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New Inclusion Study Shows Little Progress

There is little to celebrate in the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s annual report, “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?”

Los Angeles, CA (March 8, 2021)—On International Women’s Day, and only days ahead of the Grammy Awards, there is little to celebrate in the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s annual report, “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?

The fourth annual report was conducted by Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, with funding from Spotify. “It is International Women’s Day everywhere, except for women in music, where women’s voices remain muted,” said Smith. “While women of color comprised almost half of all women artists in the nine years examined, there is more work needed to reach inclusion in this business.”

The study breaks down the gender and race/ethnicity for artists, songwriters and producers represented on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts from 2012 to 2020. It also tracks the percentage of women nominated for a Grammy Award in the key categories of Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Producer of the Year and Best New Artist for the past nine years.

According to the report, women comprised 21.6% of all artists on the Billboard charts over the nine years. They also represented only one-fifth — 20.2% — of artists on the chart in 2020. That’s up from an all-time low of 16.8% in 2017, but still only the third highest, and a drop from 2019’s figure of 22.5. Few women appeared on the chart in duos (7.1%) or bands (7.3%) and were most likely to perform as solo artists (30%), according to the study.

The prevalence of artists from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the Hot 100 is more hopeful. Across the nine-year sample, artists of color accounted for 46.7% of the total. But in 2020, that figure was 59%, marking a steady increase since 2013, when underrepresented groups occupied fewer than one-third (31.2%) of the Hot 100 end-of-year chart.

As for women songwriters and producers, the picture is bleak. Only 12.9% of songwriters were women in 2020’s chart, consistent with the 12.6% of women songwriters across 900 songs for the past nine years. That’s a ratio of seven men to every one woman songwriter.

The study found that the percentage of women of color working as songwriters declined from the peak reached the previous year, but still represents an increase from 2012. For white women songwriters, 2020 was no different from 2019 and 2012. Across the nine-year sample, 57.3% of songs did not feature any women songwriters. That average rose in 2020, when 65% of songs did not feature any women songwriters.

However, it’s in the studio that women fare worst, holding only 2% of all producing positions across the  Hot 100 songs for 2020. The study examined producing credits for a subset of 600 songs and found that women represented 2.6% of producers in these songs overall, and earned a total of 33 producing credits, nine of which went to women of color. This translated to only seven individual women of color working as producers and a ratio of men to underrepresented women in this role of 180 to 1.

“Women producers — and particularly women of color — are virtually erased from the music industry,” Smith said. “Only 5% of the songs in our sample spanning nine years of popular music had a woman producer. Harnessing the opportunity to showcase women’s talent and their creative contributions is essential if the record business wants to reach equality.”

This year’s Grammy Award nominations offer a high point for women in all the noted categories except one, Producer of the Year. For the eighth of nine years studied no women have been nominated in the category. Of the women nominees over the last nine years, 38.5% were women of color.

USC Annenberg •