USC Annenberg: 2022 Report Finds Gender Gap In Music Is Real

The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative put the recording industry under its microscope and released its annual findings on diversity, equity and inclusion March 31. And it again found the music industry wanting.

GettyImages sb10067891a 001
THE GIRLS IN THE BAND: A recently released study by USC Annerberg Inclusion Initiative finds that the increase in number of underrepresented artists, songwriters and producers has been “insignificant” over the last decade despite surging on the charts and in top Grammy Awards categories. (Getty Images)

In its focus on equity in the recording studio, the study says in the last decade the increase of women and other underrepresented people, particularly among artists, songwriters and producers, is insignificant.

While the report didn’t directly address the live industry, per se, the findings matter – particularly when taken together with previous reports.

In its current study, USC Annenberg found that of the artists appearing on Billboard’s Hot 100 Year-End charts in 2021, 76.7% were men and 23.3% were women. None identified as gender non-conforming or non-binary in 2021.

The report found that “There was no significant difference between 2020 (20.2%) and 2021 (23.3%) in the percentage of women artists. Additionally, the percentage of women artists on the chart in 2021 was not significantly different from 2012 (22.7%).”

In last year’s study, USC Annenberg found that women artists are also in the minority of record label signings. Of 1,750 artists signed by major and independent record labels, it found that just 31.8% are women – and that just 26.7% of Artist & Repertoire execs are women.

With inequity in label signings, in the studio and on the charts, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are similar disparities in the touring world as well (See Women of Live issue, March 21).

And while no one will argue that hiring and promotion of women and other underrepresented persons in live hasn’t improved, some of the USC Annenberg findings in other segments of the music industry suggest trends that merit concern.

The study notes that in the past 10 years, the percentage of women artists did not approach the percentage of women in the U.S population (51%).

Disappointingly, the study finds the percentage of women artists represented on Billboard’s Hot 100 charts has actually dropped from a high mark in 2016, when 28.1% of charting artists were women.

Looking at data between 2012 and 2021, 78.2% of artists were men and 21.8% were women, a ratio of 3.61 to 1.

Artist type was also evaluated: solo artists, duos, and bands. Of the solo artists across 1,000 songs and 10 years, 30% were women. In 2021, women comprised 30.6% of solo artists, up from 22.5% in 2020 but still less than the high of 35.8% in 2012. There were few women sample-wide who were part of a duo (6.7%), and in 2021, there were no women duo members. Women were also scarce as band members. Fewer than 10% of artists in bands were women across the 10-year sample (7%), and 2.6% of band members in 2021 were women.

However, when one looks at Grammy Awards nominations – a subjective measure and a small sample size, to be sure – the picture is fuzzy as well, with gains in numbers for women improving from a low of 6.4% in 2017 to a high of 28.1% in 2021.

Despite a public campaign by the Recording Academy to diversify and become more inclusive, 2022 saw a big backslide, with the number of women receiving nominations cut nearly in half to 14.2%, according to the USC Annenberg study.

One may hope it is just a hiccup; 2021’s 75% female Best New Artist category seemed a harbinger for change, with nominations for Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, who took home the award. s