The Recording Academy, Arizona State University, and Berklee Publish Women in the Mix Study

Illuminating the experiences of women in the American music business, the study was developed to help create a more inclusive and equitable industry.

March 8, 2022

The Recording Academy, Arizona State University (ASU), and the Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship revealed today the results of the inaugural Women in the Mix Study, designed to examine and better understand the experiences and socio-economic landscape of women and gender-expansive people working in the American music industry. Developed to influence advocates, allies, and leaders in music to work towards a more inclusive and equitable industry, the study explores demographic characteristics, employment experiences, career challenges, job satisfaction, family decisions, and pathways into the music industry within this community. With this survey, the academy, ASU, and Berklee affirm their commitment to create dialogue around the realities of women and gender-expansive people in music, directing resources to accelerate progress around representation and equity.

The study was built upon the baseline results from the 2019 study by Berklee and Women in Music, titled "Women in the U.S. Music Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities." More than 1,600 respondents from across the U.S. representing all ages, races, and ethnicities took part in the Women in the Mix Study. Respondents included those working in various capacities in the industry, from behind the scenes to front and center, and at all levels, from entry to executive. Compelling data points are outlined below:

  • Discrimination is prevalent. Eighty-four percent of respondents had faced discrimination equally across all racial identities; 77 percent felt they had been treated differently in the music industry because of their gender; and more than 56 percent believed their gender had affected their employment in the industry, with music creators and performers expressing this the most, at 65 percent.
  • They are overworked and underpaid. Fifty-seven percent of respondents have two or more jobs, 24 percent are working between 40 and 51 hours per week, and an additional 28 percent are working more than 50 hours per week. Thirty-six percent of respondents are making less than $40,000 per year and almost half of them feel like they should be further along in their careers.
  • Music creators and performers see the lowest income and highest dissatisfaction with career progress. Of the respondents that identified as music creators and performers, 48.6 percent said they made less than $40,000 per year. While that's roughly 15 percent higher than within the entire respondent pool, this indicates that these professionals are making less money than their peers in other professions on average. Approximately 57 percent of music creators felt they should be further along in their career, compared to those working in music education (48.5 percent), event/tour production and management/promotion (41.7 percent), music business (37.4 percent), and music media and technology (32.9 percent)
  • Respondents prioritize career advancement over parenthood. Roughly one out of every two respondents said they chose not to have children or had fewer children than they wanted because of their careers. Respondents with children under the age of 18 represent slightly less than two out of every 10 women and gender-expansive people in the music industry. People who make more than $100,000 per year had a 27 percent likelihood of having children, which fell to 15 percent for those making less than $40,000 per year.
  • Gender-expansive respondents face heightened levels of adversity. Gender-expansive people were less satisfied than respondents who identified as women by a 16 percent margin. They were twice as likely to make less than $40,000 per year and felt less comfortable in their workplace by a margin of almost 18 percent.
  • Mentorships prove to be beneficial toward respondents' self-fulfillment. Ninety-three percent of respondents felt mentoring had contributed to their career. These respondents were more likely to feel they were where they should be in their careers and satisfied with their jobs.
  • Despite challenges, career satisfaction and passion for the music industry remains high. Seventy-eight percent of respondents reported feeling satisfied, with more than 80 percent in career categories that seem to face the most obstacles, such as freelancers, music creators, and performers. More than half of respondents said that their pathway into their careers was through their inherent love and passion for the music industry.
  • Advocacy organizations provide value. Forty percent of respondents were members of advocacy organizations, and roughly 20 percent mentioned advocacy in their recommendations to help improve the climate for women and gender-expansive people. Thirty-five percent of respondents cited professional or industry-related organizations as being one of the main sectors of the music industry that helped them grow and advance. 

Read the full report.

"We have a responsibility to ensure that we are amplifying women's voices and our lived experiences," said Valeisha Butterfield Jones, co-president of the Recording Academy. "The Women in the Mix study is a groundbreaking account of the realities and decisions that we as women working in music are publicly and privately making each day. By centering this study around active listening, learning, and building solutions, we've armed the industry with valuable data about the barriers affecting women in music and how we can together take a stand. We're thankful to the more than 1,600 respondents that participated, whose voices are helping us shape the approach to achieving equity in the industry."

"Listening to these individuals and hearing their stories is an important part of making them and their experiences visible," said Erin Barra, Women in the Mix Study author and director of popular music at ASU. "When trying to create meaningful change you have to speak directly to the people who will be most affected by that change and let them be a part of the conversation."   

In addition to sharing their career experiences, more than 1,000 respondents provided recommendations for combatting disadvantages, accelerating progress, and making the music industry more inclusive. Based on the data collected, the academy, ASU, and Berklee have put forth the following recommendations for the music industry to help foster representation for this community:

  • Recruitment pledges: By getting the commitment of those who hire to recruit diverse and robust candidate pools for their positions, we address access to opportunities, intentional diversity and hiring efforts, and the negative effect of gatekeeper culture.
  • Creating paid internship opportunities: Since internships are often unpaid, they are a barrier to those who don't have access to sufficient resources that would otherwise allow them to work for free. By creating paid internship opportunities, we address access to resources, opportunities, networking, and work/life balance.
  • Grants: By building a more robust grant and support infrastructure in both the private and public sectors, we address access to resources, access to opportunities, and work/life balance.
  • Mentorship initiatives: By creating pathways for women and gender-expansive people to access quality mentorship and mentors, we address access to mentors, which we found to have a profoundly positive effect on the careers of women and gender-expansive people.
  • Soft skill development: Mentorship and networking are both largely built upon a person's interpersonal skill set, as well as their ability to negotiate and advocate for themselves. By bolstering soft skill development, we address people's access to resources, access to opportunities, access to mentors, and networking acumen. 
  • Additional paid days off: With burnout being a significant challenge brought up by respondents, giving employees additional and/or mandatory days off would address work/life balance.
  • Supporting advocacy groups and initiatives: By raising funds for and supporting groups who are on the front lines of advocacy work in the industry, we address access to resources, opportunities, networking, and intentional diversity efforts. 

Based on the study's findings, and to help address issues surrounding access to resources and opportunities, the academy has committed to taking further action through a donation totaling $50,000 to five organizations that support the growth of women and girls in music: Beats by Girlz, Femme It Forward, Girls Make Beats, She Is the Music, and Women's Audio Mission. Each advocacy group will receive a $10,000 grant to further its mission.

Addressing women's representation in music has been a longstanding priority for the Recording Academy. In 2019, the organization launched Women in the Mix, which prompted hundreds of music professionals and organizations to pledge to consider at least two women in the selection process every time a producer or engineer is hired. Also in 2019, the academy pledged to double the number of women voters by 2025, and has reached 60 percent of that goal by adding 1,414 new women voting members to its membership. In 2021, the academy donated a total of $25,000 total to five charities and organizations that support the growth of women and girls in production and engineering: Gender Amplified, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice, We Are Moving the Needle, Time's Up, and Women's Audio Mission.

The Women in the Mix study was authored by Erin Barra, Mako Fitts Ward, Lisa M. Anderson, and Alaysia M. Brown. The report was created with the highest level of accessibility standards to ensure equal access for all individuals.