Tuning out gender inequality in the music industry

Sarah Louise Barrett

image credit: Grammy.com

The Smirnoff Equalizer, a partnership between Spotify and Smirnoff was launched as a web-based platform on International Women’s day in 2018.

The equalizer is a tool that analyses listening habits and provides a percentage breakdown of male vs female artists streamed by Spotify users.

According to a press release it was in response to the lack of female representation in Spotify’s 2017 Year in music statistics.

The Equalizer then allows you to create a more balanced playlist based on your listening habits.

but, is it the case that female artists and professionals need to work harder in order to reach the success of male counterparts?

In 2018, Spotify’s top 5 most streamed artists featured no women on the list, even in the face of tremendous success by female artists like Cardi B, Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift.

On the top most streamed albums list, the only female artist to make the cut was Dua Lipa. For the previous five years, the only two other female artists who made it onto this list were Katy Perry and Rihanna.

Rihanna featuring in 2013 and 2016. Katy Perry featuring in 2014. 

Looking at the music industry as an entertainment medium, The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, based in the University of Southern California, uses data-driven and theory based research to offer insight to industries on where diversity is needed and how to achieve it.

Their report found globally in 2017, 83.2 per cent of artists were men and only 16.8 per cent were women. The year marked a 6 year low for female artists in popular content.

In songwriting of 2767 credited songwriters, 87.7 per cent were male and 12.3 per cent were female. One could say women are thriving in music, but the data seems to prove otherwise.

According to research scientist, Dr. Kate Piper, music industry roles significant to the creative process like Producer and executives.

Is it a case that artists and songwriters think of males when they think of producers or of those in senior creative positions?

If the data is consistent with the thinking of the music industry, how do we as consumers make a step towards inclusivity in all things creative in the industry, from a consumer and studio perspective to ensure talent isn’t overlooked based on gender identity?

From a consumer perspective do we need to go online and start asking companies and artists who they are working with when it comes to crafting songs and being in studio?

A four step programme produced by the PRS Foundation’s international Keychange initiative, was presented last November to the EU parliament and called for reform across the music industry. Entitled the Keychange Manifesto: Recommendations For A Gender Balanced Music Industry, the document calls for codes of best practice at board level, gender balance targets and public sector investment in female artists.

Keychange, a talent development initiative, counts Glastonbury organiser Emily Eavis and producer Tony Visconti among its ambassadors, the initiative’s aim is to empower women to transform the future of the music industry.

In February 2018, Keychange organized a pledge to 45 international music festivals committed to achieve a 50/50 gender balance on their lineups by 2022.

Last year, She Said So, which is a global network of women in the music industry, with branches in New York, Berlin, Mumbai and Athens.

The Irish branch launched their first workshop. They host regular meetups for women who are working or interested in working in the music Industry.

All these initiatives greatly assist in changing the tune of gender inequality in the music industry.


Image Credit: Grammy.com

Sarah Louise Barrett