Women fight their way through the music industry

he Women in the Industry panel
Photo by Madison Gulenchyn

The Women in the Industry panel at Oshawa Music Weeks Music Exhibition and Conference

“Filtering” is one of the many challenges women face in the music and entertainment industry, according to several women from the industry who attended Oshawa Music Week (OMW). They say those filters stop women from becoming successful in their careers.

This was a theme introduced at the Women in the Music and Entertainment Industry panel at OMW. The week celebrated the diverse music presence in Durham Region and women in the industry, among other things.

The panel was comprised of five women from the industry. There was a diverse range of women, from different backgrounds, talents and careers.

Among the five panelists were Vanessa Markov, an artist manager at Black Lamb Music, and Mar Sellars from Mar on Music PR, who manages bands and is a freelance journalist.

Michelle Puska who’s with Night Owl Festival, where she a promotes, manages and techs, joined Jess Cimo, a sales and marketing manager for a Toronto music venue, and Deanna Petcoff, a singer songwriter from Toronto.

During the panel, Markov talked about the limitations set by women themselves during the panel, limitations which are outlined by society’s views and opinions on women.

She said such limitations lead to women being unrepresented in the industry.

“The only opinion I really have on being under-represented is fighting this old-fashioned thinking. The best way to show them they’re wrong is to do it yourself,” Markov said.

Sellars said women aren’t represented in the industry because they don’t have the same confidence levels as men, especially when it comes to the world of music and entertainment.

“When boys are growing up, they’re kind of given this natural confidence, while women are supposed to be meek,” she said.

Puska said lack of representation gives no encouragement to women looking to be a part of the industry.

“It’s about encouraging and making a space for it. If there isn’t the encouragement or the space, then other women don’t see it and don’t apply for it,” Puska said.

This is evident on Billboard’s Top 40 list. Female artists aren’t seen as frequently on the list as male artists.

A Canadian study led by Marc Lafrance, a sociologist at Concordia University, found the gender gap is prominent in the music industry.

The study observed the Billboard Top 40 Charts songs between 1997-2007. It found female artists only made up 41 per cent of sales.

The study also found from an on-air perspective, 61.6 per cent of the hits played on the radio were by male artists, while female artists made up the other 34.3 per cent of the hits.

While many believe there is inequality for women because they’re not given the same encouragement, Markov says there’s no way to know for sure.

She does know some women who have proven it is possible. So, she says women in the industry shouldn’t limit themselves to what they think they are capable of.

“If a woman feels like she is not confident enough and it’s because she’s a woman, who cares? Exceed what you think your limitations are and just go do it,” Markov said.

The panel took place after the Demo Derby, where recording artists played a demo before another group of panelists. The artists were then provided feedback for their songs.

No female demos were played because none applied.