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Sexual Harassment, Ageism & Unequal Pay Are Greatest Barriers to Gender Equality in the Music Industry, New Report Says

These are among the key findings from the third annual Be the Change study conducted by Luminate, Tunecore and Believe.

As the world marks International Women’s Day 2023, a new study is illuminating the pervasive and ongoing barriers to gender equality in the music industry — and how to combat them.

Out Wednesday (March 8), 2023’s Be The Change: Gender Equality in the Music Industry study was conducted by Luminate, Tunecore and Believe. This study (available in full here) synthesizes the responses of over 1,650 creators, industry professionals and executives from 109 countries and includes male, female and gender-expansive perspectives.

The globally distributed online survey considered respondents’ ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability status, parental status, location and age, among other factors.


Primary findings include that in the past year, 34% of women in the music industry had experienced sexual harassment or abuse, 60% of women and 62% of nonbinary individuals felt that discrimination based on age was a significant problem, and 53% of respondents felt that cisgender men are paid more than others in the music industry.

The report also highlights a perception gap around these issues, stating that “the music industry has a clear disconnect in how we assume industry professionals and artists experience the industry and the reality.” The survey indicates that 60% of respondents believe gender discrimination is a major issue in the music industry. Women and nonbinary individuals are likelier to see gender discrimination as an issue as compared with men.

The report also found “alarming” rates of sexual harassment and abuse in the music industry, often against women and gender-expansive individuals. Many respondents reported that they did not find adequate resources for survivors or consequences for offenders. Thirty-four percent of women, 42% of trans individuals and 43% of nonbinary individuals who participated in the survey report being sexually harassed or abused at work.

The study also found that gender discrimination in the music industry is compounded by the discrimination of other marginalized groups, with inadequate representation and tokenism complicating women and gender-expansive individuals’ experience in the industry. “Minority women, for example, are 114% more likely than average to feel that their hiring decision was, in part, based on their racial, ethnic, tribal background, or country of origin,” the report states.

The industry wage gap also remains a significant problem. Fifty-three percent of respondents agreed that cisgender men are paid more than others, while half of the surveyed women report “having their or another’s professional or career experience discredited, which impacts earning potential in the industry.”


These issues are also compounded by an ongoing lack of equal leadership, with 30% of women, 30% of underrepresented ethnic groups and 74% of transgender individuals reported being passed on for a promotion. Furthermore, 42% of women and 98% of trans people said that they don’t have access to professional training/development opportunities.

Given these issues, it’s perhaps unsurprising that 76% of women, 82% of trans individuals and 89% of nonbinary individuals reported struggling with their mental health since entering the music industry. 

The report also offers statistics on equality in streaming by determining the percentage of female and nonbinary artists represented in the top 50 artists by combined streams in multiple countries last year. South Korea ranked highest in equality, with 48% of the top 50 artist spaces occupied by female and nonbinary artists, while Colombia ranked lowest with just 10%. In the United States and Canada, 21% of the top 50 positions are occupied by women and nonbinary artists.

Beyond outlining the challenges, the report also suggests straightforward solutions. These include creating more transparent dialogues around pay within organizations, the creation of employee resource groups that help advance gender equality, the creation of diverse hiring committees, the creation and implementation of policies that protect survivors of sexual harassment and the removal of non-disclosure agreements that often prohibit those who have experienced sexual harassment from speaking out.

Respondents reported that they believe executives, companies, major labels and artists are in the best position to create such changes.

“The good news is that BE THE CHANGE is now in its third year and we’ve seen the study’s impact,”  TuneCore CEO Andreea Gleeson said in a statement. “It’s been quoted by the United Nations and widely discussed in creator and executive circles across the industry. But here’s the bad news – we need more change. We, as individuals and as an industry must heed the calls to action and do just that – take action. Small changes add up and if we each do something different each day, week, month, year, we will see a sea change in the industry. So let’s go!”