Following several years of stagnation in diversifying the ranks of the mostly male hitmakers behind many of music’s biggest hits, the industry saw some improvements last year, according to a report released on Tuesday. The number of female songwriters, artists, and producers on last year’s biggest hits was the highest they have been in 12 years, the report said.
Every year since 2018, USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative report — dubbed “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” — has broken down the gender and race statistics from the credits on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs chart, typically highlighting just how male-dominated the songwriting and production fields truly are. This year was no exception: nearly 65 percent of the 164 listed recording artists on the Hot 100 tracks are men, along with 94 percent of the 217 producers and about 80 percent of the 441 songwriters.
But while all those stats still reflect fewer women in the studio, they are also improvements from the prior year, with all-time highs across all three categories, the report said. The number of female recording artists on the year-end Hot 100 grew to 35 percent in 2023 from about 30 percent a year ago. Female songwriters also grew over five percent, now up to nearly 20 percent of all the credited writers, (the highest number in over a decade) according to the report. And that lowly 6.5 percent female producer base is still a new high as well.
Stacy Smith, the report’s lead author, applauded the change in the report while still acknowledging a need for further reform.
“For years, the numbers for women songwriters and producers have been stubbornly resistant to change,” Smith said in a statement. “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 reports point directly toward an increase in the number of women of color songwriters for improvement in the songwriter category. Fifty-five women of color were credited as writers on the Hot 100 songs, a significant increase from 33 percent a year prior and the highest the figure has been over the 12 years the report has analyzed.
In particular, within songwriting last year, about 56 percent of the Hot 100 songs included at least one woman writer, a 14 percent increase from the year prior and the first time since 2016 that the figure was above 50 percent.
“The changes for songwriters are doubtlessly due to the work of numerous groups working to support women in music,” Smith said, referring to several Women-focused music advocacy groups such as She Is The Music and Keychange. “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.”
Beyond the chart analysis, the report also tracked the Grammy nominations over the past decade for the General Field categories (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Producer of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year).
SZA was the most-nominated artist coming into this year’s awards with nine nominations, including for Album, Record, and Song of the Year, while Victoria Monet is tied for second with 7, with nominations for Best New Artist and Record of the Year. Still, representation for women of color significantly fell, per the report, making up about 36 percent of all the nominations among versus over 60 percent a year prior.
And for the fifth consecutive year, no woman was nominated for Producer of the Year, an unfortunate but unsurprising figure given how few women producers were credited on last year’s biggest hits. Still, there were noticeably positive improvements as well, with women taking about 24 percent of the nominations across the major categories this year, nearly a 10 percent increase from last year and the highest that figure has been since 2021, per the report. The jump comes after two consecutive years of decline in women’s representation in the major categories.
““The increases in nominations this year are a positive step in recognizing the creative work that women did last year in competitive fields,” Smith said. “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,” she 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.”