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Women are still missing in the music industry, especially behind the scenes

According to a new report, Nicki Minaj is one of the few top female songwriters in an industry where 57% of songs have no female writers.
Jamie McCarthy
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Getty Images
According to a new report, Nicki Minaj is one of the few top female songwriters in an industry where 57% of songs have no female writers.

The music industry is nowhere near reaching gender parity. According to a new study from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, women lag behind men as artists, but the problem is particularly severe when it comes to fields such as songwriting, producing and engineering.

This is all despite the Recording Academy's stated attempts at trying to expand women's opportunities.

The study, which was funded by Spotify, examined the artists, songwriters and producers credited on songs that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart since 2012. According to their count, less than a quarter of the artists on the chart in 2021 were women. Over the past ten years, that number has been stagnant at 21%.

Over the past decade, women only make up 12.7% of songwriters. The study also counted producers of select years, and found that women made up a paltry 2.8%.

In 2019 the Recording Academy launched an initiative named Women in the Mix to try to combat the dearth of women in production and engineering positions, asking participating artists, labels and managers to consider at least two women when hiring for a producer or engineer. According to the study, the effort has so far failed to produce any quantifiable improvement.

"Industry solutions must do more than offer lip service to creating change," said USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder Stacy Smith, in a statement. "They must take aim at the underlying reasons for exclusion and have robust evaluation and accountability metrics to ensure that they result in real progress."

The study compared the progress of women in the music industry to the advancements made by people of color. In 2021, 57% of artists were people of color, compared to 38.4% in 2012.

Women of color in particular have made strides on the artist front — making up over half of the female artists in 2021, as well as outpacing white women as songwriters. But only one woman of color was credited as a producer in 2021.

The report also continued its examination of the Grammys where the percentage of women nominated in the major categories fell for the first time since 2019.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.