IWD 2024

Celebrating Women In The Australian Music Industry

by Lisa Michelle

The Australian music industry is renowned for its rich tapestry of talent, innovation, and diversity. Within this vibrant landscape, women have played an integral role, shaping the industry’s evolution and breaking down barriers to pave the way for future generations.

Historically, women in the music industry have faced numerous challenges, including gender bias, unequal representation, and stereotyping. Despite these obstacles, Australian women have persevered, leaving a mark on the music scene through their creativity, resilience, and determination.

Australian female artists have garnered global acclaim for their distinctive voices and innovative approaches to music. In addition, females are making significant strides in the world of music production and engineering, previously a male-dominated field.

We as women are also increasingly assuming leadership roles within the music industry, from record label executives, festival organisers and agency representatives (like myself and the women in our own team at EAO). This rise in female representation behind the scenes has brought fresh perspectives and diversity to the industry, leading to greater inclusivity and opportunities for women at all levels, something EAO certainly strives to implement and foster.

In recent years, we have seen a rise in female led advocacy and activism within the music industry, advocating for gender equality, diversity, and inclusion. Organisations such as Women in Music Australia (WIMA) provide a platform for networking, mentorship, and professional development, empowering women to navigate the challenges of the music business and effect positive change within the industry.

Despite these advancements, significant disparities remain, particularly concerning representation and gender pay equity. We continue to be underrepresented in key areas such as festival lineups and awards nominations. Additionally, gender-based discrimination and harassment remain current issues, highlighting the ongoing need for systemic change and accountability.

Chiara Franceschi with Soundabout (source: Facebook / Honeysuckle Hotel)

We spoke to some of the female artists on our roster about their experiences.

Here’s what they had to say:

What is it like being a female in the music industry?

“Being a female in the music industry has many challenges, but it is so rewarding. Throughout my years of experience I have encountered sexism, which has been really difficult to navigate! I have also blossomed some of the most beautiful female friendships that I have ever had. The support and love that I have received from other female musicians has taught me to love myself and grow more confident in my work, which has made it so much more rewarding!” – MILLIE MILLS

“Challenging but mainly rewarding. Our female network has recently become much more positive and uplifting… I’d say in the last 18 months? We make sure we check in with each other, refer one and other for gigs and fill ins, discuss treatment at venues and there’s minimal animosity amongst us.” – KAZZIE

“It definitely has its challenges, but it’s also empowering  Knowing there is such a strong community of talented and amazing women in the industry brings me so much joy and a big good ‘owie’ feeling in my heart.” – CHIARA FRANCESCHI

I love it, but it’s annoying. You have to do everything anyway as an independent artist, but as a female you’re also having to navigate the infinite possibilities for the ways in which your work is fodder for sexism and gender bias. I get that a little bit less because I’m very clear about where I’m willing to be assertive and if push comes to shove, I’ll shove. That assertiveness (boundary setting) works implicitly in rooms where you’re known really well – in rooms you have to prove it, it can be more of an uphill climb in metaphorical heels (though I am willing to hike regardless). I do wish there were more spaces for women to be elevated by other women in the industry, I see that less than I see chaps putting on their mates and gals struggling Han Solo, so I make a point of doing things to combat that myself quite directly. It would be nice though to feel like it’s top down, not just bottom up influence when it comes to systemic changes and the new wave of egalitarian rights that honour the limitations traditional feminism is still trying to point out exist.” – LI LAURENT

Millie Mills (source: Instagram @milliemaymills)

What are some challenges you feel female musicians face?

“There are certainly a number of challenges that I have encountered as a female musician. The most prominent is being undermined. I remember a specific occasion, where I showed up to a gig with my older brother, the manager turned to him and said “Oh, you must be the musician!” – I was carrying the guitar! Usually, it’s small micro-aggressions like that, that can be the most hurtful. There is definitely room for improvement in the music industry on a number of levels.” – MILLIE MILLS

“Some venues want every female fronted act to be similar like: not play guitar, not play B side songs or even down to what they wear. We have people commenting on us no matter what we do, how we sing or what we wear at EVERY SINGLE GIG and it can certainly get to you.” – KAZZIE

“Prejudice, objectification, misogyny, the list goes on..” – CHIARA FRANCESCHI

“The implausible dynamic of being and doing it all. It’s a bit ridiculous really, my personal plight is that I’m a trained dancer, vocalist and literally run a company outside of that life whilst still being heckled to pick up a guitar and bang out a folk song, when finger picking isn’t my physiological vibe. You’re held to a variable standard at all times, just so people can create a category of hierarchy. I think personally, just appreciating music and artists for who they are and what they do would be a massive sigh of relief and allow everyone to enjoy their glass of house wine and bottle of beer alongside a (in this case, my) performance, in the way our lord and saviours Alanis Morissette and Beyonce intended: enjoyably.” – LI LAURENT

Kazzie (source: Facebook / Divas On The Green)

What advice do you have for any young or new female artists looking to get into the music industry?

“The advice that I would give to female artists looking to get into the industry is that it is so important to advocate for yourself and your needs. Do not let anyone you haven’t asked tell you how they think you should run your business or build your career. Being a young girl myself, I know there are always people who will undermine you, your capability and your skills. It is so important that you surround yourself with people who believe in you, but most importantly you need to believe in yourself, your decisions and leave room for mistakes!” – MILLIE MILLS

“Find ‘you’ and don’t let anyone try to change it. Network and find people who bring out the best and most creative part of you. Something I was told as a kid, nervous to sing in front of people “You’ve passed the first step, if anyone was able to do it, they’d be where you are”… it’s got me through many a nervous, pitchy gig, or ten.” – KAZZIE

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to other musicians, especially other female or non-binary artists. The beautiful part of this industry is that we all share a mutual passion and it creates such a strong and unique community” – CHIARA FRANCESCHI

“Ignore everyone else, do what you want.” – LI LAURENT

Li Laurent (source: Facebook)

As we celebrate International Women’s Day and the contributions of women to the Australian music industry, we must recognise the ongoing challenges faced and commit to collective action to drive meaningful change. By championing diversity, promoting gender equality, and amplifying the voices of women, we can #INSPIREINCLUSION and create a more inclusive and vibrant music community where talent knows no boundaries, and everyone has the opportunity to thrive and succeed.

Thanks to Millie Mills, Kazzie, Chiara Franceschi and Li Laurent for sharing their experiences