The Los Angeles pop band Haim reportedly fired their agent after learning that they were being paid one-tenth of what a male artist playing at the same music festival last year got.
“We had been told that our fee was very low because you played at the festival in the hope that you’d get played on the radio,” Danielle Haim told Grazia magazine. “We didn’t think twice about it, but we later found out that someone was getting paid 10 times more than us. And because of that we fired our agent.”
“It’s scary out there and [messed] up not even to be paid half the same amount. But to be paid a tenth of that amount of money? It was insane,” her sister Alana Haim added. (Este Haim rounds out the trio.)
The band did not identify the festival or the male artist. Haim’s publicist declined to comment to The Washington Post.
Though the details concerning the Haim story are scant, they point to a very real pay disparity issue pervading the music industry (and many other fields).
A study published in the journal Social Currents in December 2016 surveyed 33,801 people who worked in the arts and found that women make $20,000 less, on average, than men. This is about the same disparity that exists across most U.S. industries.
Lehigh University sociologist Danielle J. Lindemann, who led the study, told NPR, “We did find that women earned significantly less than men, even controlling for various factors like the amount of time they worked, what sector — was nonprofit or profit.”
That’s across all arts, but a curious thing happened in Britain in April 2018 that shed light on music in particular.
A change in U.K. law required companies with more than 250 employees to disclose all data on gender wage gaps within their company. To remain in compliance, the British arms of several major U.S. record companies released some stunning figures.
On average, the pay disparity between men and women working at these companies was more than 30 percent, according to Music Week, even when controlling for their roles. Warner Music U.K. reported a staggering average gender pay gap of 49 percent. And though 42 percent of the company’s employees are women, only 16 percent have leadership roles.
Universal Music U.K., meanwhile, reported a 29.8 percent gender pay gap. Sony Music U.K. reported a pay gap of less than 5 percent.
The problem, however, is much larger than compensation. The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released a study in January titled “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” It analyzed 600 songs that appeared on the Billboard 100 chart from 2012 to 2017, with a particular eye on the gender and race of the involved artists.
The results were stark: Only 22 percent of the songs were performed by women, and only 12 percent were written by women. The most shocking revelation was that a mere 2 percent of those songs were produced by women. Pop songs can include dozens of producers, but most of them did not have a credit from a woman.
Furthermore, only 9.3 percent of Grammy nominees between 2013 and 2018 were women. There wasn’t one woman nominated for producer of the year in that time span.
“Females are missing in popular music,” the study bluntly states.
Another study found that women only make up 28 percent of the music recording workforce.
Sexism is something Haim has long railed against.
When the band won the best international band award at the VO5 NME Awards 2018 — beating out the likes of the Foo Fighters, the National, the Killers and more — the sisters used their victory speech to speak out against industry-wide sexism. Este Haim told “anyone that identifies as a girl: Whenever you walk into a guitar shop or a soundcheck or a recording studio, do not let anyone that’s there intimidate you, or make you feel like you don’t belong there, because you do belong there.”
They later expounded on these statements to the magazine.
“The stories are endless,” Alana told NME. “We used to go into venues, we would show up for soundcheck, the sound guy would be on his phone and we’d go, ‘Oh, can I hear a little more of my voice?’ Then you’d get an eye roll.”
“The other day, I was told at a radio station, ‘You don’t need headphones. I’m sure you don’t want to mess up your hair,” she said. “No one is going to make me feel anything other than a powerful woman because I love playing music and I love being onstage.”
“The worst is actually after when someone from the venue goes, ‘Oh, you guys were actually okay,’ or ‘Oh, you guys actually play instruments,’ ” Danielle added. “We just need equal opportunities to get these jobs. Period. It’s just not fair.”