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Danish collecting society puts the spotlight on the gender imbalance in songwriter earnings

By | Published on Thursday 7 January 2021


Danish collecting society Koda published a new report just before Christmas that puts the spotlight on the imbalance in earnings between male and female songwriters and composers. Female creators make up 19% of the society’s membership, but collectively receive just 10% of the monies it distributes.

Koda said that it decided to crunch the figures around its membership and the link between gender and earnings in order to inform the debate around equality issues in the music industry.

Because, with collective licensing, everyone earns the same royalties for any one usage of a song, the disparity in earnings between male and female members will be down what music is being played and performed, and possibly how the copyright in co-written works is split between collaborating songwriters.

The percentage of Koda-collected monies going to the society’s female members has actually declined in recent years from a peak of 12.4% in 2012. That’s despite the productivity of male and female members being more or less the same, in that the average female member has registered 23 works with Koda, while the average male member has 25 works in the system.

Koda also broke down the gender split of royalty distributions by type of usage. When it comes to royalties generated by live performance, 14% goes to female writers, while with royalties generated by the use of music on TV it’s only 4%.

The disparity is actually less significant among the society’s newer members. When only monies paid out to those members is taken into account, 22% of live income and 18% of TV income is going to female members. However, the society’s highest earners tend to be older members and among that group the gender imbalance is worse.

Commenting on the stats in the new report, Koda’s Deputy Chair Anna Lidell said the figures were “worrying, but also unsurprising”. She added: “We have long known that gender equality was way off within this field, and that is also why gender equality is one of the four strategic focus areas in Koda’s new cultural strategy”.

The society’s Chair, Niels Rønsholdt, added that “these figures in no way reflect society at large, and we are missing out on immense potential and a lot of talent which could benefit the development and competitiveness of the entire Danish music industry”.

The number-crunching, of course, doesn’t identify the reasons for the imbalance, which Rønsholdt also noted. “But”, he added, publishing these stats “can highlight the need to get those reasons uncovered. If we as an industry are to solve the problem, we must know the root cause”.

The new report from Koda has been welcomed by Vick Bain, the British researcher and campaigner whose current PhD research is documenting the careers of women in the music industry and the extra barriers female music-makers and industry execs routinely have to tackle. Her work is focused on identifying those root causes and ways to tackle discrimination.

“It’s very good to see another collecting society being transparent and publishing their gender gap data”, she tells CMU. “Of course collecting societies pay out the same rates to their members regardless of gender, but what this data shows is that usage is much lower for women”.

“This situation demonstrates a pattern revealed by prior research by other collecting societies across the globe, including APRA/AMCOS in Australia in 2017 – with women constituting 21% of membership and 15% of income received – and SOCAN in Canada in 2018, which showed that female screen composers received only 30% of the royalties distributed to men”.

The reasons for this disparity “are many and complicated”, she goes on, “but research demonstrates women do not receive the same professional support in their careers – such as being signed by publishing companies – and in exploiting those works, such as receiving radio airplay or getting festival slots”.

“Let’s hope that situation improves over the next few years so women can sustain their music careers for longer. And it would be great to see similar research from other societies, including PRS For Music here in the UK”.

Bain recently launched an online directory of female musicians in the UK as part of a campaign to encourage and enable more festivals and commissioners to book and work with more female music-makers. You can access that directory here. And you can download Koda’s report here.