PRS Foundation has called for the music industry to get behind its flagship targeted gender equity initiative, Women Make Music.
It follows an independent evaluation report which looks at the impact of the initiative since it was created in 2011.
Launched today at London’s Abbey Road Studios and available for download from the PRS Foundation’s website, the report outlines the impact the initiative has had for women and gender expansive music creators, as well as for the wider music industry.
Women Make Music supports the development of outstanding women and gender expansive songwriters, composers, artists, bands and performers who are writing their own music in any genre and from any backgrounds at any stage of their career, with grants of up to £5,000.
The fund was set up in 2011 as a response to the low representation of women amongst songwriters and composers (at the time 13% of PRS for music members were women) and lack of applications to PRS Foundation for commissions featuring women music creators (then 16%).
The aims of the initiative include breaking down assumptions and stereotypes within the music industry by enabling role models and increasing the profile of underrepresented music creators. It also works to raise awareness of the gender gap and solutions to the music industry's gender problem.
Over £1.46 million has been invested in more than 380 women and gender-expansive music creators since 2011. With 4,706 applications so far, the fund has seen a 340% increase in demand for Women Make Music support since its launch, to the point that only 8% of applicants (and only 6% of applicants in the last five years) could be supported.
Published in today’s report, 98% of surveyed grantees say the fund is still needed, 94% agreed the fund impacted creative development, and 94% stated that Women Make Music instilled a sense of confidence and empowerment.
Between 2020-22, 54.5% of Women Make Music grantees identified as White (including 39% White British); 26.7% were Black or with Mixed Heritage including Black; 9.9% were Asian or with Mixed Heritage including Asian; 5% identified as Mixed Heritage (with no further detail given), and 4% stated they belong to another ethnic group. 36% of grantees identified as LGBTQIA+. 93.3% of grantees identified as women; 2.8% were in all-women groups; and 3.9% were gender expansive.
In an industry that continues to be run by men, this evaluation confirms that there is still much progress to be made
Women Make Music has also had a positive effect on PRS Foundation’s approach to funding and talent development, with the organisation reaching its 50%+ gender representation target in 2018 (four years ahead of schedule). In 2022, 63% of creator grantees were women, gender expansive or in mixed gender groups.
The fund has played a vital role in supporting artists and music creators including Anna Meredith, ESKA, Emma-Jean Thackray, Carleen Anderson, Cassie Kinoshi, Let’s Eat Grandma, Jessica Curry, Judith Weir, Kelly Lee Owens, Little Boots, Errollyn Wallen, Amahla, Marika Hackman, Poppy Ajudha, Rakhi Singh, ROE, YolanDa Brown, Sanity, Phoebe Green, BISHI, Isobel Anderson, Peggy Seeger and Yazmin Lacey.
The report has eight recommendations for the fund going forward:
1 Continue, adapt and expand Women Make Music
2 Continuously build an understanding of the complex challenges affecting women and gender expansive music creators
3 Embed mentoring, collaboration and networking
4 Embed support for parents/carers, music creators with disabilities or health issues, and those with low incomes
5 Enhance promotional, performance and showcasing support
6 Consult further with gender expansive creators and stakeholders
7 Continue to be a powerful sector voice on gender equity and catalyse better representation in the music industry through further strategic partnerships
8 Create and support communities of grantees and an ecosystem for women and gender expansive people in the music industry
Joe Frankland, CEO, PRS Foundation, said: “Women Make Music’s role in developing hundreds of women and gender expansive creators while shaping a stronger music sector for all genders has been remarkable. The fund quickly became a stamp of approval and is one of our most competitive programmes statistically and musically. We’re proud to look back at the exceptional music being created and successful careers being forged as a result.
“The huge impact of the fund also demonstrates PRS for Music’s dedication to gender equity and intersectional inclusion through its annual donation to PRS Foundation. Results would not have been possible without this huge investment.
“Having said that, the report makes it clear that in order to fund more of the exceptional creators applying for support, and to meet the holistic support needs of grantees, PRS Foundation requires increased investment from like-minded music companies. We look forward to working together to build on successes and evolve Women Make Music for the future.”
Vanessa Reed, previous CEO at PRS Foundation and founder of Women Make Music, now CEO & President at New Music USA, said: “When we launched Women Make Music in 2011, I defined ‘success’ as the moment when this fund would no longer be needed. In an industry that continues to be run by men, this evaluation confirms that there is still much progress to be made. Until there is more evidence of widespread structural and cultural change led by those who currently hold the most power, targeted initiatives like Women Make Music are an essential form of empowerment and endorsement for women and gender expansive creators.
“I am extremely grateful to Joe Frankland and everyone at PRS Foundation for continuing to champion this fund and for this detailed analysis of the obstacles and opportunities ahead. I hope other industry leaders will acknowledge the importance of this work by helping to extend the fund’s future reach as part of their investment in talent of all backgrounds.”
Andrea Czapary Martin, CEO, PRS for Music, said: “Today’s report highlights how instrumental the Women Make Music fund has been over the past 12 years in empowering passionate women and gender expansive writers and composers. Our continued investment ensures creative excellence is always first and foremost and offers support to enable the career development of PRS’s talented members, as we strive to change the face of equity, diversity and intersectional inclusion within our industry and for future generations of musicians.”
Zara McFarlane, Women Make Music grantee and award winning jazz/soul singer and songwriter, said: “As an independent artist, the Women Make Music Fund was imperative in allowing me to continue to have creative control of my work and ideas. It also gave me a financial injection at a crucial point in my career which allowed me to develop my live show ideas and deliver some performances on a grander scale than I would otherwise be able to. The opportunities the Women Make Music Find provide not only directly support professional development but also confidence within all facets of being an artist (music maker, performer, band leader, curator).”