Challenging bias and showcasing female+ talent in the music industry
29 March 2023
Vick Bain, founder of The F-List for Music and an associate lecturer on Falmouth's Music Business MA, is a powerhouse of the music industry and a driving force for good. In this interview, we quiz her about the imbalance of gender power for female+ artists today.
Vick Bain has an incredible career. President of the ISM (Independent Society of Musicians) council, a consultant and campaigner for diversity and inclusion in music and a trainer and advisor to everything from record labels to trade bodies, festivals and even the odd orchestra, Vick’s wealth of experience in the music industry gives her the power to change attitudes for the better. Her PhD research at Queen Mary University of London in the Centre for Research in Equality and Diversity focuses on women’s careers in music.
Vick is also the founder of The F-List for Music; a directory of female+ musicians campaigning on behalf of and supporting female musicians in the UK. It was in this capacity that she recently spoke on a UK parliamentary enquiry committee panel to tackle the treatment of women throughout the industry.
Read on to get Vick's take on the state of the music industry and her tips for artists coming onto the scene.
How has the industry changed since you started campaigning for gender equality in music?
I did my first equality research project back in 2011 and there was a LOT of resistance to what I was doing, which was essentially assessing attitudes towards equality, diversity and inclusion by music industry employers. Even asking them what they thought about these topics led to a backlash from some respondents.
Now over a decade later, and with the launch of high-profile equality campaigns across the industry (along with awareness across the whole of society especially through #metoo) it's a different landscape. Awareness of the statistics and support is much greater, although there is still much to be done. Women have flooded into the industry but mostly into lower paid, entry-level jobs, so I hope that in 10 years' time these women will be climbing the leadership ranks.
We need the major music companies to support positive action initiatives for women in music. And we need the record labels and publishing companies and agents to sign and invest in more female talent!
What are you hoping the outcome and industry response of the parliamentary enquiry you’re speaking on will be?
That we will have improvements in legislation and more support from the industry. We need explicit protections for creative freelancers in Equality Legislation. We need to make it easier for people to go to an Employment Tribunal with greater protections from victimisation (this is retaliation from employers for submitting complaints, which happens a heart-breaking amount).
We need to stop the use of NDAs when people are forced out of companies for complaining about sexual harassment and discrimination. We need the major music companies to support positive action initiatives for women in music. And we need the record labels and publishing companies and agents to sign and invest in more female talent!
Your consultancy work and The F-List are really changing things for female+ artists. Do you have any great stories to share with us as a result of the project?
We have some great statistics; over 350 women featured in our music playlists, over 500 women attended our free online lockdown training and networking events over 2021 and 2022, and we know many festivals in multiple genres across the UK have used the directory to source and book acts (actually; people can use it anonymously for free so we may never know its full impact, but we do have 2.5K website visitors a month!).
We also know women who have been booked for festival slot or signed by managers and now have development deals as a result. Others have found other musicians to collaborate with, been given commissions, booked as session musicians, and featured on radio shows. We had 18 women working as Fresh on the Net moderators last summer (Tom Robinson's new talent initiative) and 18 women who have completed our Culture of Belonging training at Miloco Studios.
What’s the prognosis for our students’ careers in music? How would you advise they tackle gender bias when starting their careers?
Being prepared for inequality is a good start, know your rights and join an organisation such as the ISM (of which I am currently President). They support musicians in their professional careers and also have fantastic support and legal advice.
I will also repeat the 'top tips' I gave in a lecture to final year degree students at Falmouth a few days ago and which are applicable to everyone, and they were:
- Be an entrepreneur
- Focus on soft skills
- Find your tribe
- Prepare for networking and
- Craft your personal brand
When it comes to 'finding your tribe', female musicians can create a free listing on The F-List to become part of a community of thousands of like-minded women, gender expansive musicians and supporters.