Are You ‘Man’ Enough to be a Successful Musician?
Looking through the Grammy nominees a couple of weeks ago, I was stoked to see some of my favorite musicians. From Lorde, to Lady Gaga, to Lana Del Rey, women were bound to do well in the award show’s 60th broadcast. Or so I thought.
Before the award show began, I realized that the only woman who had received a nomination for Album of the Year was seemingly not offered a solo performance slot. Scrolling through my Twitter feed on Sunday night after the show only brought anguish and surprise as I found out that nearly none of the talented, powerful women that were nominated made it any further. Only 11 out of the 84 Grammys handed out this year were given to women.
This new rip in the fabric of the music industry does not stand alone; sexism has been as prevalent (if not more so) in the music industry as it has in any other institution in the world. A study done by Dr. Stacy L. Smith last year revealed some appalling data about the pop song genre of the music industry. This study focused on the top 600 songs in the past 5 years. Of these 600 songs, only 12.3% were written by women, an average of 2% of producers were women, and only 22.4% of all artists were women. The study also reported that, over the past 6 years, only 9.3% of Grammy nominees were female.
These numbers are harrowing, but the situation only gets worse. The endemic of sexual assault and abuse cases that continue to arise remind consumers that, of the few women artists in the industry, many have been abused and sexually assaulted by their peers. Men have been abusing their power in the music industry since the day it started. Most of us have heard about Kesha v. Dr. Luke. We have seen the memes about Bill Cosby. We are beginning to understand the allegations against Russell Simmons. It is hard not to ignore the sexual assault and abuse that has been happening in this industry for generations.
Speaking of the power men have wielded over women in this industry, there is a serious problem with exploitation. Music executives often encourage women to sexualize their content and show more skin so that they can be more successful. A study done on over 200 music videos by the APA focused on women in music videos. On average, 57% of music videos include women who were “portrayed exclusively as a decorative sexual object,” 37% of women wore revealing clothing compared with 4.3% of men and, from a study of 200 popular songs, 70% included degrading sexual content.
So, what can we do as consumers of music?
It is very easy for us to complain about the issues that exist today, but how can problems be solved with only discussion? Yes, it is important to have conversations about our experiences and beliefs. These conversations, however, should be followed up with action. We are the consumers of the music industry; we have the say for who is successful in this industry through our consumption.
The first thing that we can do as a society is decentralize white men. The majority of Recording Academy Voting members, the deciders when it comes to the Grammys, are white men. Support women artists through your consumption and stop supporting artists who support sexualization of women. The second thing we can do is educate ourselves on the issues. Watch documentaries and read! This is the only way we can begin gathering information based on other people’s perspectives. After educating yourself on the issues, work to improve society and the industry. Advocate against, march on, and speak up about the things you do not agree with.