New Study Confirms That the Music Industry Is Still Embarrassingly Male-Dominated

We knew these numbers would be bad, but yikes

Taylor Swift attends the "All Too Well" New York Premiere on November 12, 2021 in New York City.
Taylor Swift attends the "All Too Well" New York Premiere on November 12, 2021 in New York City.
Getty Images

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at this point whenever 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’s still plenty of room for improvement.

For the past five years, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has released an annual “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” report analyzing the gender makeup of all the artists, songwriters and producers responsible for all of the songs on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart and on the nominations for the five major Grammy categories. This year’s study revealed that just 23.3 percent of artists, 4.4 percent of songwriters and a measly 3.9 percent of producers who worked on songs that landed on 2021’s Hot 100 were women. And change over years has been negligible. On average over the past decade, 21.8 percent of artists, 12.7 percent of songwriters and 2.8 percent of producers behind the year-end Hot 100 tracks were women.

“There could be a lot of conjecture, articles written, performative stances, and checks and statements made, but I think the key word here is stagnancy,” Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Dr. Stacy Smith told Rolling Stone“For women artists, you’re seeing virtually identical trends from 2012, and we’re not seeing progress across the board. Despite a lot of the clamor and despite the cacophony of voices that things are changing, our data suggests strongly otherwise.”

Of course, the Hot 100 isn’t a perfect metric. It obviously only reflects the most popular songs, and there are countless women in the music industry — especially independent artists — whose work is overlooked by that data. But the overall popularity measured by the Hot 100 is also a good indicator of the amount of resources allotted to promoting a track, as well as how much radio play it received. (As we all know, female artists still have a frustratingly difficult time getting their songs played on the radio.)

But even if we set aside the Hot 100 data, the number of Grammy nominations for women across the major five categories (Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist and Producer of the Year) are equally depressing. In 2022, just 14.2 percent of nominees across those categories were women, compared to 28 percent last year. That’s a significant dip, and it’s the first time since 2016 that the number of female nominees in those categories decreased. The Producer of the Year category is the most overwhelmingly male category of all, with men receiving more than 98 percent of its nominations. When she was nominated in the category in 2019, Linda Perry became the first woman in 15 years to have earned a Producer of the Year nod. No woman has ever won the category in its 46-year history.

So what can be done to fix this? That’s a complicated question, one that diversity task forces across the industry are being asked to figure out. But the first step is recognizing just how dire the problem is — and these latest stats are pretty grim.

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