to other sub-genres as the lead vocalist is usually female. Symphonic metal has grown and developed through the years and is now an incredibly strong scene in itself. Now, it must be noted that symphonic metal has not fixed an imbalance. In fact, most bands of this sub-genre have more male members than female. But it cannot be overlooked that this sub-genre has assisted in bringing more women into the metal genre.

Women are not only limited to the role of vocalist in the metal scene. Over the past few years, there has been a rise in female guitarists. Dutch guitarist Merel Bechtold is a known musician and member of numerous bands and projects including The Gentle Storm, Delain and Purest of Pain. UK guitarists Sarah Longfield and Leah Woodward are incredible technical musicians and are both prevalent in the tech-metal scene.

I have named but a few incredibly talented female artists. There are fantastic vocalists, songwriters, musicians around the world in all genres who deserve far greater recognition. This also includes all of the women who work in areas of the music industry that are not always seen, for example producers, PR agents, sound engineers and many more. There is awareness of the imbalance between the sexes in the music industry and this is gradually changing for the better, but there is still a way to go.

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