With female music artists like Adele, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift being household names, it’s easy to think that the industry supports talented women trying to rise to the top. However, the music market still has a long way to go before it represents the diversity found in wider society, and this year’s Brit Awards prove that.
We’re going to be discussing the tireless work done by female musicians, and what the current challenges mean for women in the industry.
A Step In The Wrong Direction?
For years, the Brit Awards have split their categories between male and female, but recent shows have highlighted the need for gender-neutral categories that are fair to all artists regardless of their gender identity.
When it was announced that the show would replace their gender-divided awards with a ‘Best Artist’ category, we were excited.
However, despite getting off to a strong start in 2022, the 2023 Best Artist category suggests that there is a broader problem in the music industry when it comes to female artists who are creating incredible music.
This year, all of the British artists were male, with the nominees made up of Stormzy, Central Cee, Fred Again, George Ezra and Harry Styles. Although the International category did feature some women, the UK ‘Best Artist’ award did a good job of showing us that Britain’s development pathways aren’t working.
Unfortunately, the Brits are reflective of a bigger issue that is affecting the music market when it comes to the appreciation and support of female artists worldwide. A 10-year study conducted by Dr Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has recently found that in 2021, only 23.3% of artists featuring on Billboard’s Hot 100 Year End chart, and only 14.4% of songwriters, were women. For the female artists who have paved the way, these statistics are disappointing and deeply concerning.
The Women Who Paved The Way
Many powerful and influential women have played a huge role in the music industry for decades and without them, we wouldn’t have many of the hits and incredibly talented acts we know and love today.
We must acknowledge their unique contributions to the industry, and the influence they still hold on younger creatives – here are some of the most iconic female musicians who have paved the way for those to come:
Needing no introduction, the ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin was inspiring the next generation of young women with her music as early as 1960. After signing with Atlantic Records in 1966, her first album with the label – I never loved a man (the way I love you), released in 1967 – would catapult her to star status.
But it was her later records, Respect and I say a little prayer that would truly show off her incredible voice and ability to connect with audiences around the world.
Eighties music icon Madonna is no stranger to worldwide fame, but her journey to the top wasn’t always easy.
As the music world shifted away from the more conservative sounds of the 60s and 70s, Madonna embraced her identity as someone who wasn’t going to shy away from political or controversial topics, and even in the early days, she found herself at the centre of a few cultural scandals. In spite of this, Madonna persevered and established herself as a household name, proving to today’s generation of women that belief in talent and creativity should always be the number one priority.
Even though Taylor Swift is arguably at the height of her fame right now, her career has spanned nearly two decades, and she rightfully holds a place as one of the most influential women in music for the up-and-coming artists of today.
Some of the biggest reasons for this? She is a marketing genius and knows exactly how to engage and connect with her fans.
She was also brave enough to re-record six of her albums as part of an ownership battle for the original recordings after her former record label sold them and left her with no say over their use.
This debate is one of the clearest examples of the challenges women face in an industry dominated by men.
So What Does The Future Look Like For Women In The Music Industry?
Despite this year’s male-dominated Brit Awards, the women who have paved the way for the stars of tomorrow mean the future looks bright for female artists in the music industry.
Artists continue to break through the negative stereotypes of women-made music, and shift the narrative away from the idea that female artists write and sing only catchy pop songs about breakups and boys.
Powerful female musicians like Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Mitski are just a handful of examples of women challenging the racial and genre-based stereotypes that for so long have surrounded female musicians.
That’s why when we look to the future and what it means for women in music awards, we know there’s a lot to come from women with stories to tell.
While the all-male ‘Best Artist’ category at this year’s Brit Awards was disappointing, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a movement of professionals working hard to boost the opportunities for talented female musicians to break into the mainstream.
With a new year on the horizon, women are just pressing play.
L’Ode Rose is a music PR agency that aims to connect the French and Scottish music. Feel free to get in touch if you want to discuss your next project!
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