In response to RMIT research, APRA AMCOS has announced a raft of initiatives to increase female participation.

APRA AMCOS has responded to a report exploring gender diversity in the Australian music industry with a raft of new initiatives designed to increase female participation, with a commitment to doubling annual female membership applications to its own ranks within three years.

From next year, organisations applying for APRA Music Grants for external programmes will need to show that at least 40 percent of the participants are women, or a commitment to tackling gender disparity. Other initiatives include mentoring programmes for emerging female artists across a range of genres. In line with research recommendations, at least half the mentors will be men. APRA AMCOS will also invest annual in technical skills training and programmes to help build confidence and networking skills.

APRA AMCOS is Australia’s largest music organisation and the body that collects royalties for musicians. Only 15 percent of its own Board positions are currently held by women and it is yet to commit to 40 percent female participation but has said this could be implemented.

The announcements come in response to the release of a research report called Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways conducted by RMIT’s Dr Catherine Strong and Dr Fabian Cannizzo, which was commissioned by APRA AMCOS in response to feedback from the music industry. The research involved surveys with screen composer members of APRA AMCOS between December 2016 and February 2017 as well as one-on-one interviews with 11 female screen composers and 16 male screen composers from within the survey sample group. The resulting report shows a huge imbalance in gender representation.

Another report released this week by the University of Sydney called Skipping a beat: Assessing the state of gender equality in the Australian music industry found that gender-based inequality was entrenched across the live music sector.

APRA AMCOS membership data shows that only 21.7 percent of their members identify as female. This means that more women are represented in Australian cricket (24 percent) than songwriting in Australia.

As detailed in the Australian Women Screen Composers report: “The percentage of royalty payments the organisation made to female members has fluctuated between 15% and 21% between 2007 and 2016, with no clear trend apparent. Given this ongoing underrepresentation of women in music making demonstrated by these numbers, a subset of APRA AMCOS members was chosen to form the basis of a preliminary study on why this is the case, and what strategies could be developed to increase women’s participation in the music industry. Screen composers were identified as a sub-group among the APRA AMCOS membership that was even more polarised in terms of gender representation than the wider membership, with only 13% of registered screen composers being female,” said the report.

Dr Strong’s research found that women screen composers are more likely to be well educated in their field than men, with more qualifications, but less likely to be making a sustainable career from their screen composition work. Many of them have faced sexism and felt that they faced barriers based on their gender.

“One of the key outcomes of this research was that there was a fundamental mismatch between how our male participants saw the industry compared to the women,” said Dr Strong.

“The men were much more likely to see it as a meritocracy, while women were more inclined to see gender bias. Bringing about change is going to be that much harder if it is only women who even see that there is a problem. Engaging men in this issue and asking them to think about how their actions and attitudes make a difference to women in the industry is key to overcoming gender disparity.”

Jenny Morris, Chair, APRA Board said, “Our industry has been waving the flag of inclusiveness for years, but the small numbers of women we organically recruit each year tell an entirely different story. If music is to face its complex technological and legal future with talent from all demographics, then it’s time for a little less conversation and a little more action. For APRA AMCOS this means a deliberate recruitment and re-training programme to draw female talent we know is out there.”

APRA AMCOS is calling on music organisations, publishers, record labels and the wider sector to commit to gender parity within their own programmes and initiatives. In a press statement APRA AMCOS said: This could apply internally through supporting career development of staff and externally through Board nominations, selection of industry spokespeople and development of opportunities for women to extend their influence in wider discussions.”

Read the full Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways report HERE