Female artists remain disproportionately underrepresented throughout the music industries. Enough Records, a project supported through the Youth Music Incubator Fund, is actively breaking down these barriers so that young creatives can thrive.
Despite women making up a proportion of the UK’s most successful contemporary artists, in this year’s BRIT Awards, not a single woman was nominated in the prestigious Best Artist category.
The gender gap extends far beyond award ceremonies, however. Music executive and researcher Vick Bain found that less than 20% of acts signed by UK labels overall are female. On top of this, only 13% of UK festival headliners in 2022 were female, a BBC study revealed. This was especially disappointing as many festivals had promised to achieve a '50/50' gender balance across their line-ups by 2022.
But to unpack this ubiquitous female underrepresentation within the music industries, it is important to recognise the barriers standing in the way long before artists might reach award ceremonies.
Youth Music’s Blueprint for the Future Report discovered that women were more than twice as likely than men (13% vs 6%) to say they hadn’t had access to any support in order to help them achieve a career in the music industries.
BBC Radio 1 DJ and Jaguar Foundation founder, Jaguar Bingham, believes the lack of female dance producers is "systemic", with many women discouraged from pursuing a career in music at an early age. “As a result, there are more men in that field, so they managed to take over the scene and become the majority. So anyone who isn't [a man] maybe feels shunned, doesn't feel comfortable or doesn't feel welcome”.
Grassroots projects are key when it comes to tackling these inequalities. Not only do they provide a platform for local communities, but also offer a wealth of opportunities and support.
Enough Records is a Dundee-based label that actively works to open up access to the music industry for young women, and particularly those in Scotland.
Co-founded by Charlotte Brimner, also known as the artist BeCharlotte, and Louie John Lowis, Enough Records was launched with investment from the Youth Music Incubator Fund. “I wanted to do something that helped other young musicians that you don't need to pay to access”, Charlotte tells Youth Music. “I always thought I would have to wait until I was older to start my own label. The [Youth Music] Incubator Fund made me realise it's possible think about it right now. Sometimes you just need the confidence to go for it. In 2020, we started the ball rolling and then this year we launched publicly. The support from Youth Music has been incredible”.
Enough Records now has two young, Scottish, female artists signed to the label – The Sound of Young Scotland Award winner, Berta Kennedy, and Cara McBride.
“I really feel passionate about helping people that are in a similar situation to me; they're really passionate about what they do. And of course, they're talented as well. But they really want to do something, and they really want to be an artist, to be a musician, but maybe don't have the means to know what to do next”, Charlotte says. She added that working with Scottish artists living outside of the major cities and under the age of 25 has been the label’s focus. Often, location is a crucial barrier for young people in the UK accessing creative opportunities.
“In Scotland, accessibility to opportunities is a big thing for young artists here – and being able to find the opportunity and being able to go to the opportunity”, Charlotte adds.
Youth Music’s NextGen Survey (2022) found that 81% of respondents outside of Greater London selected "Lack of opportunities in my local area" as a barrier to pursuing and sustaining a career in the music industries. In comparison, 43% of those in Greater London selected it.
“I felt like I had to move out of Dundee to pursue my career. I know so many people have done the same - leaving Scotland and going to London. All the major record labels are in London, in England”.
Breaking down barriers to access
“One of the things I wanted to do with the label is start to bring the idea that there can be industry things here; opportunity - whether that would be within the label or as an artist”, Charlotte states.
As well as founding the record label itself, Charlotte and Louie put their Youth Music Incubator Fund grant towards a set of songwriting camps. In addition to many of the Scottish creatives they spoke to not knowing about the concept of songwriting camps, location was also a barrier, with many camps held in London or even overseas.
“The industry in Scotland is a bit more disjointed, so I wanted to create the sense of community where you feel like you're with like-minded people, and you feel like you can share with them”, Charlotte explains.
Enough Records has since held three residential songwriting camps in Scotland for 50 female artists aged 18-25. 90% of the participants said they had felt previously uncomfortable in a male-dominated studio environment, so Charlotte set out with safety as a key priority. An online meeting was held, and a WhatsApp group set up before each camp so that all participants have a chance to meet. “I make a playlist that people can add to so it feels like you getting to know each other”, Charlotte adds.
The songwriting camps have been a great success. “What was really great to see is how quickly the bonds formed between people”, Charlotte shares. “Obviously, we're there to write songs. But a big part of it was people chatting and being able to share experiences…It was a good opportunity for people to feel like they could be honest and vulnerable and not be judged for what they're saying”.
Most of the women that attended the songwriting camps had never written with another woman before, yet over 25% of participants went on to collaborate with each other again, and even become friends. In fact, both Berta and Cara were signed by Enough Records after attending one of the songwriting camps.
The importance of support
While some artists may choose to stay independent, there are a number of benefits of signing to a record label, too. For Charlotte, coming from a non-musical background, signing with a record label acted as a recognition of support. “There'll be many opportunities that younger artists are offered, but they can't afford to go to unless they've got financial backing already from somewhere”, Charlotte explains.
Enough Records want to go further than just offering financial support for their artists, their approach is emotional, too.
“I think a big part of it is knowing that other people believe in you…having the encouragement and the acknowledgement that this [your music] is something that people will care about and want to support is a huge thing”, she says. “Because then that gives you the confidence to write more songs or share your ideas”.
Enough Records has an artist-first approach. Charlotte leverages her own artist knowledge with major label signing experiences to act as a lighthouse, guiding other young rising artist through the often-murky waters of the music industries.
“One of the biggest things about setting up the label was thinking of the artists as people and remembering that we're just all human beings”, she comments.
“Our very first conversation with Berta, with Cara, with any artist we speak to, is what do they want to achieve? What are their goals? To see if we can help with that in any way…The power should be in the artists' hands to decide what they want to do with their music”.
With 2023 already off to a great start, the grassroots record label has set their future intentions.
“I would love to work with as many as many artists as we can and help them get a little bit farther along in their in their journey. To become a place that's known for helping and nurturing younger talent or artists”, Charlotte says.
Enough Records is providing both support and opportunities for young, female artists in Scotland, breaking down barriers to accessing the music industries. Ultimately, Charlotte says it aims to be a place where artists feel appreciated.
For more information about the Youth Music Incubator Fund, visit youthmusic.org.uk/incubator-fund.
Check out Enough Records: www.instagram.com/enoughrecords