Fostering a culture of aspiration important

Dunedin singer-songwriter Nadia Reid is one of the five females in the running for the Apra...
Dunedin singer-songwriter Nadia Reid is one of the five females in the running for the Apra Silver Scroll Awards, being held in Dunedin this week. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Victoria Kelly writes in defence of Apra’s gender-affirmative policy in response to Irian Scott (ODT, Opinion, 21.9.17).

Music  is a universal art form. It articulates the human condition and illuminates our shared experience. Music doesn't care about gender, the colour of a person's skin or their belief system - it speaks to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Yet despite music's ability to transcend human boundaries, the truth about the music industry is that it's profoundly male dominated. One voice is louder than the others.

In fact, 78.5% of New Zealand and Australian songwriters and composers are men, 94% of music producers are men, 95% of sound engineers are men, a recent University of Sydney study shows that 72% of senior and strategic roles in key Australian industry organisations are held by men and a 2016 Huffington Post study of 10 major US Music Festivals (including Coachella and Lollapalooza) found that 77% of the acts programmed over a five-year period were exclusively male.

There are many more statistics like this, all of which fly in the face of the fact that 50% of the audience for music is female, 45% of qualified musicians and music students are women, more than 59% of people working at entry level in the music industry are female, and many of today's most influential and important musical artists are women.

So the scarcity of women in the music industry is certainly not because of a lack of interest, talent, ability or ambition and the fact female songwriters and artists punch so far above their weight when they are in the minority is evidence of this. Apra Amcos has made a commitment to better understanding and addressing gender inequality in our industry. We're actively encouraging women to aspire towards music careers by helping more female composers join our organisation; providing mentors and role models for our female members; ensuring women see themselves represented at our events and on stage at our awards ceremonies; ensuring women are better represented on our judging panels; and encouraging greater female participation in our professional development initiatives.

But are we doing this at the expense of our male members?

No. The purpose of addressing gender disparity in the music industry is not to swap one form of inequality for another, or to perpetuate discrimination of any kind - and the targets we've set ourselves don't favour women, they aspire towards a greater female representation of 40%, which is still less than half our membership. Our purpose is to cultivate an environment where everyone can aspire towards a career in the music industry regardless of their gender. The point is to remove rather than create barriers, and to include rather than exclude people.

We've received enormous support from our members across the gender spectrum who overwhelmingly view gender inequality as a human problem that's shared (and can therefore be solved) by everyone. The majority of our members aren't threatened by the prospect of a more balanced gender population in our industry - they're inspired by the thought of what a more diverse and welcoming human landscape might generate.

Quite by chance, Apra Amcos has made this commitment to gender equality during a year when, for the first time in our history, all five songs vying for the Apra Silver Scroll Award have either been written by women or by mixed writing partnerships, and all five songs are performed by female artists. This is even more meaningful when you consider that the top five songs were voted for by our members, of whom 77% are men.

To me, this says something wonderful about our members. It says our female members are strong and our male members support their success. It says we're all in it together, we can inspire and give strength to each other, we're listening with our ears and not our eyes, and - above all - what we care about most is music.

Victoria Kelly is the director of New Zealand membership at Apra Amcos (the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society).


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