Rebecca Clarke: Diversity in music needs more work

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The Royal Albert Hall during the Proms season

If you take a look at the list of the best selling music artists of all time, it will not take long to discover that the roll call is a pretty male dominated affair. Madonna is the only woman in the top seven, the rest of the list being made up of The Beatles, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

The dominance of men in the upper echelons of British music is not only limited to the pop and rock world, classical music is also unfairly skewed towards men.

New research from The British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA) has found that there are major issues when it comes to the commissioning of works by female composers.

The research, conducted by BASCA’s Classical Co-coordinator, Natalie Bleicher, involved analysing data on commissioned works that were submitted to the 2015 British Composer Awards.

Only 21 percent of commissioned composers are female, the report found. When the report went onto consider the numbers of women studying music at universities there was a decrease at each level of study – 39 percent of Bachelor’s degrees are awarded to women, whereas 14 percent of PhDs are awarded to women.

The report also found the gender imbalance was actually higher in younger age groups.

Commenting on the findings, BASCA CEO Vick Bain said: “It is something we have long suspected is an issue. I first conducted equality and diversity research into the music industry back in 2011, when most people were still in denial.

BASCA has taken steps to encourage more diversity in this year’s British Composer Awards.

In 2013, the winners of all 13 categories at the British Composer Awards were male, and 12 were white. In 2014, five were female and all were white. In 2015, two were female and all were white.

In an attempt to tackle this the Diversity in Composition day will be launched on BBC Radio 3 in October, focusing on BAME composers.

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