FEMALE Scots singer-songwriters are joining forces to "level up the massive inequality in the music industry" which means just 14% of signed to publishing companies in the UK are women.

The Hen Hoose initiative is a response to their concerns that just 12% of those registered at the Music Producers Guild - a UK collective of producers, mixers, recording engineers, programmers and remixers – are women.

The collaborative all-female songwriting project funded by Scotland's publicly funded arts agency Creative Scotland led by Tamara Schlesinger, who records under the name Malka already has artists like multi award-winning folk singer Karine Polwart, The Delgados founding member Emma Pollock, Stina Tweeddale of all-female rock band Honeyblood, Sarah Hayes of Admiral Fallow and Scottish Album of the Year-shortlisted Carla J Easton signed up.

READ MORE: Who's Who of Scottish popular culture join forces in desperate appeal to save music industry

In the struggle to survive during the coronavirus pandemic, the group felt that women have fewer opportunities to develop revenue streams to sustain a viable career than men in areas from songwriting and production, to the live arena, streaming and radio play.


Emma Pollock

So Hen Hoose was formed with a gameplan to get together the "rich and diverse array of wonderfully talented and award-winning female Scottish artists, writers and producers" with the goal of collaborating remotely on the creation of new music across multiple genres.

Hen Hoose will initially pitch an album’s worth of collaborative songs for TV and films which may also be released commercially.

The aim is to generate further revenue for women songwriters "during these difficult times". There is also the option to release the album in the future.

It will also allow those without access to studios to write and produce from home, and within the confines of their daily routine, allowing a balance of childcare and other jobs and commitments.

Ms Schlesinger, who is on the advisory board of the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) and lectures at SAE Institute in Glasgow said: “There’s no touring for artists right now, hardly any money to be made, so setting up this collective feels like the right response. This a place for talented female songwriters to come together to write on new projects and support each other.

"The music industry still has a long way to go when it comes to gender balance, with just 16% of songwriters registered at PRS (the UK royalties collections agency) being women.

"And you only need to look at the line-ups for festivals including TRNSMT to recognise that this is an issue across the board, not just on the writing side.


Tamara Schlesinger (Malka) 

"So many artists have lost their usual revenue streams during lockdown, mainly from their live shows, but also in hidden areas such as the usual royalties that you might collect from your music being played in pubs and shops, so I started to think of how I could find new ways to generate an income. I write a lot of music which is then pitched for TV and films along with getting syncs with tracks from my records so that seemed like the right place to start.

"Many people in the industry have been making noises about making a change but very little has actually happened to reshape the landscape. I felt like now was the time to try and make a difference."

READ MORE: Warning over Scots music industry future as SAY Award is given to isolating Covid-positive artist Nova

The UK music industry contributed £5.8bn to the economy last year but a report accepts that the Covid-19 had had a ruinous impact with the music industry hanging by a thread during lockdown.

Scots music star Lewis Capaldi (below) was among the musicians named that helped the industry continue its growth in 2019, along with Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Dua Lipa and George Ezra.

HeraldScotland: Lewis Capaldi

But new analysis shows that women continue to lose out.

An analysis of this year’s proposed three main stages at the Reading and Leeds festivals showed that only 13 per cent of musicians on-stage will be women.

And the Counting the Music Industry audit which examined the rosters of over 300 UK labels and publishers revealed that only 14 per cent of composers and songwriters and 20 per cent of musicians signed to those companies were female.

This is despite women making up nearly half of all music degree students over the past five years - based on figures derived from the Higher Education Statistics Authority.

Ms Schlesinger said the songwriters are grouped in pairs for each brief and they are given a theme, a variety of genres and an overall mood to work towards when writing their material.

They then have the freedom to create any song that they feel fits the mould of the brief with an aim for a three week turnaround per song and around 15 songs for the current project.

"I wanted to create a collective of incredible Scottish female songwriters who will combine their shared knowledge to create some exciting, innovative new music, which we can then go on to pitch," said Ms Schlesinger.

Video: Karine Polwart - Rivers Run

Others who have signed up include Amandah Wilkinson (Bossy Love), Beldina Odenyo Onassis (Heir Of The Cursed), Rachael Swinton (Cloth), Pippa Murphy, Inge Thomson, Suse Bear (Pictish Trail), India Rose and Elisabeth Elektra.

"We are working remotely sending files back and forth but I do hope that there will be a time when we can be in a room writing the songs together again," Ms Schlesinger added.

"We are working remotely sending files back and forth but I do hope that there will be a time when we can be in a room writing the songs together again.

"I am amazed at the level of writers that I have managed to get involved with the project and I can't wait to hear the music we all create together. I think the most exciting part will be forcing each of us out of our creative comfort zones, pushing ourselves to try new genres and styles and to further develop our music-production skills.

"I hope that this project can be expanded in the future, bringing on some up and coming writers who can work beside more experienced writers to develop their skills and widening the opportunities of other female songwriters in Scotland."

Carla J Easton said: “I am so excited to be part of Hen Hoose and work with some of Scotland's most accomplished and emerging songwriters to create new music. It is an exciting collaborative powerhouse of talent that continues to shine a light on the amazing and diverse songwriting that comes out of Scotland.

"Significantly, the opportunity showcases the incredible voices of so many women in an industry that is starting to redress the massive gender imbalance that has been prevelent for too long."

Video: Malka - Moving Together

In July, Liam Gallagher, Dua Lipa and Sir Paul McCartney were among 1,500 artists who have signed an open letter calling for support for the UK's live music scene.

And in September, the Night-Time Industries Association Scotland (NTIAS) - which represents hospitality and events venues - has launched a campaign to reinstate music in venues which have fallen silent across the country.

The campaign argues that Scotland's ban on music is ruining the atmosphere in pubs, bars and restaurants at a time when the sector is already struggling and that silent bars could also encourage patrons to physically move closer to one another in order to speak more quietly to avoid being overheard.

Video: Carla J Easton - Never Knew You

Video: Honeyblood - Gibberish