A time for new voices

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As we launch our new leadership programme, our Head of Programmes Kate Lowes explains why there’s never been a more vital time for innovation, new voices and new leaders to emerge…

A time for new voices
12th May 2020

As we launch our new leadership programme, our Head of Programmes Kate Lowes explains why there’s never been a more vital time for innovation, new voices and new leaders to emerge…

We’re launching our new leadership programme in a different world to the one we imagined a few months ago. However as our Head of Programmes Kate Lowes explains, there’s never been a more vital time for innovation, new voices and new leaders to emerge…

A time like this forces us all to reflect, to think about what matters and to re-imagine how the future might unfold. Currently, the music industry is facing one of the biggest challenges in its history and its core business model and future security feel uncertain. It is a rapidly changing situation from which the industry is going to need to recover, respond and rebuild. Central to the survival and future growth of the industry will be strong leadership, fresh new ideas, and a coming together of age, experience, energy and enthusiasm. It is a time to innovate and a time for new voices. 

With these things in mind we are excited to launch our new leadership programme to support and develop female and gender-minority music professionals in the North of England. This could be self-leaders setting up or running an independent music business, womxn working in venues and events, or those working or aspiring to work in a bigger commercial company – and everything in between. 

Statistically we know that women are underrepresented across the music industry, with just 32% of employees identifying as female or non-binary. This gender gap is most significant though in leadership roles. Recent figures highlighted that women working in senior positions earn 33.8% less than their male counterparts (the national average is 18%).

In addition, womxn from and working in the North are a minority within this minority, and there are currently levels and layers of the music industry that are not properly represented in this region. Our 2018 Gender in Music conference at the Sage Gateshead highlighted the need for more female role models within our sector, more flexible working practices, more opportunities to build networks rather than operate in isolation, and more opportunities for people to build skills and develop their professional practice in the North of England. 

When I was a teenager in the nineties, looking to find a job working broadly ‘in music’ I didn’t feel like regionalism was the stumbling block that it is now. There were a number of cities across the North which felt like the epicentre of the musical universe, with huge artist scenes exported globally, and clubs attracting visitors from around the world. Now, we see isolated success stories and everything else seems to revolve around London. The great things that are going on aren’t getting the attention they deserve. People leave college and still feel that they need to move to London to have a hope of finding a career. They often do this at a huge personal cost – which opens up deeper concerns about how place, class and gender combine to create barriers to a career in music.  

Over the next two years Brighter Sound will be responding to this need; developing more opportunities for womxn in the North, building levels of support and working with some great colleagues around the country to provide leadership residentials, business start-up schemes, work placements, masterclasses and action learning sets. Working collaboratively with key partners across the commercial and independent scenes, our vision is to rebalance the industry, close the gender gap for future generations and support the growth of the North’s regional music economy. 

Of course, much of this work is on hold until we’re able to connect in person once again. However we’re really pleased to mark the start of this journey with a series of online talks, featuring some of the most inspirational and influential music professionals discussing how they overcame challenges in times of crisis. While fear and uncertainty continue to disrupt all of our plans and day-to-day existences, we can at least take some small steps to prepare for whatever future emerges.  


Brighter Sound’s Leadership Programme is one of 18 projects nationally to receive investment through the Arts Council’s Transforming Leadership fund, a £7.1million investment into leadership development to ensure that cultural leaders are appropriately skilled and diverse.