Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at this point every time another new study confirms our suspicions about how far the music industry still has to go to achieve gender parity. Progress for women in the historically male-dominated industry has been depressingly slow, and according to new research, there is still plenty room for improvement.
For the past five years, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has published an annual report “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” report analyzing the gender composition of all artists, songwriters and producers responsible for all songs on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart and nominations for the top five Grammy categories. This year’s study found that only 23.3% of artists, 4.4% of songwriters and a measly 3.9% of producers who worked on songs that landed on the Hot 100 of 2021 were women. And the change over the years has been negligible. On average over the past decade, 21.8% of artists, 12.7% of songwriters, and 2.8% of producers behind year-end Hot 100 tracks were women.
“There could be a lot of guesswork, papers written, performative positions, verifications and statements made, but I think the key word here is stagnation,” said Dr. Stacy Smith, founder of the Annenberg. Inclusion Initiative. Rolling stone. “For female artists, you see virtually identical trends from 2012, and we don’t see progress across the board. Despite much clamor and despite the cacophony of voices that things are changing, our data strongly suggests otherwise.
Of course, the Hot 100 is not a perfect measure. This obviously only reflects the most popular songs, and there are countless women in the music industry – especially independent artists – whose work is ignored by this data. But overall popularity as measured by the Hot 100 is also a good indicator of how much resources went into promoting a track, as well as how much radio play it received. (As we all know, female artists still struggle to get their songs on the radio.)
But even if we put aside the Hot 100 data, the number of Grammy nominations for women in the top five categories (Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Producer of the Year) is equally depressing. In 2022, just 14.2% of nominees in these categories were women, up from 28% last year. This is a significant drop, and the first time since 2016 that the number of women nominated in these categories has decreased. The Producer of the Year category is the most male-dominated category of all, with men receiving over 98% of its nominations. When she was nominated in the category in 2019, Linda Perry became the first woman in 15 years to earn Producer of the Year. No woman has ever won the category in its 46-year history.
So what can be done to solve this problem? It’s a complicated question, one that diversity task forces across the industry are being asked to address. But the first step is to recognize how serious the problem is – and these latest statistics are quite grim.
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