Music industry has made ‘insignificant’ progress for women songwriters, artists and producers: USC Annenberg Study
On the last day of Women’s History Month, the results of a new research report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative concludes that, for women in music, “the last decade has been one of insignificant change in the recording studio”.
The study, titled “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” is the fifth annual music industry report from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The report, which was funded by Spotify, provides a comprehensive industry update on inclusion on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart. Specifically, the study examines the artists, songwriters and producers credited on each of the 1,000 songs on this popular chart from 2012 to 2021.
The survey also quantitatively analyzes the gender and race/ethnicity of each individual in these three roles, and rates each Grammy nominee who receives recognition in the categories Record the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist and Producer. of the year for the same period.
In 2021, 23.3% of artists on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart were women. There has been little change over time for female artists — only 21.8% of artists over ten years and 1,000 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts were female, according to the report. This is a drastic imbalance when you consider the percentage of women in the American population: 51%
In contrast to the lack of female artists, artists from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups made up more than half of 2021 artists (57.2%). During the decade under review, people of color made up 47.8% of the more than 1,900 artists listed on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts. However, this overall percentage masks an increase over time. While the percentage of underrepresented artists peaked in 2020 at 59%, 2021 is still 18.8 percentage points higher than the percentage of underrepresented artists in 2012 (38.4%).
“Despite activism and industry advocacy, there has been little change for women on the popular charts since 2012,” Smith said. “While the data shows an increase for women of color, these results indicate there is still work to be done.”
The study also explored the intersection of gender and race/ethnicity for artists. Notably, 55% of all female artists in 2021 belonged to underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, as did 58% of male artists in 2021. For underrepresented women, 2021 reflects a 6 percentage point increase from to 2020 (49%), although still below the peak of 73% for female artists of color, which occurred in 2018. Overall, 10% of female artists over the 10 years examined were women of color.
Most strikingly, the report found that female songwriters and producers remain significantly more numerous – a situation reflected in part in Varietyof the article on the recent and long-awaited progress of female executives by being appointed heads of A&R departments.
In 2021, 14.4% of songwriters were women, a figure that has not changed over time. Women made up only 12.7% of the songwriters assessed over the 10 years studied, a ratio of 6.8 men to 1 woman songwriter. More than half of the songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts from 2012 to 2021 did not include a female songwriter.
In 2021, more women of color than white women wrote songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart, reversing a decline seen in 2020. However, 2021 was still below the 10-year high of 44 women of color observed in 2019.
Women held only 3.9% of all production positions in songs on the Billboard Hot 100 Year End Charts 2021. The percentage of female producers in 2021 increased non-significantly between 2020 and 2012, but did not surpassed the 7-year high of 5% in 2019. Overall, of a total of 1,522 production credits in the 10-year sample, were male and 2.8% were female. This is a ratio of 35 men for 1 producer. Only 10 producers in the sample spanning the decade were women of color. The ratio of male producers to underrepresented female producers is 148 to 1.
“For female songwriters and producers, the needle hasn’t moved over the past decade,” said Dr. Smith. “In particular, women of color are virtually excluded from producing the top songs every year. We know there are talented women from all walks of life who don’t have access, opportunity or credit for their work in this field.
The study also examines a solution that has been attempted to address the lack of female engineers and producers in popular songs: the Recording Academy’s Women in the Mix campaign, launched in 2019. In the Hot 100 Year-End Songs in 2021 , there were two of the female producers and engineers whose work could potentially be attributed to the Women in the Mix pledge. One, Ariana Grande, produced and engineered her own songs alongside two other promise takers. The second, Jenna Andrews, produced a song that included a promise taker. Two other engineers, Heidi Wang and Gena Johnson, each worked with a promise taker in 2021.
The study focused on the 25 people who had committed to working with more female producers and engineers: only four of the 25 had worked with female producers and only five with female engineers. The Weeknd and Max Martin worked alongside compatriot Ariana Grande, who co-produced the remix of “Save Your Tears” which featured her. Ron Perry worked alongside producer Jenna Andrews on BTS’ “Butter.” Grande also produced her own songs alongside two other promise takers, and Andrews, worked with BTS for the second time on a song that included a promise taker.
Similarly, one of the female engineers was a pledge taker (Grande). Besides her, the other four promise takers who worked with a female engineer were Justin Bieber, Dave Cobb, Max Martin and the Weeknd. Among these men, two worked with Ariana Grande (Max Martin, The Weeknd). Justin Bieber was a featured artist on The Kid Laroi’s “Stay,” which was engineered by Heidi Wang. Dave Cobb worked with Gena Johnson on the song “Starting Over”.
Considering most of this work has been done by a superstar female artist, it’s a sad situation indeed. But while the report’s wording underscores the failure of Women in the Mix’s commitment to “impact the ranks of female producers and engineers on some of the industry’s highest-grossing songs,” the Recording Academy n has no power to enforce these promises. , not to mention forcing changes across the industry after decades of discrimination against women.
Obviously, the problem and the responsibility for change lies with the individuals in the industry.
“Industry solutions must do more than lip service to create change,” Smith said. “They need to target the underlying reasons for exclusion and have strong evaluation and accountability measures to ensure they translate into real progress.”
The report also updates last year’s analysis of 10 years of Grammy nominations in five categories. 14.2% of all nominees in 2022 in the five categories examined were women. In 2022, the percentage of women nominated has decreased compared to 2021 (28.1%). This decline occurred in four categories. As in 2021 and eight of the previous 10 years, no women were nominated for Producer of the Year.
Overall, 13.6% of all applicants in these categories over the past decade were women. Over the 10 years assessed, women were more likely to be nominated for Best New Artist (44.4%) and Song of the Year (28.8%). In contrast, they made up the lowest percentage of nominees in the Album of the Year (9.7%) and Producer of the Year (1.9%) categories.
In addition, the study examines individual appointments by race/ethnicity for women. Of the 262 women nominated for a Grammy, 44.3% were underrepresented. The majority of white and underrepresented women were nominated only once in the 10 years studied.
It’s a process in which the Academy has more power to change, and last year it announced it was scrapping the “secret” nominating committees that determined the final slates of candidates, although any changes to long term does not become clear.
“Elevating women in music is crucial because it allows women to advance in their careers and opens doors for young women who aspire to work in this industry,” said Karla Hernandez, lead author of the study. . “This is especially true for women of color, who are often excluded from prestigious institutions and career recognition. We need to see women’s work featured and nominated, giving them space in writing rooms and studios. By actively working on inclusion, we can bring out a new wave of talent and creativity. »
The report also offers solutions for change to increase the number of women as artists, songwriters and producers and support the growth of underrepresented artists.
“To meet a challenge, the industry must first understand it. That’s why the efforts of Stacy Smith, Karla Hernandez and the entire team behind the USC Annenberg The inclusion initiative is key,” said Dawn Ostroff, Director of Content and Advertising, Spotify. “These results underscore the need for action. We pledge to continue to support this important research, to uplift women who can, in turn, create opportunity for women, and to make meaningful strides to improve equity in the world of music.
Read the full report here.
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