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Women Are Gaining Ground Across Music Creation, New Study Finds

today01/30/2024

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After years of stagnancy, women are gaining ground on the charts and at the Grammys.

A report on gender equality in the music industry by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative — which was supported by Spotify and is the latest in an annual series released by the groups — assessed 12 years and 1,200 songs from the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts, looking at artists, songwriters and producers.

The study, Inclusion in the Recording Studio? Gender & Race/Ethnicity of Artists, Songwriters & Producers across 1,100 Popular Songs from 2012 to 2022, is out Tuesday (Jan. 30.)

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The study’s key takeaway is that women’s participation in music creation, which has historically lagged, has improved across several metrics.

On the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts, the percentage of women artists reached 35%, a 12-year high. The study attributes this change to the fact that 40.6% of spots on these charts in 2023 were occupied by individual women artists, an increase over 2022 when the number was 34.8%. Improvements were less significant for women-led bands or duos.

The number of women songwriters also increased, from 14.1% in 2022 to 19.5% in 2023. The study notes that this change was due “almost exclusively to the number of women of color credited as songwriters in 2023.” The reports cites 55 women of color receiving a songwriting credit in 2023, a jump from 33 women of color 2022 and 14 in 2012.

Fifty-six percent of songs in 2023 included at least one woman songwriter — an increase from 2022 and the highest percentage in 12 years.

“The changes for songwriters are doubtlessly due to the work of numerous groups working to support women in music,” Dr. Smith says in a statement. “Whether She Is The Music, Spotify Equal, Moving the Needle, Women’s Audio Mission, Be the Change, Keychange, Girls Make Beats, or others, there has been a groundswell of support for women across the last several years. This advocacy and activism is propelling change in the industry. While there is work to be done, these groups are well-positioned to keep fighting for change.”

In the producing realm, fourteen, or 6.5%, of the producers credited in 2023 were women. This surpassed the previous record of 4.9% in 2019. Nearly half, or six, of the women producers in 2023 were women of color. But, over the nine years the study has assessed gender equality in production, 94% of the evaluated songs did not include a single woman producer. Across nine years, there have been 29.8 men to every one woman working as a producer.

The race/ethnicity of artists is also a focus of the report. In 2023, 61% of the artists on the Hot 100 Year-End Charts were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group, while 39% were white. This was a 12-year high and an increase from 2022, when the number was 50.6%, but not significantly greater than the percentage of underrepresented artists in 2020, when the number was 59%.

The study also assessed the six major Grammy categories: record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, best new artist, producer of the year and songwriter of the year.

The study found that nearly a quarter (24%) of nominations across these six categories went to women in 2024 — a jump from 15.5% in 2023. This overall change was reflected in four categories: record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, and best new artist. This year, nominees in these categories include Taylor Swift, Victoria Monét, SZA, Miley Cryus, boygenius, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. In each of these categories, the percentage of women nominees increased significantly from 2023 to 2024 and from the first year the awards were evaluated in 2013.

For the fifth year in a row, no women were nominated for producer of the year.

“Awards like the Grammys show us how women’s contributions to the industry are received,” Dr. Smith says. “The increases in nominations this year are a positive step in recognizing the creative work that women did last year in competitive fields. The Recording Academy has clearly taken inclusion seriously and worked to increase the diversity of its membership, particularly its voting members.”

But, she continues, “There is still too little recognition for women producers and songwriters in those categories, and there are too few women of color nominated for their work. For music industry honors to truly reflect the creative workforce and the audience they serve, there must be a place for women and particularly women of color in these awards.”

Other key findings:

• In 2023, 164 artists appeared on the Hot 100 Billboard Year-End Chart. Of these, 64.6% were men, 34.8% were women, and 0.6% were gender non-binary.

• Across the 12-year sample, women artists were the most likely to work in pop (34.7%) and least likely in alternative (14.4%) and hip-hop (14.9%).

• Across 12 years, Drake had the most credits as a solo artist, appearing 52 times, double that of Justin Bieber, who appears on 25 songs. Nicki Minaj was the woman with the highest number of credits, appearing 25 times, while Ariana Grande followed with 23 songs and Rihanna with 22.

• The percentage of underrepresented women on the charts in 2023 was 65%, with this number the same as 2022 and and almost doubling since 2012, when it was 33.3%. “Put differently,” the study says, “women of color continue to dominate the charts.”

• In terms of genre, across 12 years, women were most likely to write pop (20.1%) and dance/electronic (19.6%) songs, and least likely to write hip-hop and rap (7.5%) and country (9.9%) songs. Even in pop music, where women songwriters most often appear, they were outnumbered by male songwriter by a ratio of 4 to 1.

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