Inclusion In the Recording Studio

From the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. [Thoughts from Harriet McBurnie & Clare Everson]

After a revealing study in to ‘Inclusion In The Director’s Chair’, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative published a further study this month, exploring inclusion in the recording studio.

The 2019 Grammy Awards saw an increased number of women award winners, including Kacey Musgraves being awarded Album Of The Year, Dua Lipa as Best New Artist and Cardi B as the first solo female artist to win Best Rap Album. Five out of the eight nominations for Album Of The Year were women, including Carlile, Janelle Monae, Cardi B and H.E.R.

Founded by Dr. Stacey L. Smith, the study quantatively examines gender and race/ethnicity of artists and content creators across 700 popular songs on Billboard’s annual Hot 100 charts from 2012 to 2018. Also considered were Grammy nominees within the same time-frame, predominantly focusing on Record of The Year,Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Producer of the Year, and Best New Artist. In addition, the investigation also examined the barriers facing female songwriters and producers through a set of qualitative interviews.

The report includes an analysis of seven years of Grammy nominations in five categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Producer of the Year, and Best New Artist.

Dr Stacey Smith, author of the report, said: “There is a lot of work to be done, not only on the artistic side but in regards to who is getting access to content creation as songwriters and producers of content”

Overall, the results revealed that since a six year low in 2017, little has changed in the percentage of female artists in the industry, with women making up 17% of artists in 2018

The study’s key findings revealed:

  • Only 21.7% of artists attached to the top 700 songs over the past seven years were female.
  • 44% of all artists were people of colour from 2012–2018. In 2018, 52% of male performers were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group and 73% of all female performers were women of colour.
  • Across all seven years, females were most likely to receive credits as solo artists (31.5%) and rarely as members of bands (7.5%) or duos (4.6%).

The report also states that some of the main barriers facing women in the industry (based on the experiences of 75 producers and songwriters), were having their skills discounted (43%) and being stereotyped and sexualised (39%).

In light of the lack of inclusivity with the industry, the report also highlights opportunities for progressing industry change, including prioritising environments where women are welcomed and can hone in on their individual skills and talents.

One example of this is the Free The Bid initiative for female composers, which aims to bring greater visibility to women composing for media. Other solutions include ensuring women have access to role models and mentorships. The study also highlights the importance of committing to consider and hire more women within the industry.

“In order to see true and long-term change, the industry must feed the pipeline of women who are coming up through the various organizations working to support the next generation of female songwriters and producers. It must also work to address the ways in which women currently experience isolation, objectification, and dismissal throughout its ranks. By embracing collective action and new solutions, music can be an industry that celebrates all people and all voices.” [Dr. Stacey Smith]

What is clear from this study over several years is that progress across the statistics is not linear. Although there have been incredible female solo artists making huge waves this year, looking ahead to the 2020 Grammy Awards, it will be important to see whether the industry can make wider progress for underrepresented producers and song-writers too.

To read the full report, click here.

Read our previous blog on the findings from Inclusion In The Director’s Chair.

Find out more about she.grows,’s mentoring programme.

Plus, take a look at our new website!



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