USC Annenberg’s ‘Inclusion in the Recording Studio?’ Study Finds That More Work Toward Gender Equity Is Needed

Women in music hold many roles—they are singers and songwriters, producers and engineers. They must overcome age-old barriers to put their artistry and creativity to work and make their voices heard among fans worldwide. And yet despite decades of progress, women are still vastly underrepresented on the top music charts.  

The 2022 study “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?”, the fifth annual report on the music industry from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, details the numerical realities of this inequality. The report, which was funded by Spotify again this year, provides a comprehensive industry update on inclusion—and shows that much more needs to be done. 

Spotify has been working hard on creating spaces and opportunities for women with on-platform campaigns such as EQUAL. But as we’ve seen clearly, the results are not good enough.

“To rise to a challenge, the industry must first understand it. This is why the efforts of Stacy Smith, Karla Hernandez, and the entire team behind the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative are critical,” said Dawn Ostroff, Chief Content & Advertising Officer, Spotify. “These results underscore the need for action. We are committed to continuing to support this important research, to elevating women who can, in turn, create opportunities for women, and to making meaningful progress to improve equity across the world of music.

Read on below, or head straight to the report.

Artists of color are increasing on the charts

The study explores the intersection of gender and race/ethnicity for artists. In contrast to the lack of women artists, artists from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups represented over half of 2021’s artists. But Dr. Smith explains, “Although the data reveal an increase for women of color, these findings indicate that there is more work to be done.”

Women songwriters and producers remain outnumbered 

“Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” didn’t only look at front women but also at those behind the scenes, and it found that women songwriters and producers remain outnumbered. Overall, across a total of 1,522 producing credits in the 10-year sample, 97.2% were men and 2.8% were women. 

A nod toward nominees

The study assessed every nominee at the Grammys® that received recognition in the categories of Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Producer of the Year for the same time frame. It found that women were more likely to be nominated for Best New Artist (44.4%) and Song of the Year (28.8%). On the other hand, they represented the lowest percentage of nominees in the Album of the Year (9.7%) and Producer of the Year (1.9%) categories. 

“Uplifting women in music is crucial, as it allows women to grow in their careers and opens the doors for younger women aspiring to work in this industry,” said Karla Hernandez, the study’s lead author. “This is especially true for women of color, who are often excluded from prestigious institutions and career recognition. We must see women’s work showcased and nominated, giving them space in writing rooms and studios. By actively working toward inclusion, we can bring forth a new wave of talent and creativity.”

There’s much more to be done, and the report also recommends changes to increase the number of women as artists, songwriters, and producers and provides solutions for sustaining growth for underrepresented artists. Read the rest of the data, as well as the recommendations, in the full report.