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Emily Saunders for #IWD2021: Without Question

The Ivors Academy celebrates the incredible and inspirational contribution that female creators have made to our UK and global music industries.

International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.

Today also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

Significant activity is witnessed worldwide as groups come together to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias, and rally for women’s equality.

The Ivors Academy is proud to have achieved female-male gender parity for the first time in our history on both our Academy and Trust Boards. We are committed to sustaining this achievement and supporting the voices of female creative talent throughout our organisation.

Emily Saunders is a critically acclaimed vocalist, composer, producer. Her albums have sold worldwide, receiving multiple 4 star reviews inc. Evening Standard, The Guardian, The Independent, plus The Daily Telegraph’s “Best Of”.

Dubbed as “UK’s Queen of Jazz fusion” (Snowboy), her music’s broadcast on BBC Radio1, 2, 3, 4, 6, JazzFM, national radio stations around the world, plus achieved international iTunes & Amazon chart ‘Top 10s’ in UK, USA, Germany, France and Indonesia. ‘Absolutely brilliant’ (Jamie Cullum, BBC Radio2), ‘one for the jazz dance clubs’ (Gilles Peterson, BBC Radio6).

On behalf of her roles as an Ivors Academy Board Director, Chair of The Ivors Academy’s EDI Steering Group and The Ivors Academy’s Women in Music Working Group, Emily has said:

“A key role for The Ivors Academy’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Steering group is to make sure that diverse creator perspectives from within our organisation and the wider music industry are acknowledged, appreciated, listened to, and heard.

There is still a need to create a better balance of representation across the board within the music industry, and that change and progress still needs to take place in many areas.

It is of particular importance today as we celebrate International Women’s Day, that all the incredible talent that exists in our industry is given an equal voice today and every day.”

The Ivors Academy is delighted that Emily has shared her thoughts for International Women’s Day –

WITHOUT QUESTION

The countless times I’ve been asked to clarify if I wrote the chords, bassline, and arranged my compositions is heart-breaking.  To lay this to rest, yes, I’m a vocalist, a composer, and producer. Maybe it’s a ‘singer’ thing or a ‘women’ thing; all I know is it happens a lot.

People compose, they are artists, they produce. For me that’s where it begins and ends.  I prefer to be judged by my work not by my gender.

A world where people feel the need constantly to clarify their professional skills, is a world where people are not used to seeing equal, diverse, inclusive representation in composition, songwriting, producing, and all positions within the music industry. So, how do we get to the position where it’s familiar to see equal representation of women across the music industry? To quote Malala Yousafzai:

“One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.”

The way I see this is ‘start from where you are’.  Change is seldom given to us, without effort.  We have to take action in our music industry, and action for the greater good. Therefore how and what specifically can be done to create the change we need? It’s not that there’s a lack of talent – but there is a lack of representation.  What needs to change? Let’s look at some cold hard statistics:

Vick Bain’s Counting the Music Industry Report 2019:

“Just over 14% of writers currently signed to publishers and just under 20% of acts signed to labels are female.”

Nadia Khan of Women In CTRL’s Gender Disparity in UK Radio Report 2020 (based on British artists whose songs are registered on Radiomonitor).

“Artists in the Top 100 UK Radio airplay chart 2020: 51% male, 30% collab, 19% female.”

“Songwriters in the Top 100 UK Radio airplay chart 2020: 80% male, 1% non-binary, 19% female.”

“Producers in the Top 100 UK Radio airplay chart 2020: 97% male, 3% female.”

Will redressing imbalances in all music industry areas affect the output in radio, awards, publishing signings, streaming?

I think it’s obvious to say that we need all areas in the music industry to ensure they have appropriate diverse representation. Major industry bodies have huge influence and power in the selection, and featuring of artists, enabling voices to be heard.

How do we create good practice from the beginning?  What needs to be done in the music industry in order for women to be able to, more equally, claim their patch in music?

Industry bodies could choose to make immediate adjustments (as some organisations are) in co-opting existing brilliant people into boards and committees, creating an immediate shift that implements a broader and more equal voice.  They can also choose to bring the conversation of diversity and inclusion to all meetings, where it may not have previously happened. Also opportunities for women already in positions of power could be funded to mentor more women to be in more senior leadership roles.

There is not a lack of diverse talent, but there is still a lack of diverse representation.  We need to act sooner and more quickly to redress the imbalances. Then maybe in the near future, when I refer to my work as vocalist/composer/producer, this will simply be accepted without question. It takes us all to enable the changes we need to happen, so we can all be judged by our work not by our gender.

The Ivors Academy would like to thank Emily for giving her time to write this blog and sharing her thoughts and personal insights into working in the music business. 

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