Women Under-Represented in Popular Music, New Study Finds



The grim reality of women in popular music has been laid bare by a new study from the University of Southern California. A report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative aimed to “assess the gender and race / ethnicity of artists, songwriters and producers across the top 800 songs from 2012-2019”, using data from the rankings year-end Billboard Hot 100. Less than 23% of artists and less than 2% of producers were women, researchers said.

This year’s study generated the fourth annual report of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which was compiled by Dr Stacy L. Smith, Dr Katherine Pieper, Hannah Clark, Ariana Case and Marc Choueiti. He received research funding from Spotify. He also reviewed the five biggest categories of the Grammys: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Producer of the Year. And while the number of female nominees tends to increase, the nine-year peak in 2021 was only 28.1% of the total nominees, and as recently as 2017 was only 6.4%. The Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which produces the awards, hired its first Diversity and Inclusion Officer last year.

Other trends include the gap between female solo artists (31%) and women in groups (7.3%), and between female artists overall (21.6%) and female songwriters (12 , 6%). In terms of gender, female artists were the most prominent in pop (32%), while only 12.3% of hip-hop / rap songs were performed by women. And while all-male writing teams are common (57.3%), less than 1% of songs had female-only writing credits.

Artists of color made up 45.4% of the performers of the 800 songs in the study. But the report determined that women of color were “invisible” as producers, with just eight of 1,093 production credits.

Offering a contrasting point of view, Heba Kadry, a renowned engineer for Björk, Deerhunter and many others, took issue with the limited data behind the study. In the Billboard Hot 100 chart, she wrote, “These are the same 3 majors hiring the same 9 guys to work on everything.” She added, “I’m a little tired of peddling that 2% statistic when there are objectively a lot more women in audio production and engineering in the independent music scene across all genres. We are actually here.

Read “Why are women under-represented in music?” Watch Ryan Adams’ story from the field.

This article was originally published on Monday, March 8 at 9:37 p.m. EST. It was last updated on Tuesday, March 9 at 12:12 p.m. EST.



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