New study confirms women are underrepresented in popular music

A new study has revealed the extent of inequality within the industry

A new study from the University of Southern California has revealed the stark truth for women in popular music.

The report, compiled by a selection of top academics, aimed to “assess the gender and race/ethnicity of artists, songwriters and producers across the 800 top songs from 2012-2019”, taken from the Hot 100 Year-End Billboard Charts.

Upon conclusion, the researchers found that less than 23 per cent of artists and less than 2 per cent of producers were women.

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The study, which acts as the fourth annual report for the Annenburg Inclusion Initiative, also examined inequalities at the Grammys – specifically the categories of Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Producer of the Year.

Although positive increases were found, a high-point in 2021 found that women represented only 28.1 per cent of total nominees, and as low as 6.4 percent in 2017.

Elsewhere, the study discovered that female artists were most prominent in pop (32 per cent) while only 12.3 per cent of hip-hop/rap songs were performed by women.

As Pitchfork reports, artists of colour made up some 45.4 per cent of performers in the 800 songs featured in the study, but the report also discovered that women of colour were “invisible” as producers, with just eight of the 1,093 producing credits.

Meanwhile, recently released figures to mark International Women’s Day 2021 yesterday (March 8), also showed gender balance is still heavily weighted towards men in the professional songwriter and composer community.

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PRS for Music, the organisation that looks after over 150,000 music creators and publishers, recorded some 1,971 women registering as professional songwriters and composers.

It represents a 12.3 per cent year-on-year increase compared to 2019, but men still make up 81.7 per cent of PRS for Music’s membership.

The figures also showed a financial disparity, with the top 10 highest earning female songwriters and composers in 2020 generating 70 per cent less income than their male counterparts in 2020.

Check out the music world’s reactions to International Women’s Day 2021 here. 

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