New study confirms women are underrepresented in popular music


Anyone who has paid attention to popular music in recent years can tell you that women are woefully underrepresented, but now we have hard data to back that up. As Pitchfork reports, a new study from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative attempted to “assess the gender and race / ethnicity of artists, songwriters and producers across the 800 best songs of 2012-2019 ”using data from the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts, and what they found was disheartening: Less than 23% of the artists represented in the charts and less than 2% of the producers were women.

The study also looked at the attendance of women in five of the Grammys’ top categories: Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Producer of the Year. While the number of women nominated in these categories hit a nine-year high in 2021, it is still insanely low, at just 28.1%, and as of 2017 it was just 6, 4%.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative also looked at which genres featured the most female artists. Pop did better in terms of female representation with 32%, while only 12.3% of rap songs were performed by women. When it comes to female songwriters, there is also a huge financial disparity, with the top 10 highest paid female songwriters in 2020 generating 70% less income than their male counterparts that year.

Of course, none of this is unexpected. It’s harder to have a hit song when you’re not on the radio, and female artists have historically had a harder time getting on air, especially on country radio, where gender parity remains. a major problem. And while there has been slight progress with the Grammys, such as the fact that all of the nominees for Best Rock Performance this year are women, we know only too well The Recording Academy’s shady history with women. thanks to the allegations of ousted CEO Deborah Dugan. and former President Neil Portnow’s infamous comment that women artists had to “step up” if they were to be nominated.

But it is important to note that the study focuses only on popular the music, not the music as a whole. Engineer Heba Kadry took issue with the study’s small sample size on Twitter, writing that for songs that typically land on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, “It’s the same 3 majors hiring the same 9 guys for work on everything. ” This is not the case in the world of independent music, and limiting study to traditional popular music is a bit misleading.

“I’m a little tired of peddling that 2% statistic when there are objectively many more women in audio production and engineering in the independent music scene in all genres,” she wrote. “We’re actually here. “

Yet there is clearly a long way to go and a lot of work to be done to ensure that women artists, producers, songwriters and engineers actually get a healthy dose.


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