Industry Insight: Study Finds Women Not Represented in Popular Music


DID YOU KNOW: Across the top 700 songs from 2012-2018, only 21% of artists and 12% of songwriters were women, while only 2% of tracks were produced by women? 


For this month’s #IndustryInsights, we’re sharing the kinda depressing findings of a study on gender representation in music by USC Annenburg’s Inclusion Initiative. The study found that women are not even close to being represented in popular music.


Between 2013-2019, only 10% of Grammy nominees were women. While males were the majority of nominees in each category, females were most likely to be nominated for Best New Artist, followed by Song of the Year. In the Record and Album of the Year categories, fewer than 10% of nominees were women. 

Female artists noted the barriers they face in the industry, including difficulty navigating the industry; breaking into the business; making connections and getting into different rooms. Other challenges included financial instability; having their skills discounted; and being stereotyped & sexualized.


To generate industry change, the report recommends creating environments where women are welcome; generating opportunities for women to use their skills and talents; ensuring that role models and mentorships are available to women; and for the industry to commit to considering and hiring more women - in other words, inclusion targets and inclusion riders. 


What do you think about these findings? Tell us in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative for more stats about gender in the entertainment industry!

Bluesfest 2019 Lineup Shows Improvement in Gender Representation

By Girls+ Rock Ottawa

Ottawa Bluesfest revealed their 2019 lineup yesterday - so how did they do in terms of gender representation this year? We’ve crunched the numbers and found that 45% of the 2019 lineup includes acts with at least one non cis male band member. This is a major improvement from last year where only 25% of acts had at least one non cis male band member (see below for a reminder). We applaud Bluesfest for listening to the community and making a greater effort to having gender representation in their lineup. And we give a standing ovation to all the amazing local acts on the lineup!

To everyone out there advocating for a more inclusive scene: this is proof that your voice matters. Keep speaking up and pushing your local festivals, businesses and organizations to be diverse and inclusive. Let them know that #RepresentationMatters.

Our work isn’t done. As you can see, the festival headliners are still dominated by all male bands. Bands that feature women, non-binary and transgender people are lower down in the poster. In the future, we hope to see more acts with woman, non-binary or trans members as headliners.

We’re still working to dismantle the barriers that woman, non-binary, trans and queer artists face in the music industry. We know that our communities are rich with queer, trans, non-binary and women creators and we are proud to work with them to create the music scene that they see themselves in.

For more information on gender representation on festival lineups, check out Keychange EU, an organization spearheading a global movement for 50:50 gender representation on festival lineups by 2022.

Opinion: Dragon Boat Festival Falls Short

By Tiffanie Tri

The Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is a celebration of the traditional sport of dragon boat racing. The festival website says that it is "part of a larger Chinese cultural tradition that goes back 2,400 years." So why aren't there any Chinese artists in the festival's music lineup?


Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is a not-for-profit organization that survives on public funding. It receives funding from the government, including Canadian Heritage's Building Communities and Heritage program which is designed to increase opportunities for local artists and heritage performers to be involved in their community through festivals and events. It is also designed to allow local groups to commemorate their local history and heritage. As part of the program's eligibility criteria, applicants must "encourage local community engagement through activities that promote, celebrate and preserve local performing and visual arts or local heritage".

Sure, Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival presents the work of local artists, with several Ottawa-based artists in its lineup. However, there is little attempt to present the work of heritage performers. Only one act in the lineup includes an Asian musician: Birds of Bellwoods bassist Kintaro Akiyama.

Not only does Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival fail at presenting opportunities to heritage artists, the gender diversity of the festival lineup is also appalling.

Only two of the 18 acts are fronted by women and only seven of the 18 acts are not all-dude acts, with the majority of these non all-dude acts being mixed acts, some of which have only one female artist embedded in a group of dudes.


Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival lineup pictured without the all-dude bands.

But back to the original question: Where are the Chinese artists in a festival that supposedly celebrates Chinese culture? This is a part of a larger conversation and problematic habit of Western society "picking and choosing" what it wants to accept or not accept from other cultures. Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival exemplifies this behaviour by paying lip service to Chinese culture (a paltry description about Dragon Boat Tradition on its website) while shutting out Chinese artists.

Given that it receives public funding to build heritage and “inclusive” community, the Festival should look for Chinese and other Asian artists to feature on their lineup.

It should also include heritage artists that perform traditional Chinese music, dance, sports and activities. Not only do I believe that the citizens of Ottawa would be interested in learning about Chinese culture, but given that Ottawa has such a vibrant Chinese community, there is no shortage of Chinese artists and cultural activities that could be included.

The greater danger of activities like the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival is that they benefit from cultural traditions of an ethnic community without any real inclusion of culture or heritage. This leads to the co-opting and erasure of the culture and heritage of the community these festivals are supposed to be celebrating. Representation matters.

At the current rate, Dragon Boat Festival is more likely to be associated with white, male indie rock bands than Chinese culture. If the Festival wants to benefit from Chinese culture, it's time to step up and truly support and showcase Chinese heritage and culture.

Representatives from Dragon Boat Festival could not be reached for comment.

This article appears in the May 2018 edition of Ottawa Beat newsprint, page 7.