Home » Feature » While few female artists enjoy success, gender gap continues to grow in the music industry

While few female artists enjoy success, gender gap continues to grow in the music industry



According to a BBC research, three times as many male as female pop stars appeared on last year’s biggest hit singles. Even though the success of singers like Dua Lipa and Ariana Grande was celebrated at the Grammy’s this year, the gender gap has widened over the past decade, the research found out. Among the 100 most popular songs of 2018, only 13 songs were credited to female artists, a dip from 35 in 2008.

The research pointed out that ninety-one men or all-male groups were credited on the Official Chart Company’s top 100 most popular songs of 2018 – compared with 30 female acts.

Is the change real?

Female artists today share the same success that their male counterparts do, the question to ask here is – ‘Is this actual change or is it just a window-dressing?

Dua Lipa, Kacey Musgraves, Cardi B and Lady Gaga bagged many of the top prizes at the Grammy Awards held on 11th February, 2019. But it can be assumed that this would just a knee-jerk reaction to last year’s accusations of having lesser female representation amongst the winners.

The research states that there are no fewer women in the UK charts now than there were a decade ago – in 2008, 30 female acts were credited on the best-selling 100 songs of the year. In 2018, the figure was still 30. But the number of men has risen by more than 50% as the number of collaborations has grown over that time – from 59 men in 2008 to 91 in 2018 – an evidence that gender gap has increased.



It has become much more common for hit songs to be collaborations for instance, Pop Star A “featuring” Pop Star B. This translates into an increase in the total number of artists credited on songs in the end-of-year top 100 list.

One may think that the growth and success enjoyed by these artists are equal but, in reality, it’s not true. Male artists have risen far above their female counterparts.


Where do female artists actually stand?

The research states, “In 2008, stars like Alexandra Burke, Duffy and Katy Perry were among the 35 female acts to have hit singles on their own. Last year, that number was 13, including Dua, Ariana and Anne-Marie as well as Jess Glynne, Loren Allred and Rita Ora. At the same time, the number of songs credited to both a female and a male act has risen from 10 to 25.”

A song performed by a male artist and a female artist have replaced many songs that were just credited to a single female act. However, male artists are also collaborating with other male artist, therefore we see a steep rise in the overall number of male acts which appear on the top 100 singles.

Looking with a keen eye, it has been seen that female artists, on the other hand, do not collaborate with other female artists as much as their male counterparts do. Even if they do collaborate, these songs do not share the same popularity as much as the male-male collaborations. This phenomena hasn’t changed in the past 10 years.



What’s the reason for this stagnancy?

If you think about it taking into consideration the past 60 years, pop music has always suffered a gender imbalance.

The trend of collaborations have stemmed out of the reasoning that it gives better exposure with other fans. In an age where streaming is the king of the industry, it is now difficult for an artist to breakthrough the chaos and be heard. When in a pickle like that, collaborations serve as a solution to connect to the audience at large. It can be noticed that the collaborations happen between two artists from different genres – for instance – dance and rap which now dominates the charts.

Dance music often carry female vocalists, but when it comes to DJs/producers/hitmakers such as Calvin Harris, Marshmello, David Guetta, Zedd, Jax Jones – it is found these big names usually collaborate with male artists.



Not just Pop, but other genres too

It is not just Pop which sees male dominance but also other genres of music which experiences this phenomena.

Thanks to Cardi B who has broken the glass ceiling when it comes to her popularity, she is still miles away from the likes of Drake, Post Malone, Macklemore, Kendrick Lamar and French Montana.

In the BBC research, Soul superstar John Legend said: “That’s surprising when you have people like Adele, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande – women who I think of as the biggest things in music right now. But I guess if you count those DJs [eg Calvin Harris and DJ Khaled], it’s a little different because the voices people are hearing are women, even though it’s the DJ’s record. It’s also probably a product of hip-hop being predominantly male, because hip-hop is such an important part of music, and 95% of popular hip-hop artists are men.”


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