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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Gender diversity in the music industry

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Gender diversity in the music industry, it turns out, may be even worse than in Hollywood. Three years ago, Stacy L. Smith, an associate professor at the University of Southern California and the founder of its Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, drew attention for a study that found that as few as 28 percent of speaking characters in top movies were women and that only 4 percent of films were directed by women.

A new study led by Dr. Smith, announced Thursday, found that over the last six years the representation of women in pop music has been even lower.In an analysis of the top 600 songs from 2012 to 2017 - defined by B illboard's year-end Hot 100 chart for each of those six years - the study found that of 1,239 performing artists, 22.4 percent of them were women.

The numbers are much lower among people behind the scenes. Of the 2,767 songwriters credited on those songs, 12.3 percent were women. Female producers - the people most responsible for the sound of pop music - are even rarer, at just 2 percent in a subset of 300 songs across this same period, the study found.

"When it comes to women's ability to contribute and to lead, they're being shut out of the process," Dr. Smith said in an interview.The music industry does far better with racial and ethnic diversity. O f the study's 1,239 performing artists, 42 percent were from minority groups, above the United States Census figure of 38.7 percent.

While women's difficulties breaking into the music business are well documented, the starkness of the study's findings is surprising. At the Grammy Awards, for example, the success of stars like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Adele may grab headlines. But a vast majority of awards go to men.

Of the 899 individuals who have been nominated for the last six Grammy ceremonies, 90.7 percent were men and 9.3 percent were women. The study found that women were most likely to appear in the best new artist category. (This year, three of the five best new artist nominees are women: Alessia Cara, Julia Michaels and SZA. The only woman up for album of the year is Lorde.)

By looking at the top 100 songs for any given year, Dr. Smith's study excludes thousands of artists who are less commercially visible and also those in many niche genres, where women's influence has sometimes been significant. Dr. Smith defended this methodology by saying that her research focused on "agenda-setting songs and stories" that reach the widest audience.

And in the world of songwriting - music's storytellers and lyric writers - men dominate.Nine male songwriters, the study found, have been responsible for almost one-fifth of the top songs in the last six years. At the top  of the list are Max Martin, who had 36 hits; Drake, with 25; and Benny Blanco, with 22.

The women with the most songwriting credits are Nicki Minaj, with 15; Riha nna, with 13; and Taylor Swift, with 11. Dr. Smith said that her team planned to undertake further studies of the music industry, including looking at the women in the executive ranks and the "pipeline" of employment in the business."Our goal," Dr. Smith said, "is to eradicate inequality in entertainment."


The Writer is an American academic

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