Play it Loud! Gender mainstreaming for youth in music

Making JMI more inclusive and diverse

  • about 1 month ago

Gender equality is a fundamental human right, but the music and the cultural sectors still struggle to meaningfully foster an environment where women, people who identify as nonbinary or members of the LGBTIQ+ community are equals. Everywhere in the world, adolescents easily fall into established gender roles. Even when it comes to music: girls primarily sing, while boys play instruments or do technical tasks. These stereotypes reflect severe gender gaps and imbalances in the music-making industry. In Europe, women represent 20% or less of all registered composers/songwriters, on average earn 30% less than men within the music sector, compose only 2.3% of works performed at concerts and own only 15% of record labels. This iterative cycle further drives existing stereotypes and cultural norms deeply rooted in our social structures, strengthened by intersectional discrimination, unfortunately still commonplace in the cultural sector.


To ensure that more young women and under-represented youth can be empowered through music and to challenge harmful norms across the Youth & Music sector, JMI launched a 2-year (and hopefully longer) process inspired by the LOUD! Camp initiative championed by JM Norway. The project "Play it Loud!", funded by the European Youth Foundation (EYF) and the Flemish National Agency "JINT" within the Erasmus+ Program framework, started in April 2020 and engaged so far over 100 young musicians, cultural operators, staff of targeted member and partner organisations and experts in the fields of youth work, music industry, cultural & events management, gender equality and inclusion. The project partners are Jeugd en Muziek (Belgium), Euro-Arab Youth Music Centre (Cyprus), International Music Council (France), JM Hungary, JM Macedonia, JM Norway, Songlines (Sweden).


Leading partners (JMI, JM Norway and the International Music Council) started the "Play it Loud!" process by designing and disseminating an assessment survey to research and collect best practices from organisations directly engaged in the youth, music and cultural fields in broader Europe.


These inputs and analysis helped develop content for an initial training course held in Strasbourg at the beginning of August. The training engaged over 20 young musicians and experts from Belgium, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway and Sweden. Participants shared their experiences and ideas, learnt the basics of gender mainstreaming and inclusive approaches and methodologies, and teamed up to design and plan pilot activities in their local contexts.


After the training course, experts joined the project Team Leaders in an "Experts pool", meant to inform and support the design and development of the project outputs. These are a set of pedagogical guidelines and a practical toolkit for all youth & music organisations willing to increase representativeness and diversity in their structures and activities.


The experts met for an Experts Meeting at the end of September in Brussels to further share their expertise, contribute to the outputs and get in touch with different local realities working on inclusion through music.


Back in each project country, the participants of the training course (young musicians and experts), supported by the partner organisations, implemented small pilot actions between September and December 2021. The activities included training sessions, performances by under-represented artists, norm-breaking events, talks, and much more. All of them aimed at disseminating the lessons learnt from the training course (methodologies, knowledge, good practices, etc.), contributing to raising awareness on the inclusion of underrepresented genders and marginalised young people in the youth & music sector. Overall, they engaged over 70 young musicians and cultural operators.


The pilot activities and the overall activities implemented in the first year of "Play it Loud!" were discussed and evaluated during an Evaluation seminar held in Brussels at the beginning of December. Here, partner representatives, young musicians, experts and team leaders met again to reflect on the challenges and the lessons learnt and evaluate the process and the way forward. During the meeting, the team leaders presented the final draft of the outputs. The subsequent collective review process also resulted in the first practical recommendations for the Network and the partner organisations. The event was closed on Monday, December 6th, with a small open event at the Crazy Circle, an inclusive culture and music venue in Brussels, where all participants took the stage and celebrated their shared achievements.


“Play it Loud!” will continue in 2021 with more pilot actions and meetings, soon becoming a transversal element and approach within all JMI Programs.