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PRS releases new figures on the ongoing gender imbalance within the society

By | Published on Monday 8 March 2021

PRS For Music

The number of female songwriters and composers joining UK collecting society PRS for the first time is increasing year-on-year, with nearly twice as many new female members in 2020 compared to 2018. However, a significant gender imbalance continues at the organisation, both in terms of total membership, and royalties received by those members.

In new figures published to coincide with International Women’s Day today, PRS says that last year 1971 women registered with the society. That’s nearly double the 1097 who signed up in 2018, and also a 12.3% increase on sign-ups in 2019.

However, 81.7% of PRS’s membership is male. And in 2020, the ten highest earning female PRS members together earned 70% less via the society than the ten highest earning male PRS members. The disparity in earnings actually widened last year, having been 67% in 2019.

Given that, in the main, when music is licensed through collecting societies everyone earns the same rate per usage – with rates differing according to the kind of usage rather than what songs are used – that means that music from male songwriters is being broadcast, streamed and performed significantly more than music by female songwriters.

When similar figures were recently published by the Danish collecting society Koda, British researcher and campaigner Vick Bain – whose current PhD research is documenting the careers of women in the music industry – noted that the reasons for that disparity “are many and complicated”.

However, she told CMU, “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”.

Various initiatives are seeking to ensure that more female music-makers have access to that support, of course. PRS notes that – in addition to the Keychange initiative led by the PRS Foundation – the society has also been supporting other programmes like Girls I Rate and Women in CTRL.

It adds: “Across the music industry, PRS For Music will be actively encouraging members and staff to support positive change to address current gender bias and inequality, singing to the tune of this year’s International Women’s Day 2021 theme, #ChooseToChallenge”.

Meanwhile, PRS CEO Andrea Czapary Martin says: “Celebratory moments in the year like International Women’s Day are an important opportunity to reflect on the progress being made for gender equality around the world”.

“PRS For Music and our industry has a long way to go”, she goes on. “Initiatives like Keychange, led by our charity partner PRS Foundation, are doing incredibly important work to create a more sustainable and stronger music community for all genders. Creating equity and access to opportunity should be at the forefront of everything we do”.

And the recently appointed President of the PRS Members’ Council, Michelle Escoffery, adds: “We are incredibly proud to welcome almost 2000 women joining the PRS For Music community as professional songwriters and composers in 2020, showing creativity is alive and well. Dedication to the craft is still thriving and music creators have shown great resilience through the pandemic”.

“While promising, this number represents just a quarter of our new joiners”, she notes. “We continue to work closely with our members and wider music community to inspire the next generation of music creators from all backgrounds, as we all work together towards a more balanced, representative music industry”.