Australian Women Screen Composers: Career Barriers and Pathways Report

While the music industry in Australia is healthy and vibrant, women continue to be underrepresented in key roles and make up only a small proportion of those making money from their musical endeavours. As an organisation committed to redressing this situation, APRA AMCOS commissioned RMIT University's Dr Catherine Strong to conduct research on screen composers as a preliminary exploration of what factors are limiting or enabling the development of women's careers in music.

APRA AMCOS membership data shows that only 21.7% of our members identify as female. The percentage of royalty payments made to female members has fluctuated between 15% and 21% between 2007 and 2016, with no clear trend apparent. Given this ongoing underrepresentation of female creators demonstrated by these numbers, a subset of APRA AMCOS members was chosen to form the basis of a preliminary study on why this is the case, and what strategies could be developed to increase women’s participation in the music industry. Screen composers were identified as a sub-group among the APRA AMCOS membership that was even more polarised in terms of gender representation than the wider membership, with only 13% of registered screen composers being female.

As such, the aims of this research are:

  • To gain an understanding of the pathways to participation available to women who work in film and television music composition in Australia, including the barriers to their inclusion in this field; and
  • To develop an overview of educational institutions that provide training in this area and understand the role these institutions play in the development of women’s careers.
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The research showed female composers are less likely to be making a sustainable career from their craft, less likely to be given fair opportunities for work despite being more educated, less likely to win professional accolades and more likely to experience sexism.

To redress the imbalance APRA AMCOS is immediately committing to the goal of doubling annual female membership applications within three years, a year on year increase of 25% new female members.

From October 2017, APRA AMCOS will invest annually in an extensive songwriter/composer mentoring program for female members across a range of genres. In line with the research recommendations, at least half the mentors will be men, with funds allocated to cover mentee's travel and living expenses. In some genres, the mentee will be offered a three month work placement. APRA AMCOS will be working in partnership with individuals and industry organisations to ensure a broad outreach to women. A further financial investment will be made in technical skills training and toward building confidence and networking skills through a series of national events and masterclasses.

APRA AMCOS will immediately execute a 40/40/20 measure on membership programs. This will ensure that within the medium term, at least 40% of the judges involved in APRA's suite of awards are female; a minimum 40% threshold will be applied to the Ambasssadors' program (currently 30%), SongMakers (currently 38% of mentors are female) and SongHubs (currently 39% female); at least 40% of the presenters and performers at all awards events and panelists on our national event series will be female. APRA AMCOS will also address female representation in terms of topics specific to their career development.

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