Today, Tár has been released in cinemas in the UK. The film sees Cate Blanchett star in the title role, portraying the fictional Lydia Tár, principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Reviews and promotion of the film have focused on abuses of power as well as open secrets and rumours surrounding the conductor’s behaviour.
The ISM (Independent Society of Musicians) has highlighted the very real problems the music sector has with discrimination and harassment and how uncommon it is for a woman to have a similar role as is portrayed in Tár.
The ISM’s 2022 report, Dignity at work 2, which was based on the survey responses of 660 musicians and those who work in the sector exposed the devastating levels of discrimination and harassment in the music sector. The report found that the freelance nature of the music workforce creates an unstable, transitory and precarious environment where victims of discrimination have no clear legal protections and fear losing work and damaging their reputation if they report their experiences. The data shows that the problem is getting worse when compared to previous ISM research undertaken in 2018.
Statistics on the gender balance and roles held within the music sector:
- In the music industry workforce, 52.9% of individuals identified as women and 44.9% as men (UK Music, 2022).
- In the Dignity at work 2 report, of comments detailing incidents of discrimination, 96% identified a male perpetrator and 4% identified a female perpetrator (ISM, 2022).
- Research by the Royal Philharmonic Society for BBC Woman’s Hours found there were 2 female principal conductors of UK orchestras and 11.2% of conductors represented by UK artist managers are women (BBC)
- It was not until 2016 that the first female conductor, Xian Zhang, was given a titled role in a BBC Orchestra (principal guest conductor) (The Guardian).
- 86% of signed songwriters and publishers; and over 80% of signed artists on record labels in the UK are male (Bain, 2019).
- Nearly 75% of the artists booked to headline 50 large UK festivals in 2022 were male-only acts (BBC, 2022).
- Of 20,400 compositions performed by 111 orchestras globally last year, 87.7% were written by white men, and only 7.7% by women (Donne, 2022).
The film's release has brought attention to abuses of power, discrimination, and harassment in the music sector. Comparing the ISM’s 2022 research to its research in 2018 shows that the problem of discrimination and harassment are getting worse.
- 66% of respondents to the 2022 survey reported they have experienced discrimination at work, an increase from the 47% of respondents who reported having experienced discrimination in our 2018 Dignity at work report
- Sexual harassment was by far the most common type of discrimination. 58% of comments directly relayed details of sexual harassment. 47% in 2018
- The most vulnerable category of worker is self-employed. ISM research showed that 88% of self-employed people did not report their experiences of discrimination. 75% did not report their experiences in 2018
In response to the findings in the Dignity at work 2 report, the ISM has been campaigning to eradicate discrimination and harassment from the music sector. An open letter which will be sent to Women and Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch has already been signed over 600 times.
The open letter calls for changes in the law, such as amending the Equality Act 2010 to ensure all those working in the music sector are protected, including freelancers, extending the time limit for bringing discrimination cases to six months and reintroducing discrimination questionnaires. These changes would make music workplaces safer and give freelancers additional protections. ISM research has consistently shown that the freelance workforce is particularly vulnerable as they do not have the same protections or access to the type of HR functions others take for granted.
Commenting, ISM Chief Executive Deborah Annetts said,
‘Unfortunately, the abuse of power in the music industry is not reserved for fictional cinema releases. For too many across the music sector, facing discrimination and harassment is a real-life experience and the ISM is committed to campaigning to eradicating these practices.
Our research found that the levels of discrimination and harassment has increased in recent years. This must stop.
There is a clear desire for change from those who work in the music sector, as demonstrated by our research and the hundreds who have already signed our open letter to Minister for Women and Equalities Kemi Badenoch MP calling on the government to make music workplaces and the freelance workforce safer.’