The Music Biz Is Still Failing Females
The Latest USC Report Snows Minimal Progress Towards Equality
Last summer, we published a newsletter looking into the music industry’s poor history of inclusion when it comes to women. Recent weeks have revealed more discouraging numbers when it comes to gender inequality, but the solution remains the same.
Three items caught our attention in the final days of January. First, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released a new report, Inclusion in the Recording Studio?, its sixth annual analysis on the topic of women in music.
The one piece of good news is that women made steady if slow progress on the pop charts in 2022, making up 30% of artists on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart — an improvement over 2021’s 23.3% and a significant increase since 2012.
It was less encouraging for women behind the scenes. A mere 3.4% of producers were women in 2022 according to an analysis of 800 songs, with only 5.2% of all the songs evaluated featuring a woman producer.
Perhaps the most discouraging news in the report is the fact that the numbers remain stagnant despite concerted efforts to move the needle toward some sort of parity. In fact, of the roughly 500 artists who took The Recording Academy’s Women in the Mix Pledge, only one — Nicki Minaj — employed a female producer on a song from the Hot 100 Chart.
Another much-ballyhooed campaign, Smirnoff’s Equalizing Music partnership with Spotify, also failed to show (or at least report) any clear gains before quietly ramping down last year.
Speaking specifically about the Recording Academy’s campaign, Annenberg lead researcher Stacy L Smith said “This industry solution has not proven effective. Until women and men artists hire women songwriters and producers the numbers will not move. 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.”
We said the same thing last summer regarding the number of female executives at labels during WMG’s hunt for a new CEO. We all know how that turned out. A similar year-long transition is now underway at BMG. However, the world’s “fourth-largest music company” announced its next CEO, Thomas Coesfeld, immediately, eliminating any speculation — female or otherwise.
The one sign of progress that we saw in the C-Suite recently comes from the announcement that Jenifer Mallory was promoted to president of Columbia Records, meaning that there are now 4 women in charge of the 13 frontline major record label groups operating in the United States.
The end takeaway from all this is that new solutions must be found to solve gender inequality in music. And those solutions are unlikely to come from industry campaigns or corporate coffers.
Fresh Air Celebrates the 50th Anniversary of 'Schoolhouse Rock'
Salient statements from this week’s music news.
1. Are There Really 100,000 New Songs Uploaded a Day?
The number is more and less, depending on how you analyze the numbers.
Takeaway: That glut of music is good for some, bad for others. It’s great for distributors and developers of music creation tools. It’s bad for record labels that must fight harder to get their tracks heard and risk ceding market share.
2. Everyone Loses: The Problem With Fixing Music Streaming
Solutions either shuffle the winners and loser in a zero-sum game or risk alienating users.
Takeaway: Streaming’s problems are supply side issues, not demand-side. All industry stakeholders should be careful about pushing solutions that could favour the supply side without proper consideration of the demand side. The history of business is littered with the corpses of companies that did not properly consider the needs of their customers.
3. Union of Musicians and Allied Workers Call On SXSW to Increase Artist Payments
When a member of Fugazi calls out your business practices, it’s probably time to listen.
Takeaway: The letter claims that over the past ten years, compensation for artists based in the United States has come in the form of a one-time payment of $250 ($100 for solo acts), or the option to receive a wristband to attend the festival as a guest in place of payment; international artists are only offered the wristband.
4. TikTok Is Trying To Prove That It Doesn’t Need Major Label Music
Takeaway: TikTok and the labels disagree over the value of music in the app’s overall popularity. Music rights holders argue that their songs are core to TikTok’s appeal, while TikTok sees music as just one part of a broader entertainment experience.
5. More Signings Fail to Produce More Stars
Seems the labels forgot to grow their staffing while they grew their revenues.
Takeaway: Some executives worry that the dry spell is partly due to the recent wave of signings, claiming that the majors have inked deals at a rate beyond their ability to provide service.