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A new report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative reveals progress, but not parity, for women on the popular charts.

Charting change? Women finally gain ground in popular music and at the Grammy’s

As the Grammy® Awards approach and the music industry prepares to celebrate its achievements, a new study reveals that it may be time to recognize some positive changes for women in the industry.

The report, from Associate Professor of Communication Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and supported by Spotify, is the newest in the annual series released by the groups. Covering 12 years and 1,200 songs from the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts, the study assessed artists, songwriters, and producers. The investigation also examined 6 major categories at the Grammy® Awards: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Producer of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year.

The findings this year demonstrate that women’s participation has improved across many metrics. The percentage of women artists reached 35%, a 12-year high that reflects two consecutive years of change on the charts. One explanation for this change can be found in the data on performer type. While little has changed for women in bands or duos, individual women artists filled 40.6% of spots on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart in 2023, an increase over 2022 (34.8%).

“For the second year in a row, the percentage of women artists on the popular charts has increased,” Smith said. “This is a notable milestone and worthy of celebration. However, it is still important to recognize that there is room to grow. Women filled less than one-quarter of artist roles across all 12 years examined, and these figures are still far from representing the 50% of women in the population and the music audience.”

The gains for artists were mirrored behind the scenes. For the first time in 12 years, the report noted that the percentage of women songwriters increased—from 14.1% in 2022 to 19.5% in 2023. This change was due almost exclusively to the number of women of color credited as songwriters in 2023. A total of 55 women of color received a songwriting credit in 2023, a significant uptick from the 33 women of color 2022 and the 14 in 2012 with a songwriting nod. The report also notes that 56% of songs in 2023 included at least one woman songwriter—an increase from 2022 and the highest percentage in 12 years.

“The changes for songwriters are doubtlessly due to the work of numerous groups working to support women in music," Smith said. "Whether She Is The Music, Spotify Equal, Moving the Needle, Women’s Audio Mission, Be the Change, Keychange, Girls Make Beats, or others, there has been a groundswell of support for women across the last several years. This advocacy and activism is propelling change in the industry. While there is work to be done, these groups are well-positioned to keep fighting for change.” 

For women in producing roles, 2023 was also a high point, though not a significant increase over previous years. Fourteen, or 6.5% of the producers credited in 2023 were women. This surpassed the previous record of 4.9% in 2019. Nearly half, or six, of the women producers in 2023 were women of color. Even with these slight gains, across the nine years evaluated, 94% of the songs evaluated did not include even one-woman producer. Across 9 years, there were still 29.8 men to every 1 woman working as a producer.

“For years, the numbers for women songwriters and producers have been stubbornly resistant to change,” Smith said. “To see progress in one of these areas is encouraging, but there is much more to do to ensure that women behind the scenes in music have access and opportunity to the highest level of songwriting and producing.”

The race/ethnicity of artists was also a focus of the report. In 2023, 61% of the artists on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group while 39% were white. This was a 12-year high and an increase from 2022 (50.6%), but not significantly greater than the percentage of underrepresented artists in 2020 (59%).

There were also changes by gender for underrepresented men as artists on the charts in 2023. Fifty-nine percent of men (59.4%) were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group in 2023, compared to 45% in 2022 and 39.9% in 2012. For underrepresented women, there was no change from 2022, but nearly two-thirds of women artists (65%) with a song on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Chart were women of color.

The report also assessed Grammy® nominations in major categories. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of nominations across these 6 categories went to women in 2024—a significant increase from 2023 (15.5%). This overall change was reflected in four categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. In each of these categories, the percentage of women nominees increased significantly from 2023 to 2024 and from the first year the awards were evaluated (2013). There were no women nominated for Producer of the Year for the 5th year in a row. In the second year that the Songwriter of the Year award was given, only one woman was nominated.

“Awards like the Grammy’s® show us how women’s contributions to the industry are received,” Smith said. “The increases in nominations this year are a positive step in recognizing the creative work that women did last year in competitive fields. The Recording Academy has clearly taken inclusion seriously and worked to increase the diversity of its membership, particularly its voting members.”

“There is still too little recognition for women producers and songwriters in those categories, and there are too few women of color nominated for their work,” Smith continued. "For music industry honors to truly reflect the creative workforce and the audience they serve, there must be a place for women and particularly women of color in these awards.”

The report will be shared with guests at Spotify’s annual women in music event, held on January 31st. This is the latest report from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and can be found here.