US report finds women remain underrepresented and stereotyped in music | Music

The amount of top-selling female artists in the US increased in 2022, but the proportion of female songwriters making any commercial impact is still dismal, a new study has shown. The sixth annual University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report reveals that while the amount of women represented in Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart – which tallies the most commercially successful songs of the year – jumped 28.7% last year, to a total of 30%, only 14% of songwriters represented on the chart were women, a slight decrease from the 2021 statistic of 14.3%. Of the 232 producers represented on the year-end chart, only 3.4% were women, and one producer was non-binary.

“There is good news for women artists this year,” said Dr Stacy L Smith, who led the report, in a statement, “But let’s not get ahead of ourselves – there is still much work to be done before we can say that women have equal opportunity in the music industry.”

The 30% representation marks a new high for the amount of female artists on the year-end chart over the past decade, but the statistics for female songwriters and producers have largely stayed the same over the past 10 years. Since 2012 – the beginning of the reporting period for the Annenberg report – the amount of female songwriters represented in the Billboard year-end chart has never been higher than 14.4%, in 2019.

The peak amount of female producers represented on the chart also came in 2019, when 5% of producers on the year-end list were women. “Until women and men artists hire women songwriters and producers the numbers will not move,” said Smith. “It’s more than just allowing an artist to credit themselves on a song, it’s about identifying talent and hiring women in these roles. That’s the only way that we will see change occur.”

The majority of artists on the 2022 year-end chart were from an underrepresented racial background – a 6.6 percentage point decrease from 2021, and an 8.4 percentage point decline from 2020 – and 65% of artists from those backgrounds were women.

In its analysis of Grammy award nominees, the report found that only 13.9% of individual nominees were women, with one non-binary nominee.

In its conclusion, the Annenberg report suggests that, while gains made for female artists represented in the charts are promising, women behind-the-scenes still face major barriers to inclusion. It suggests that “women are stereotyped – in terms of the types of songs and genres they can create, and the roles they can play – they are sexualised, and their talents and experience are discounted,” and that programmes that support women to build experience in music may be vital to increasing the participation and success of women in the industry.

It also specifically discusses industry programmes such as the Recording Academy’s Women in the Mix – which asks high-level artists to pledge to include female engineers and producers on songs, but which only saw one artist, Nicki Minaj, do so in 2022 – and suggests that those pledging to hire women must follow through. It says: “Individuals who have made a commitment to hire women on their songs must honour that commitment – and, importantly, must do so on the songs that are likely to be released and reach audiences.”

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