Both Sides Now: A Practice Based Enquiry into the Gender Gap in Music

  • Kate Lowes

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis critically examines the gender gap in the music industry through a practice-based enquiry. The study is based on my professional practice developing and delivering a large-scale participatory programme for early career, female musicians called Both Sides Now (BSN). Through BSN I proposed an outcomes-based Theory of Change (Kirkpatrick, 1978) built around the framework of Access, Agency and Change. The thesis is structured around these three areas of enquiry which pertain to significant junctures in the personal and professional development of female musicians; educational access and early influence, artistic agency, pre-professional development and career pathways. Taking each ‘key word’ (MacCabe and Yanacek, 2018) in turn it tests this conceptual framing, pursuing a primary line of enquiry which asks what needs to change and how? Guiding the investigation is a commitment to the principles of feminist research and an exploration of the concept of ‘affect’ within the discourse of change-making. This, I argue opens up new knowledge that is felt and embodied and offers a contemporary understanding of ways in which the practices and structures of the industry are discriminatory. The practice submission offers a portfolio of documentary and archival materials and an ongoing body of work which includes a new teaching resource for the music curriculum, female-only projects and the BSN Manifesto for Change which was presented to the Culture Committee of the European Parliament in October 2019. This is presented alongside a written submission which provides a theoretically informed analysis of the initiative and its findings. Collectively these insights position BSN as an interventionist practice. They argue that change is required on multiple, intersecting levels in order to comprehensively respond to this inequality and to reshape a discipline which has for too long overlooked and under-valued the contribution of women.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCaroline Bithell (Supervisor) & Abi Gilmore (Supervisor)


  • feminism
  • affect
  • affirmative action
  • gender equality
  • music
  • practice-based
  • arts management

Cite this