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Women in Music? The Song Remains the Same, Annenberg Study Shows

When the inaugural USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report was released last year, its findings — that women were sorely underrepresented in recorded music, to the tune of 17% of artists associated with Billboard’s top 100 songs in 2017 — sent a shudder throughout the industry. A year later and following groundswell from the Time’s Up movement, not much has changed.

The study conducted by Dr. Stacy L. Smith found that the number of women working as artists remained stagnant at 17%. Of songwriters, women represented 12.3% of the credits affiliated with the test group of 100 songs — over half did not feature a single female writer. Among producers, women numbered only 2 percent, in line with the previous year.

On a brighter note, representation by people of color was up. Of the female songwriters analyzed, 43% were of racial/ethnic groups other than white and 73% of performers were women of color. Over the last seven years, people of color represented 44% of the over 1,400 artists included in the study. Said Smith: “This seven-year high point reveals that the music industry is including women of color in ways that other forms of entertainment are not.”

Last year’s #GrammysSoMale hashtag, in response to Recording Academy president Neil Portnow’s comments that women should “step up” in order to find greater visibility and recognition in the music industry, put an even greater emphasis on parity when it comes to marquee categories like Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Producer of the Year and Best New Artist. The Annenberg study found that roughly 10% of all nominees in these categories were female. Linda Perry’s nomination for Producer of the Year marks the first time in 14 years that a woman who isn’t a nominated artist is up in the category.

In essence, where there are already barriers of entry, the studio environment makes for even trickier terrain for women to navigate. Says Smith: “The barriers and impediments need to be knocked out of the way and we need to focus on the actual problem, which is lack of access and opportunity for individuals that happen to not be men.”

The report  can be found online here.

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