Women in the Music Industry

Diversity amongst the decision-makers in the music industry has been a long-standing battle. Often those marginalised by their gender have hit a glass ceiling at the more ‘supportive roles’ in the story of music that hits the global charts. If influence and power over the decisions that will eventually shape your career was something that you wanted, the age-old advice would have been to pursue fame. Fame seemed to be the pathway to success and control over your career, but today we are celebrating and supporting those in the minority more and more. Highlighting the pathways that we can create for ourselves and educating audiences on the achievements of outstanding female leaders who are forging the way forward.

A successful career in music has become much more than a pop star and music itself as an industry has branches that reach far into games, advertising and more. We hope that the future will be one with no excuse to not be inclusive, where people of all genders can be seen to reach the same platforms, rather than existing in categories that could be perceived as ‘other’.

Today, on November 8th, we celebrate the achievements of women in the music business with the 6th annual Women in Music awards, hosted by Music Week and in association with AIM and UK Music. To lend our support for a diverse workplace and put a spotlight on the women who make a difference in our company — in their own unique way — we are sharing their experiences and top tips for future female leaders and for making it in their respective roles. We start with Elisa Harris, Founder of CORD Worldwide — a Keywords Studio, and then introduce you to some of her CORD female colleagues.


ELISA HARRIS, Founder of CORD Worldwide

What advice would you give to women who want to enter audio branding?

Arrange to meet with the owners of as many audio branding agencies as you can (in the UK and abroad). Ask lots of questions and search out a team you feel you have a connection with. If you have little experience then try for an internship. If you’re able to, search out a brand you’re passionate about and offer to investigate audio branding for them. Share a POV on the current use of voice, music and sound design and see where it takes you.

How have your personal and professional experiences contributed to where you are now? I was born into a very musical family and my father was a professional musician with a top orchestra in London, so our house was always filled with the very best musicians from around the globe. This undoubtedly shaped my life moving forward. I studied music (composition and voice) and subsequently ran my own music business.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in audio branding?

That there aren’t enough of us! When I completed my studies I wrote to 100+ UK TV and film composers, asking whether I could become their assistant and only two on the list were women (Debbie Wiseman and Rachel Portman. I’m pleased to say that we have a perfectly balanced working group at CORD.

Which women inspire you?

Imogen Heap, Errolyn Warren, Rachel Portman, Kate Bush. These are formidable, creative women that have succeeded in making brilliant careers for themselves in music.

What are the opportunities for women in audio branding?

Lots of opportunities to progress through the industry. Roles stretch across the following disciplines; account management, strategy, sound design, voice, music production, research and business development.


ALISON BUTTERS — Director of Licensing & Music Supervision

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

Be prepared for a long haul and make sure you understand exactly what you are doing. Who owns what and what other rights may need to be cleared too. Pick up the phone, don’t always communicate by email. Meet as many rights owners as you can, as often as you can. Never make assumptions, unless you have it in writing, it is not approved.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

Being seen to be out there and equally, if not more, knowledgeable than your male colleagues. Don’t allow yourself to become someone else’s lackey.

Who inspires you?

Anyone who has risen to the top against all odds, be they male or female.


KARINA BYRNE — Music Supervisor

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

At any given time, you could need to call on your knowledge of any genre ranging from Spaghetti Western to Barbershop, so listen to everything and anything! Make sure you have a good understanding of music licensing and how rights work in sync especially. Be friendly. It’s a people’s game in music and advertising.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

Being viewed as equal to men when it comes to music production and composition.

Who inspires you?

For me, New Zealand artist Kimbra is a ground-breaking woman in music. She has gained respect as a music producer, but even before that for her musical style which incorporates R&B, jazz and rock-inspired by male artists such as Prince and Jeff Buckley.


MONICA MANUBENS — Operations Director

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

Be humble, try to listen as much as possible and learn from others. Believe in yourself and work hard because practice makes perfect. Be nice to the others around you. Help them whenever you can and always smile, it really helps.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

I don’t think there is a difference between men and women in this industry. There is enough space for all of us. I’d say always staying true to yourself is important. So is understanding that what is cool and popular may not equate to quality and authenticity — knowing the difference is key.

Who inspires you?

My dad. And anyone who has chosen to work in the music industry, not just wanting to get rich, or be cool. There are still a lot of them out there.


NATANIA BOYCE — Operations Manager

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

That your role matters even when you feel like it doesn’t. Voice your opinion. Either from a business or creative perspective. Wear noise-cancelling headphones! And when you have a free moment ask to help on projects. The more you understand about the business and your team members’ roles, the easier it is to do your job.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music? I think the idea of the ‘girl boss’ continues to be a bit taboo. You still hear women being described as ‘difficult’, where some of their male counterparts are seen as pioneers. Society has changed for the better but there is still a way to go when it comes to women being seen as leaders in business.

