New study reveals that female inclusion in the music industry is still shockingly low

Only 16.4% of Grammy nominees are female

According to “Inclusion In the Recording Studio?,” which is the second annual investigation of female inclusion in the music industry by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, women are still shockingly underrepresented.

The report, which was released today, looks at the gender and ethnicity of artists and content creators that were part of the 700 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end charts from 2012 to 2018. The report even includes a qualitative study that features interviews with 75 female songwriters and producers who spoke about their experience in the industry.

On average, throughout the seven years, only 21.7 per cent of featured artists were female, and in 2018 that number only reached 17 per cent. When it comes to producers, the male to female ratio was 47 to 1 with only 2 per cent of producers being female. In terms of songwriting, only 12.3 per cent of the 633 total songs (some of the 700 songs repeated year over year) were female. Perhaps even more telling, 57 per cent of the songs, which is equivalent to 360 songs out of 633, were missing a female songwriter, whereas 99 per cent of songs, which is 630 out of 633, had at least one male writer.

On the bright side, while women of colour tend to be more marginalized than other groups in entertainment, that wasn’t the case in music. The study showed that 73 per cent of all women on the year-end Hot 100 chart in 2018 were women of colour, jumping from 50 per cent the year before. “This makes music a real deviation from television, film and story-telling in streaming services,” Smith explained. “Music is the most inclusive place for women of colour.”

Additionally, there was a large growth of female nominees for the Grammy awards in 2019. Of 1,064 people who received a Grammy Award nomination in select categories from 2013 to 2019, 89.6 per cent were male and 10.4 per cent were female. In 2019, the percentage of female nominees jumped from 8 per cent in 2018 to 16.4 per cent.

Out of the 75 women interviewed, 43 per cent said that they felt that their work was discounted or not taken seriously, forcing them to continuously have to prove themselves. Additionally, 39 per cent of them felt stereotyped or sexualized, and 36 per cent felt that the industry was male dominated.

“There needs to be a radical cultural shift in these environments,” Smith explained, according to Billboard. “If the experiences that these women discuss in the interviews took place in the academic environment, people would lose their jobs. So there needs to be a culture shift in not allowing these things [to occur] in service to art.”

The study even explored solutions to the problems, such as bringing more women into production and songwriting and highlighting specific programs like She Is The Music, Spotify’s EQL Studio Residency, and For The Record Collective.
Infographics courtesy of USC Annenberg.