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Little Mix Take The Brit Awards 2021: Females and the Music Industry

By Casey Thomas

This year's Brit Awards was a landmark event for females in the music industry, especially for Little Mix who broke Brit Award history by being the first female group to win Best British Group since its start in 1977. Little Mix used their speech to challenge the male dominance and misogyny in the industry that they, and many others, have experienced. They praised the iconic female groups that came before them including the Spice Girls, Sugababes, Girls Aloud and All Saints, who, despite being extremely successful and popular, have never been recognised with the same award.

In addition to Little Mix's historic win, many other females dominated this year's Brits with 8 of the 11 categories being awarded to female artists. This is a huge leap from 2020 with only 3 female winners. Seeing woman after woman take the stage to accept awards was heartwarming and long overdue. Hopefully this is a glimpse of the future, one in which the females who lead the music industry are recognised for their achievements and new artists are encouraged, supported and celebrated as much as their male counterparts.

Since 1977, only 8 out of 41 British album of the year awards and 11 out of 42 British single of the year awards have been won by female artists and of those some only included a female feature. If we look at statistics on artists that are signed to UK Record labels, 19.6% are women meaning a massive 80.4% are men. At first glance these figures may reflect the results of the award ceremony but I think this highlights a deeper issue and a conversation that needs to be had; why are record labels signing a significantly higher proportion of men, when women have proven to be just as successful, talented and hardworking. These numbers do not show why men are nominated more but it does show a disparity and injustice towards women in the industry. The music industry needs to evolve and become better at encouraging female talent.

This lack of recognition of female artists is not just a problem within the UK. During 2013-2020 women made up just 7.6% of Nominees at the Grammys for Album of the year. It is a sad fact that these numbers are only a small part of a bigger issue of gender bias in many other male dominated industries. Music is a lifeline and passion for people all over the world and the industry should reflect all the races, religions, sexualities and genders of the people who support it.

It took 20 years after the show's creation for a female artist to win best British single of the year. The Spice Girls took home the award for their single Wannabe in 1997. To put that into perspective, I am 21 years old, it took nearly my entire lifetime to award a female artist with Best Single. In the timeline of women fighting for equality and being afforded the same privileges as men this recognition came far too late and shows a lack of willingness to support women from the start.

As an intersectional feminist, I could not discuss sexism in the industry without acknowledging how white women are often the ones on the front covers, the ones winning the awards and the ones being waved in front of our face by the industry to say ‘see we’re not sexist’. Industries can't showcase a single white woman and think that they have done their part. Some of the most famous female musicians of all time have been women of colour. They have shaped the history of music in ways no one else has and they must be included in any advancements we make towards a more inclusive industry and world.

The Brit awards winners are voted on by a committee made up of previous winners, nominees, agents, publishers and managers. It is likely a large portion of these members are male due to the requirements to join. It is not just in singing and songwriting that we need to see more women receive recognition. Not once in its history has the Brit Award for British Producer of the Year been awarded to a female. We need a less toxic environment so that women feel comfortable joining the industry and can progress without misogynistic boundaries in their way. We need more female producers, agents and managers so that they can nurture and uplift future female artists.

Overall it is clear that there are many steps to take and a lot more progress to be made for females to be recognised within the music industry. We all need to be aware of the gender bias and continue to support our female artists wherever possible. Artists and their supporters need to continue to challenge the industry practices that cause this inequality. Men within the industry need to acknowledge their privilege and continue to be in support of change. I believe this year shows positive advances in how the industry is trying to move forward and be more inclusive of everyone. I hope people continue to acknowledge the singers, songwriters, producers, agents and all other females within the industry so that we can continue to experience award shows like this year's Brits.

Image Credit: Instagram/@littlemix

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