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For every 47 music producers who are men, there is 1 woman

Holly Gordon

An updated study from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reveals that things haven't gotten any better for women in the music industry.

Released this month, the study analyzed 700 songs on the Hot 100 year-end Billboard chart from 2012-2018, as well as Grammy nominees from the same set of years. Looking first at artists, the study found that, of the 1,455 who were credited in the sampling of songs, 82.9 per cent of the artists were men, and 17.1 per cent were women. These numbers are similar to 2017's, making 2017 and 2018 the years with the lowest percentages of women in the seven years that were counted.

But behind the scenes is even worse: examining 400 songs over a four-year span, the study found that 97.9 per cent of producers were men. The study notes that there has been no change in percentage over the four years, leaving a steady gender ratio of 47.4 male producers to every female producer.

Related: Why do women make up only 1/3 of Juno nominees?

The inaugural Inclusion Initiative was released in January 2018, and a year later the updated numbers are strikingly similar. The year with the highest representation of women on the charts was 2016, counting 28.1 per cent, while 2017 saw the lowest at 16.8 per cent.

The study also concludes that "the gender gap at the Grammys is real." Of the Grammy nominees in the categories of record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, best new artist of the year and producer of the year, 89.6 per cent were men, and 10.4 per cent were women. The producer of the year category counts the lowest percentage of women nominated from 2013-2019 (2.6 per cent) while best new artist of the year is closest to parity, with 41.4 per cent of nominees being women. 2019 marks the first time in 15 years that a woman — Linda Perry, pictured above — has been nominated for a Grammy for producer of the year. (On Feb. 1, the Grammys launched the Producer & Engineer Inclusion Initiative, asking "musicians, record labels and others consider at least two female producers or engineers when working on a project, whether it's a song or album," accordign to the Associated Press.)

In 2018, however, the percentage of women of colour on the charts hit a high for the seven-year range included in the study. Female artists from "underrepresented racial/ethnic groups" represented 73 per cent of the sample size, and underrepresented male artists counted 52 per cent.

Related: Billboard's Country Airplay chart has no women in Top 20 for 1st time since its launch

The study breaks everything down into quantitative and qualitative "realities of working in the recording studio," including 75 interviews with female songwriters and producers to try and assess what the barriers are to the male-dominated rooms. Those stated barriers include:

  • Difficulties navigating the industry.
  • Financial instability.
  • Skills and abillities being discounted.
  • Being sexualized and stereotyped.

Read the full study, titled Inclusion in the Recording Studio?, via USC Annenberg.


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