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Survey: Female and male music authors have a completely different idea of equality in the industry 

Tasapuolinen sukupuolijakauma musiikintekijöissä -tutkimus, infograafi

According to a recent Finnish survey, 70% of female lyricists and composers feel that the music industry is unequal, whereas the corresponding figure for men is only 32%. The biggest reasons given for this were the prevailing attitudes in the music industry and the lack of networks and role models for women. Desired measures to improve matters were also highlighted in the survey, including providing better support and encouragement through music teaching, increasing opportunities for having music as a hobby and increased showcasing of role models.

Eleven Finnish music industry actors commissioned a large-scale survey that sought to find out why only one in five music authors in Finland are female or non-binary. More than half of music students are female.

“The situation is similar in many other countries, too. We wanted to investigate what obstacles and incentives there are to making music and what are the most important factors affecting whether or not composing music or writing lyrics for it becomes a job. In addition, we wanted to survey what kinds of measures are needed to improve the situation, says Vappu Aura, the Director of Communications, Marketing and Public Relations at Finnish Composers’ Copyright Society Teosto, which is coordinating the survey project.

The target groups for the survey were music professionals, people who pursue music as a hobby, students and influential figures in the industry. The survey had a total of 2,055 respondents, of whom 47% were female and 46% were male. There were also 35 (2%) respondents who identified as non-binary. As part of the survey, 21 qualitative interviews were also conducted.

According to the survey:

  •  70% of women and 77% non-binary respondents feel that the music industry is unequal, whereas the corresponding figure for men is only 32%.
  • Among respondents under the age of 35, the current state of equality is felt to be the worst: 78% of women and 42% of men feel that the industry is unequal.
  • 47% of women and 76% non-binary respondents feel that their gender has had a negative effect on their ability to find the right partners and networks, while the corresponding figure for men is 7%.
  • 29% of women and 45% non-binary respondents have been discriminated against due to their gender as composers/lyricists. The corresponding figure for men is 5%.
  • Among female respondents, the rap/hiphop/r’n’b genre was felt to be the most unequal. Women in classical and art music have experienced the least amount of inequality.  
  • Women start making music early: Among women, 39% wrote their first compositions under the age of 12, while only 24% of men have done so.
  • Role models and idols have the biggest impact on career choice (49% of women and 66% of men). For women, the role of the music teacher is much more significant (34% of women, 28% of men).
  • Respondents are interested in composing and writing lyrics: among music students, 73% of women and 88% of men considered it an interesting career choice.
  • Both women and men stated that their biggest obstacles to working as composers and lyricists were their own insecurity/lack of belief (82% of women, 74% of men) and their idea of the industry (80% of women, 67% of men). More often than men, women consider the lack of work-related networks (77%) and the lack of support from the people around them (69%) as obstacles.
  • Respondents stated that the most important measures to increase equality are providing better support and encouragement in early childhood education and care and at school (47%), increasing opportunities to have music as a hobby (45%) and showcasing role models (43%). More often than men, women feel that building new kinds of networks (46% of female respondents) and having gender quotas (27% of female respondents) is important. In their responses to open-ended questions, both women and men focused the most on changing the existing structures, attitudes and practices in the industry. 

”Men decide what good music is”

Survey respondents feel that the music industry’s traditional masculinity and prevailing attitudes are the biggest reason for the low number of women and non-binary people among music authors.  The responses repeatedly mention old boys’ clubs, men as the gatekeepers of the music industry and the overall feeling that men decide what good music is.

Female respondents also report having been discriminated due to their gender. The discrimination mainly takes the form of belittling and lack of respect, favouring of men and better pay for men. Harassment was also mentioned as a form of gender-based discrimination.

On the other hand, a significant share of male respondents over the age of 35 feel that gender does not matter much when it comes to making music and that everyone has equal opportunities in the industry. The same respondent group has the most respondents who feel that measures to promote equality are not really needed in the industry. 

“This clear difference in the experiences of women and men is, of course, concerning. Those who have not experienced being discriminated against due to their gender may not necessarily be able to recognise this kind of discrimination. On the other hand, men under the age of 35 have a clearer understanding of the challenges to equality and they also feel that change is needed”, Aura says.

Women and girls are also interested in making music

Women and men encounter similar obstacles to becoming composers and lyricists. For women, the lack of role models and work-related networks stand out as obstacles. On the other hand, the common explanation that women and girls are simply not interested in making music is not borne out by the survey results.

“Among female composers, 39% wrote their first compositions under the age of 12, while only 24% of male composers have done so. In addition, among music students, about three quarters of women are interested in a career as a composer or a lyricist”, Aura says.

Among non-binary respondents, the biggest obstacles are the lack of work-related networks, lack of opportunities to have music as a hobby due to financial reasons and ideas of the industry.

Education and music teachers have a big role

According to the survey, music education and music teachers also appear to have a big role in the decision to become a music author. Many respondents feel that girls are more often steered towards theory-heavy and flawless instrument playing or singing, whereas boys are encouraged to play in a band and improvise.

“Based on the results, it seems that young people who pursue music as a hobby do not feel that they receive enough information about composing music or writing lyrics as a possible professional identity. There is certainly room for development here, such as when it comes to guidance counselling”, says Sanna Saarinen, the Managing Director of the Association of Finnish Music Schools.

There are also differences in the use of music technology: nearly 60% of female respondents felt that using music technology was difficult or did not use technology at all. Among men, 60% felt that using technology was easy. The difference in the use of music technology starts developing early: only 55% of girls under the age of 18 have used music technology, while the corresponding figure for boys is 84%. 

According to Saarinen, technology currently plays a significant role in music industry, which means that whether or not one knows how to use it certainly has an effect on who ends up making music.

Towards a more equal world of music

Respondents could also suggest measures to change the situation. The responses highlighted measures such as providing better support and encouragement at school, increasing opportunities for having music as a hobby and showcasing of role models.

“We received a huge number of suggested measures and would like to thank all those who responded and made suggestions. Together with the partners for this survey project, we will immediately start working on concrete measures to make music-making more equal in Finland”, Aura says.

The survey was conducted by Tutkimustoimisto Vastakaiku, according to which the number of responses to open-ended questions in this survey was truly exceptional.

“This topic has truly stirred up emotions. We had more than 10,000 responses to open-ended questions, and many respondents shared a part of their life story for the survey. The importance of the topic was also highlighted in the in-depth interviews with successful professionals and influential figures in the industry. Many think that increasing equality would benefit not only women and non-binary people but also the entire industry”, says Katariina Tenhunen, the CEO of Vastakaiku.

The full research report will be published in English later.

For further information, please contact

Vappu Aura, Director of Communications and Public Relations, Teosto
tel. +358 50 560 4450,

Sanna Saarinen, Association of Finnish Music Schools
tel. +358 45 7877 1787, 

Heidi Partti, Professor, Music education, Sibelius Academy
tel. +358 400 941699, 

The survey project was coordinated by Teosto and its partners were Elements Music, the Finnish Jazz Federation, the Conservatory Association of Finland, the Finnish Music Creators’ Association, the Finnish Music Publishers Association, the Association of Finnish Music Schools, the Society of Finnish Composers, the University of the Arts Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, Warner Music Finland and Yleisradio. The survey was conducted by Tutkimustoimisto Vastakaiku.

The survey data was collected through three surveys, the respondents to which were 1,505 music authors, 150 music students and 400 young people (13–17 years old) who pursued music as a hobby. In addition, 21 influential figures in the music industry were interviewed.

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