A recent study has concluded that a staggering 81% of women say navigating the music industry is harder for them than it is for men. And it’s not just about them feeling they have to work twice as hard, either. In fact, the Be The Change: Women Making Music survey identified the main challenge for women in the industry was sexual harassment, followed by misogyny, male dominance and women finding it harder to gain recognition than men.
What’s more troubling, is that two-thirds of the participants state that sexual harassment is a persistent problem within the industry - it’s not just a one-time thing. This constant objectification combined with a whole load of patronisation has been noted as one of the key challenges women creators experience on a daily basis.
As a woman in the music industry myself, I have experienced my fair share of misogyny, condescendence and sexual harassment. From being invasively groped at a festival, (shoutout to a close male friend who removed me from the situation even though it shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place) to being told my musical ideas were shit and I don’t know how to play my own instrument, (I took piano lessons from the age of 7) it feels like these problems are so ingrained into the mechanisms of the industry that people just subconsciously accept them. And it doesn’t matter how far you climb the ladder of the industry - these problems exist from the very bottom to the very top - they have just become customary, laughed off and not taken seriously.
Luckily, I now surround myself with decent people, who have decent morals and I can wholeheartedly trust with my life. However, it did take a long time for me to realise the damage these constant experiences were having on me, both mentally and physically.
Back in March 2021, it was announced (not so shockingly) that only 23% of the Grammy nominees identified as women. That’s only 198 nominees out of 853 across all 83 categories. The body behind the awards declared that they would conduct a study of “women’s representation in the music business” following accusations of “systemic sexism and voting irregularities.”
Since uncovering these figures, The Recording Academy, most famous for the Grammy Awards, has pledged by 2025 to double the number of female voters. It also pledged to “improve the participation of women in the music business.”
However, the chair and interim president and chief executive of The Recording Academy, Harvey Mason Jr released a statement saying, “While we are hopeful that we will still see benefit from that effort, we haven’t seen enough progress to date.”
See - even in the most elite of settings the scales are tipped in favour of the man, and unfortunately, it seems like there is still a long way to go until women are fully represented within the industry. Luckily for us, there are plenty of strong females out there advocating for change and paving the way for a fairer future.
Here, I talk to LA-based pop artist and rising star iLana Armida, the founder of her own independent label and entertainment company, and someone who is blazing the trail for female artists to do things their own way. She reflects on the challenges she’s faced as a woman in the industry, how she's overcome certain barriers, and the steps she feels are needed for real change.
Firstly, how do you feel about being a woman in the music industry?
This industry is a tough one, especially for women. It is still a male-dominated business but I am happy with the lane I am carving out for myself and I am optimistic about the future.
Have you ever experienced any prejudice/misogyny whilst working in the industry as a strong woman?
There was a day a couple of months ago that I found really distressing, simply because of how I am treated by the men in my industry. As a writer, I am put in rooms with a lot of strangers - mostly men. This one particular time, I ran into a lot of mansplaining, condescending and disrespectful men. I usually don't let it get to me but it was just constant.
I make a point not to work with people like that again no matter how influential or successful they are. A lot of times men will assume I am just a pretty girl who can sing and will start explaining business or the engineering process to me not knowing that I have a degree in music business and have been engineering sessions for 7 years.
Why is it so important, especially for women, to try and maintain creative control over their art?
I grew up listening to horror stories like how TLC, despite being one of the most successful bands, were bankrupt and I vowed I wouldn't let that happen to me. I spent years studying the business side of things before I even launched my artist career and so created my own independent label and entertainment company. Your power is in your independence so even if you are signing with a major label you need to make sure you are maintaining creative control or this industry will eat you alive.
Do you think there's still a lot of inequality within the music industry and if so, what do you think can be done to change this?
Absolutely. We have seen a lot of progress in recent years and I am fortunate to have worked with some amazing people but we still have a long way to go.
I think the more we bring awareness to this and the more women in the industry unite and work together we can create space for change to happen.
You've already been extremely successful in your career to date - you've written and co-produced for Doja Cat, Alex Kinsey, and are working with Mac Miller's drummer - can you tell me how these collaborations came about?
I met the producer Yeti in LA. He's an incredible producer and responsible for most of Doja's hits. I created a track with Yeti that she (Doja Cat) released on her deluxe album - it’s so cool. Alex Kinsey and I work together a lot - we write for each other's projects and he is my favorite person to write with at the moment. He definitely gets my vision. Kendal Lewis is a drummer I have worked with. He is incredibly talented and also happened to play for Mac Miller at his last show.
What are your biggest goals and ambitions as a woman in the music industry?
Right now, my big goal is to go on tour. I want to connect to more people around the world and let my music be an outlet for more people to connect to each other.
What advice would you give to young women both artists and those wanting to make moves in the industry?
You will get a lot of "No"s but do not let that stop you. Keep proving people wrong and do not let anyone tell you that you can not do something. You have more power than you realize and are capable of doing whatever you set your mind to. Keep breaking through ceilings and changing the game. Don't try to "break into the industry" - create your own industry and play by your own rules!
iLana has done just that. In fact, she’s recently independently released her latest single, Summertime Love, a summer anthem that will restore your faith in the world. While we still have a long way to go, hopefully, with the ambition and drive of artists like iLana, we can finally be represented and rewarded the way we all deserve.