What three years of equal opportunities data has taught us.

For the last three years Sound and Music have been collecting data from applicants to our programmes. The data, collected at the end of the application process. helps us understand more about who is applying to our programmes and their reach. This data (at the moment) covers: education, gender, age, location, ethnicity, previous applications to Sound and Music and length of time composing. We feel that these are the key areas that help us understand our applicants better and have developed this data set over the years.

So far we’ve had 1,902 responses to our Equal Opportunities form from a potential 1,975 applications from 2013 – 2016 which we is fairly representative of the applicant base as whole. If you fancy taking a look at the data it is available in anonymised for here: https://datahub.io/dataset/sound-and-music-equal-opportunities-data

We’ve also created a living infographic with the data so you can see the key high level stats easily here: http://soundandmusic.org/data/equal-opportunities

We first began collecting this data in 2013 and have updated the questionnaire to gather more information that we believe is  helpful. When we began our main aim was to simply understand more about the applicants to our programmes and to create benchmarks for ourselves. In 2014 we began to explore how we could better measure ourselves against others organisations To do this we did some research into the national census to gain national figures. From this we established targets to understand how our applicant base compared to the actual makeup of the UK.

Here are our key findings:

 Our programmes are open to everyone.

One of the important issues arising from our Composer Commissioning Survey this year, and indeed last year, was the link between age and perceived number of opportunities available to composers. What we heard is that there seemed to be a lot of opportunities for ’emerging’ composers and less for more established(/older) composers. Although as a data lover it would be fabulous if all composers fit into nice little boxes (I’m thinking coloured belts just like in karate or some kind of badge system like in Brownies) this would be: a. impossible and b. TOTALLY counterproductive. Every composer is on their own journey and development can happen at any time, what we care about at Sound and Music is if it’s the right time, for that person. Our programmes are designed to support composers, at any stage, of any age.

The spread across the age brackets from the data shows that our opportunities are increasingly attracting a wide range of applicants and we hope this continues.

 We’re reaching new people

From 2014 we started asking applicants whether they were new to our programmes and the organisation.

On average 1/3 of applicants are new to Sound and Music

and this grew from 31% in 2014/15 to 34% so far in 2015/16. As Sound and Music has developed since our relaunch in 2012 we’ve worked on creating a more balanced roster of programmes and have actively searched out new audiences to apply for them. This seems to be working given the growth of the past few years.

On average, 86% of applicants have never applied to the programme before

Although this growth has slowed over the past few years, we believe this is given the continuing nature of programmes such as Embedded,

 We’ve lessened the gender gap

Gender has always been a hot topic at Sound and Music and has seen staff write about the issue – see these from . In the wider industry gender is also an issue for other organisations, spurring the Women Make Music fund from PRSF and questionable articles in The Spectator, that are debunked in a genius manner.

36% of applicants were female in 2015/16

Although clearly way off  the 50% figure in the census, the issue is spread across the music industry: PRS’s membership is only 16% female (2011 figure), only 1.8% of the repertoire of the BSO was by female composers (shooting up to 14.6% when taking into account living composer’s work) and this year only 2.8% of the 112 scores eligible for an Oscar were composed by women. There is a lot happening out there to narrow the gender gap; great programmes, groups, advocates and I believe that this has all contributed to healthier ratios.

See also: https://juicevocalensemble.bandcamp.com/merch/classic-female-composers-t-shirt-black

 We’ve reached more ethnically diverse groups

In 2013, applicants were 98% ‘White British’, yet according the census data ‘White British’ only accounts for the 85% of the population.

43% of applicants would describe themselves as something other than ‘White British’

Since then we’ve sought a greater balance across the all different groups of ethnicity and have reduced the over representation of ‘White British’. This work has been influence by the creation of an Active Encouragement steering group from which our new programme Pathways.

 We’ve still got some work to do

Although we’ve achieved a lot in the past few years, we still have a long way to go. Targets still need to be reached and whilst we saw success in some areas,  others such as regional spread and education level still need to become more balanced.

46% of our applicants live in the London region

66% of our applicants have PhDs

The key thing is that we know that these are areas that need work so these areas will become areas that we address in the future.

We have diversified a number of the partners that we work with and are exploring how we can use our proven application process for composers and apply this to sector partners to find new people to collaborate with.

What next?

There’s still a lot of work to be done. A diverse representation in new music is a key priority for not just us but a number of organisations.

Here’s what we’re committing to do in the future:

  • Keep collecting, sharing and discussing the data
  • Launch the Pathways programme
  • Consult with the Active Encouragement steering group and seek to learn from others
  • Work with more and new regional partners
  • Keep the conversation with composers and the sector alive through our networks and staff


One thought on “What three years of equal opportunities data has taught us.

  1. ALL discrimination is wrong; the most discriminated agaist composers are the middled-aged who often write in the tonal idiom and are passed over and ignored time after time in favour of cool young composers who have the right connections.

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