The MMIAM Journey

A blog about the Master of Management
in International Arts Management program

An International Perspective on Managing a Career as a Woman Composer (Abridged)

The study draws on qualitative and some quantitative data derived from the survey responses of 225 women composers internationally. The study makes three contributions to the body of knowledge on the careers and career trajectories of women composers. First, it enhances our understanding of this under studied population by examining how the women work, how they enter the industry, how they become known and how they support their practice. Second, the study deepens our understanding of the ways in which women composers manage their careers. Third, it illustrates the need for women composers to develop economic, cultural and social capital in order to enter the composition field as well as sustain and support their practice over time.

The study shows the networked and competitive nature of the industry, and this, coupled with a lack of social capital and low levels of self-confidence, hindered women composers from entering the industry and becoming established.

The findings also highlight the importance of composers’ relationships with performers as they navigate their careers. Almost half (43%) of respondents composed for their own ensembles once or twice a year, and commissions were largely the result of reputation or recommendation.

Although connections and networking continued to be cited frequently, other important factors emerged. These included online presence and social media, attracting the interest of performers and audiences, creating quality music and music recordings, being proactive, and ensuring that their compositions could be accessed. Although respondents emphasized the importance of an online presence and an active social media profile, very few of them reported using online tools to build their practice. Online communities of practice, in particular, seemed to be a useful tool for women composers.

Finally, women composers were like other creative workers in that they often had to juggle multiple jobs within and beyond the creative industries. Only 35% of respondents described themselves as full-time composers. Supporting and sustaining their practice was challenging for these women composers. They often held multiple jobs and did unpaid work. Their career aspirations seemed to shift over time and were related to family commitments and health issues. However, a strong ongoing passion for their practice emerged from the findings.

Brazilian Conductor Simone Menezes (copyright Charbel Chaves 2015; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Read the full article in the International Journal of Arts Management, Volume 21, Number 3, Spring 2019 (link to come).