When it comes to the music industry, most professionals and fans are at least acutely aware of the toxicity it breeds. From the lack of diversity to outright misogyny, so many negatives are at play here. This leads us to question how to empower yourself in toxic environments.
I was recently asked by a college student, “How can young women who want to work in the music industry prepare themselves for the sexism that comes with it?” This left me taken aback. Leaving me to wrack my brain for advice, knowing that it would never be enough.
After that conversation, I thought to myself how sad it is that someone eager to get their start in the music industry knows without a doubt that they will face discrimination and harassment because of their gender – or race or ability, or age.
What is it that makes the music industry such a toxic work environment? For starters, it’s no secret that the music industry is lacking in diversity. Of live-music professionals 67% are male and 85% are white, as reported by Pollstar/Venues Now in a 2020 survey.
This lack of diversity can lead to unbalanced power dynamics that are felt at every level of the industry. A 2021 report from Tunecore, Midia and Believe titled Be the Change: Women Making Music Study found that the biggest challenges of unbalanced power dynamics are sexual objectification, agemism, lack of access to male-dominated industry resources and lower pay.
The music industry is also no stranger to issues with mental health – 73% of independent musicians have battled stress, anxiety, and depression, according to a 2019 study published by Swedish digital-distribution platform Record Union.
When you take all of this into account with the fact that many music industry professionals are also working extended hours it’s clear that there are a lot of factors that contribute to unhealthy and outright toxic work environments. Which inevitably has led a lot of people to quiet the music industry all together. But if we are to stay in the music industry and fight for the equality we deserve, what can we do to change these toxic situations?
Past episodes of Name 3 Songs that you might find helpful Mental Health & Sexism on Tour with Miyoko Esco and The Over-Sexualisation of Women in Pop with Payton Dale
Sources for How to Empower Yourself in Toxic Environments
Be the Change: Women Making Music Study (Tunecore, Midia and Believe, 2021)
State of the Industry: A Transformational Moment (Pollstar, Venues Now, 2020)
The 73 Percent Report (Record Union, 2019)
‘We Can’t Have All Our Artists Die’: How the Music Industry Is Fighting the Mental-Health Crisis (Rolling Stone, Nicole Frehsee, 2020)
13 Signs of a Toxic Workplace and When It Becomes Illegal (In Her Sign 2019)