Breaking Through Tradition and Expanding Visibility
From getting on the bill at local shows to headlining names at music festivals, it doesn’t take much detective work to see that women don’t share the stage and spotlight nearly as much as their male counterparts.
This issue has for decades been a long struggle, but it became a widely publicized topic since the tail end of 2017, where new sexual misconduct accusations against entertainment and media executives on the daily was no longer surprising. I think many of us were embittered by the hubbub of it all, eventually holding out breaths hoping none of our favorite entertainment figureheads were guilty of vile misdeeds
As out of the ashes the phoenix does rise, amidst the public allegations of sexual misconduct grew even more dialogue about the representation of women in media. It gave us the visibility that was so needed.
But the issue of women gaining the same visibility as men in the music industry, be it as a songwriter, recording artist, engineer, producer, business executive, should remain a pressing and urgent issue—one that should not depend on public scandal to jumpstart the conversation. This conversation has been in the works for decades, but visible change has been painfully slow. The problem is that while we are beginning to see more women on stage, more women credited as songwriters, producers, engineers—you name it, we still need to acknowledge that underrepresentation of women in the music industry deserves systemic change.
Early this year, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released the report, Inclusion in the Recording Studio?, that out of the 6 years of the Billboard Hot 100 spanning from 2012 to 2017, only roughly 22% of the songs were by female artists. An even more meager portion of that—12%—were women credited with songwriting ownership.
If we’re looking purely at numbers, that’s about 132 songs out of 600 that were by female artists, and out of those, only 72 were written by female songwriters.
Women in the industry have to fight that much harder for equal representation. Now there’s no doubt that the dialogue regarding this very concern has been swung wide open, but we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in order for this talk to progress anywhere. As with all systemic discourse, there needs to be an effort to re-examine practices and to deconstruct hurtful methods for tradition’s sake.
We have a choice in whether to let sexual misconduct allegations, gender gap disparities, and underrepresentation of women to continue. We have the choice to work together to build each other up, to celebrate talent for the sake of talent, and more importantly to empower each other, regardless of gender. After all, creating music and appreciating it is purely about the human experience of living and all the good and bad intensities that come with it. We must continue to push for progress, and to celebrate talent for the sake of talent.
Constance Huang is an audio engineer and music educator in Los Angeles. Her repertoire includes formidable women in the music industry and all sounds experimental to instrumental.