Music News

International Women’s Day 2023: Meet the women changing the music industry

In honour of International Women’s day 2023, Headliner hones in on the talented female professionals working in the world of music and audio.

It’s no secret that the stats for women working in music and audio are low. Each year after the Grammy Awards, the USC Annenberg Institute releases a study on the representation of gender and race across the music industry.

The most recent annual report on gender representation in the music industry – titled ‘Inclusion in the Recording Studio?’ – examined the gender of artists, songwriters and producers across all 1,100 songs included on Billboard’s Hot 100 year-end charts spanning from 2012 to 2022.

The study also assessed every Grammy nominee nominated for record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, best new artist and producer of the year within the same time frame, along with this year’s inaugural songwriter of the year category.

The study found that for women songwriters and producers, opportunities remain limited. In 2020, 12.9% of songwriters were women, which is consistent with the 12.6% of women songwriters across 900 songs for the past nine years – a ratio of seven men to every one woman songwriter.

The percentage of women of colour working as songwriters declined from the peak reached the previous year, but still represents an increase from 2012.

For white women songwriters, 2020 was no different from 2019 and 2012. Across the nine-year sample, 57.3% of songs did not feature any women songwriters. A similar trend of exclusion continued in 2020 as 65% of songs did not feature any women songwriters.

In terms of songwriters, women represented approximately 14% of songwriting credits on the Hot 100 in both 2022 and 2021. That represents only a slight increase over the full 11-year period when they made up 12.8% on average.

Women filled the fewest percentage of roles as producers – women held only 2% of all producing positions across the 2020 Billboard Hot 100 songs.

women represented 30% of the 160 artists on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart, while men made up 69.4%

A subset of 600 songs from the main sample were examined for producing credits. Overall, women represented 2.6% of producers in these songs, and earned a total of 33 producing credits, nine of which went to women of colour.

This translated to only seven individual women of colour working as producers and a ratio of men to underrepresented women in this role of 180 to 1.

In 2022, just 3.4% of producers were women across all songs included on the year-end Hot 100 chart.

The report revealed that in 2022, women represented 30% of the 160 artists on the Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart, while men made up 69.4% and artists who identified as non-binary made up less than 1%.

women held only 2% of all producing positions across the 2020 Billboard Hot 100 songs.

In 2023, 15.2% of Grammy Award nominees across six major categories were women – which is virtually unchanged from 2022 when the number was 14.1%. Across the 11 years evaluated, 13.9% of nominees in the major categories were women, while 86% were men.

Things are looking up slightly in 2023, as in this year’s new songwriter of the year category, women made up 60% of the nominees.

However in the last year women have worked as producers, engineers, composers, re-recording mixers and immersive audio engineers on the biggest films, TVs shows and music releases. Meanwhile, Beyoncé notably broke the record for the most Grammy Award wins of all time, and numerous women were appointed to senior positions in the music industry – a positive sign for the future as male dominance of these senior roles has long been a concern.

Headliner shines the spotlight on some of the women working to tip the balance…

Everything Everywhere All at Once was one of the biggest films of 2022. Released to critical acclaim, its numerous accolades include 11 nominations at the upcoming Oscars, while it also won two Golden Globe Awards, five Critics' Choice Awards (including Best Picture) and one BAFTA Award), among many, many others.

Re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor Alexandra Fehrman only needed to watch it once to convince her to take the job, although, as she explains, she almost passed on the whole thing…

Fresh from her recent Grammy win for Best Score Soundtrack for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Dawn of Ragnarök, L.A based composer and BAFTA Breakthrough Artist Stephanie Economou explains how she turned to System Of A Down for the score’s inspiration…

Beyoncé recently broke the record for the most Grammy Award wins of all time – totalling at 32 – after taking home four awards at the 2023 ceremony. Check out her Grammy Award timeline in full.

British R&B girl group, FLO were named the winners of the BRITs Rising Star award for 2023, making them the first ever group to win.

Alicia Keys’ personal recording engineer, head of music, business partner and close friend, Ann Mincieli talks about taking home her third Grammy Award for Best Immersive Audio Album for her work on ALICIA.

In the UK, Little Simz was announced as the overall winner of the 2022 Mercury Prize for Album of the Year.

Chanda Dancy – named one of 10 Contemporary Black Composers You Should Know – reveals how being respectful was key when comprising the score for the new Whitney Houston biopic, I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

New York City-based producer and engineer Zukye Ardella explains how she went from an emergency medical technician to working with New York’s most exciting hip-hop artists at her very own studio in Manhattan.

Dara Taylor explains how she composed a folk-inspired score for the number one-streamed Netflix Christmas film, The Noel Diary.

In this Emerging Headliner interview powered by JBL, non-binary singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Grace Gaustad talks about the importance of representation and inclusivity in the music industry, viral internet stardom and being a voice for the LGBTQIA+ community.

First time scorer Este Haim of indie pop icons Haim talks about how herself and L.A.-based songwriter and producer Christopher ‘Stray’ Stracey composed the score for the Netflix hit series, Maid.

Composer Amelia Warner explains how she accidentally went from a professional actress to a fully-fledged film composer, landing a song placement in a John Lewis Christmas advert and composing her first period romcom, Mr Malcolm’s List.

Latin Grammy-winning engineer and producer Maria Elisa Ayerbe is a go-to producer in the world of Latin American music, and also now the star of HBO’s A Tiny Audience. She talks about working with Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin.

Already a member of the badass alternative pop band, Caveboy, Montreal-based songwriter Isabelle Banos reflects on her production journey, explains what led her to open a studio for women and gender minorities, and discusses her surprise song placement on Netflix miniseries, Maid.

Erin Barra – director of popular music at Arizona State University, executive director of Beats By Girlz, course developer for Berklee Online and former associate professor at the Berklee College of Music in Boston – reflects on her journey through the music industry and explains what led her to start female initiative, Beats By Girlz.

The BPI recently named acclaimed musician, composer and broadcaster YolanDa Brown as its new Chair.

The BPI, the trade body for independent labels and major record companies across the UK, recently appointed gaming industry executive Dr Jo Twist OBE, as its new CEO.

New AIM (Association of Independent Music) CEO Silvia Montello reveals her plans for the organisation in 2023, the economic issues that are threatening to turn the industry into a 'monoculture', and why it’s a great time to be an independent artist.