Thursday, 23. September 2021


© Florian Trykowski

The subject of gender equality in the music business is receiving increasing attention. However, until now, there have only been a few studies on the situation in Germany. To change this, Keychange  initiated a study in cooperation with the MaLisa Foundation: Music business employees, musicians, and consumers were asked about their perception of gender diversity, gender-specific barriers, challenges, and measures to be taken for more equal opportunities. The results were presented at the Reeperbahn Festival.

The MaLisa Foundation is expanding its work on gender equality in the music business and will dedicate itself more to collecting data in this context in 2021. For this purpose, it cooperated with the international initiative, Keychange , which is represented in Germany by the Reeperbahn Festival, for the “Study on Gender Diversity in the Music Industry and Music Usage”. The survey was conducted by the opinion research institute, Kantar.

The results show that women and men assess the equality of opportunities in the sector very differently. This applies both to the assessment of the status quo, and to the perception of improvements in the last five years. Furthermore, it shows that almost every woman surveyed has experienced discrimination based on her gender. In the case of music consumers, it became clear that different age groups have different perspectives. A number of possible measures to be taken for more gender justice were evaluated by the respondents.

Study concept and methodology

For the study, various surveys were conducted from April to August 2021 and supplemented with information from external sources.

  • Music industry survey: Online survey of employees of the 15 associations participating in the study (344 interviews).
  • Expert interviews: Qualitative in-depth interviews with artists, music managers, and concert promoters (25 interviews).
  • Consumer survey: Online survey of music consumers* aged 16-69 (2,002 interviews).
  • Further sources: Consultation of data from other publications and freely available sources.


  • Music business: The term “music business” refers to the professional business sector that deals with the production, promotion, and distribution of music as a commodity in the economic sense.
  • Gender: In the course of the surveys, the gender of the participants was asked. In addition to “male” or “female”, there was also the option to identify as “diverse”. “Diverse” is a category of gender recognized by personal status law in Germany. However, due to a very small number of cases (n = 4), this group could not be identified separately. In view of this fact, the results are only presented separately for women and men.
  • Gender diversity: “Gender diversity” means a mixture of e.g. male, female, or abinary artists that includes all genders (i.e. not only those who feel they belong to a certain gender, but also all persons who do not clearly assign themselves to one gender). With regard to music, it means the balanced presence of all genders, e.g. in relation to their performances at festivals.


  1. Action is needed regarding equality of opportunities for women and men in the music business

    Existing gender inequalities

  • Women are critical of the status quo regarding equal opportunities in the music business. Only about one in seven women in the sample is of the opinion that men and women share equal opportunities. Men and women perceive equality of opportunities very differently.
  • Almost every woman surveyed from the music business has personally experienced gender discrimination.
  • Women are significantly more likely than men to face barriers to their professional development, in particular: Stereotypes, prejudices, and “old boys networks”.
  • All of this has a detrimental effect on women’s careers, as evidenced not least by the fact that women are less likely to be represented in management positions and on average earn less than men.

    Measures for improvement

  • The younger generation matters: A majority sees the targeted promotion of young people as a useful measure towards gender equality. Mentoring and female networks are also considered useful.
  • So far, however, too few measures have been sufficiently implemented. Therefore, there is a need for effective measures to remove the biggest obstacles, such as favouritism and stereotypes. Quotas can be a suitable means to this end.
  • About every other woman is in favour of quotas for concerts/festivals or for leadership positions. Among men, only about one in three is in favour.

  1. The topic of gender diversity has not yet reached music consumers in general, but it will become increasingly relevant

    Gender diversity and music marketing

  • The majority of music business stakeholders surveyed believe that a high degree of gender diversity improves the quality of music and has a positive impact on their marketing.
  • Less than half believe that music consumers already expect diversity or that it is a purchasing criterion. About one in three currently feels demand pressure from music consumers with regard to gender diversity.
  • Slightly less than one in two is currently in favour of a fixed quota, for example for concerts or radio airplay.

    The consumer perspective
  • Gender diversity is particularly relevant for younger consumers aged 16 to 29.
  • The topic of gender diversity will become more significant in the future: One in three consumers surveyed would like to see the issue receive more public attention; among younger consumers, almost one in two.
  • Consumers consider the music business to be primarily responsible, but many are also prepared to take responsibility themselves.


It is essential to create more visibility and more opportunities for women and gender minorities in the music business.

The quota can be an effective tool to establish more equality. Empirical examples show that where quotas have been introduced, the percentage of women represented increases.

Mentoring and female networks are also considered useful. To end the exclusion of women from existing, male-dominated networks, female networks alone will probably not be sufficient. Mixed networks of men and women seem more forward-looking.

The measures require a change in thinking and a greater willingness to take risks on the part of the stakeholders in the music business. It can also be assumed that the next generation of music consumers will put more pressure on the music business to effect change and offer greater diversity.

Ultimately, it is up to the music business itself to create visibility for gender diversity in marketing by offering appropriate music products, introducing quota regulations and signing voluntary commitments. With the current state of music marketing, it is still difficult for consumers to align their purchases with the goal of balanced gender diversity.

A detailed summary of the results, including graphics, is available for download here.