I read this Pitchfork article today about a Smirnoff-sponsored Spotify plugin called the “Smirnoff Equalizer” that evaluates your music history to tell you what percentage of women and men artists you stream. I got 77% men 23% women and was congratulated for listening to more women than the average person. I could care less about my above-average mark because frankly, I was surprised and disappointed in this ratio. I probably would have guessed a generous 50-50, thinking I’m some super equitable music consumer, like my headphones automatically empower women.
So, after I felt like I got publicly shamed by Rihanna, I went to the “Browse” section of Spotify to scope out the damage in the United States Top 50 playlist. Of the 50 most popular songs in the country right now, five are by female artists. Yes, five. Which leaves 9x more male-led tracks. Two of these five songs are by Camila Cabello, meaning only four women artists made this list, only starting to appear by song #20.
I then checked out the Global Top 50, crossing my fingers that the international community would make up for the U.S. and all of our shame. The most popular songs in the world (according to Spotify on Tuesday, March 13 at 11:21 pm central time) include twelve songs by women, by nine different female artists, starting at spot #5. Better, not great.
So let’s get into the weeds of this global disparity. Here are some mind-boggling statistics via the New York Times.
- From analyzing six years of the Billboard’s Hot 100 chart (2012 to 2017), of the 1,239 performing artists, 22.4% of them were women.
- Of the 2,767 songwriters credited on those songs, 12.3% were women.
- Female producers make up just 2% in a subset of 300 songs across this same period.
- Of the 899 nominees within the last six Grammy’s, 90.7% were men and 9.3% were women.
Here are some more crazy numbers:
- Women are 50% of the population.
- Women are 100% of the population who keep the world going.
- 100% of the population should get down with passing the mic and letting women tell their stories, whether it be through a song, a rap, a riff, or a beat.
So maybe my 23% really is not that bad. Maybe, what’s really the issue is the industry and consumer at large blocking the lane for women.
But Alex, I’m a hetero dude and I just like listening to music I can relate to…
WELL, YA KNOW WHAT STEVE, I KNOW YOU DON’T RELATE TO ABOUT 99% OF KENDRICK’S UPBRINGING, HAVE HAD ROUGHLY 1% OF THE SEXUAL EXPERIENCES OF THE WEEKND, AND HAVE NOT GRAPPLED WITH ADDICTION LIKE ANTHONY KIEDIS. YET, SOMEHOW YOU AND EVERYONE ELSE STILL GET DOWN WITH THESE DUDES.
Cuz ya know why, Stove?! These talented people are telling a story. Whether literal or metaphorical, through rhyme or harmonies, they have something to say. And you know what’s bananas?! Women do, too. And you know what happens when you let groups of people speak and create when they’re used to feeling like they can’t? They explode with sounds and visions and concepts you’ve never dreamed. They widen your gaze and shift your perspective. They make you belt out your lungs in the shower and make you pull the car over to cry. They spark new conversations that move everyone forward.
We have something to say, all you have to do is listen.
WITH THAT BEING SAID, here is my new playlist, Mujeres Mágicas (~Magical Women~), which includes 100 songs by women. There are blowup artists like SZA. There are bands like Haim. There are powerhouses like Rihanna. There are genre-benders like Noname. There are classics like Amy Winehouse. There are oldies like Etta James. There are throwbacks like The Veronicas. There are young guns like Kali Uchis. There are local Chicagoans like Ohmme. There are artists to discover like Ibeyi.
I trust there is at least one song in here that you will find and admit, “yeah, ok, this one is good.”
You can also follow me on Spotify, ok ok?