Who inspires you?

Without sounding like señorita Lame — my family of course. I come from a family that is 95% Amazonian women who have always set a goal and achieved it. My talented friends. I love learning new things from my colleagues and seeing them lead projects (shout out to the CORD women!) and most importantly…Beyonce!


HOLLIE HUTTON — Executive Creative Director

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

These are not just for women, but for anyone hoping to get into the music industry; meet as many people as you can and ask questions — knowledge and relationships are key. Don’t limit yourself at first, get as much experience in all fields so you can get to know the industry and see where you might fit best. Be keen and work hard!

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

Just 2.1% of tracks in the Billboard 100 from 2012–2018 had female producers. This is bound to have a big impact on the music that we hear, which is predominantly in the male gaze and makes it more daunting for women hoping to get into this field.

Who inspires you?

All the women breaking through this barrier and all the amazing people (of all genders) who work for equality and change in the industry daily.


ESTHER JOY LANE — Music Supervisor, Composer, Producer and Artist

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

My experience of the music industry has shown me that it’s more important what you do in your own time that ‘work time’. Put as much time as possible into your own creativity, learning and productivity — the more you do this, the more likely that people will come to you, rather than you chasing them.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

I think it’s really important that women become way more visible in the industry, so they are not seen as the ‘female producer’ or ‘female engineer’, but are valued for their talents regardless of gender. Hopefully, at some point they will become someone’s favourite artist/producer/mixer/master’ rather than the token female one.

Who inspires you?

Grimes!! Just such an inspiration creatively, artistically and from a technical perspective too.


LAURA MONTARROSO — Account Manager

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, the most important thing to start in the music business is to be passionate about music and to find your passion within the business — then work and follow it through. Treat everyone you meet equally regardless of their position — any relationships you forge often present extremely fruitful opportunities later. Seize every single opportunity with the same excitement that motivated you to do this in the first place. And don’t be afraid to ask question and accept positive criticism to grow!

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

The perception of way people think about women in the industry, or in any other male dominated industry has impacted careers and been a roadblock for many years. This is slowly changing and hopefully we will see more women at the forefront of this industry!

Who inspires you?

My mum — she’s the best!


TRISH GARCIA-TUOHY — Marketing Director

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

You are valuable. There will be people in this industry and outside it that will see your potential more than others — but don’t let the negative experiences derail you. Aim high and be the hardest working person in the room and you will get to where you want to be. But mostly, be kind. Kindness has a way of coming back to you. Also, when you’re starting out, or even if you’re not and want a change, explore all the roles you can and figure out what you’re most passionate about — you never know where you’ll find your niche!

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

We can be our own worst enemies sometimes and tell ourselves that we wouldn’t get that job, or get the credit, or there’s just no point, but if we don’t at least try for what we want we’ll never see ourselves represented. If you don’t play the game at all, there’s no chance you’ll win.

Who inspires you?

The men and women in positions of success that are truly supportive of young people trying to find their way in this industry. The ones who champion you to be more than what is expected of you and who happily give you room to carve out a place for yourself. It’s my hope that they will then pay that forward when they are in those positions and remember who helped them get there.


CICELY DELANEY — Account Director

What advice would you give women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

Be a nice person! Do great work and be great to work with. It’s a killer combo that is sure to get you very far. Learn the language. It’s important, if not essential, to know and understand musical terms when briefing composers, so make sure you have a good grasp of musical theory. Safeguard your work. Everyone has an opinion on music, so exploring a few different approaches can be a great way to invite clients into the creative process. It’s always nice to have a wild card option that pushes the brief.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

Equality is still a widespread issue for women in music. womeninmusic.comis a great place to educate yourself on today’s truths about the industry. We are certainly moving in the right direction, but I think people do have to make a conscious effort to balance the playing field — brief female composers, use a female sound engineer. If we consistently give talented women a platform in male-dominated fields of work, we will start to see a positive change.

Who inspires you?

My dad. He has a deep sense of calm and a rationality, even in the most stressful situations, which I think has been key to his success in business.


SABRINA DIGIULIO — Marketing & Talent Manager

What advice would you give to women who want to enter your side of the music industry?

Talk to everyone, you never know what you can learn from different areas of the industry. It’s a good thing to be well-rounded. Get as much experience as you can. The music industry champions experience as a priority more than most others. Be nice, even when it’s not reciprocated and don’t give up. It’s a tough industry and reputation is important.

What do you think is the most pressing issue for women in music?

I think it’s really tough for women to be taken seriously in music business roles, especially senior roles. In general, stereotypical and traditional views of women are still held when it comes to decision-making and leadership.

Who inspires you?

All of those who have grown and reached their goals in the industry without stepping on other or compromising their values and morals to get there.