Women made history at this year’s Grammy awards show after many years of being ignored. But was it enough?
Over the last five years, the discussion of equal representation has centered around the film industry.
The industry has been focusing on equalizing the pay gap and improving the span of roles women are chosen to play.
All very important pursuits.
But the discrepancy in the music industry has remained relatively under-discussed, just as the women are underrepresented within it.
After The Recording Academy worked to diversify the voting committee to 51% female and 48% people of colour, the awards show suddenly had a closer resemblance to our actual society.
Cardi B became the first female solo artist to win Best Rap Album of the Year,
women won five of the six Best Album Awards,
and Brandi Carlile became the first openly LGBTQ artist to win Best Americana Album.
This year’s Grammys also marked the first time a woman was ever nominated for Producer of the Year (sidenote: she did not win).
In addition to nominations and awards won, the majority of the on-stage performances were dominated by women.
A big part of friendship is showing up for your girls—that’s why I was thrilled to be there for the one and only @aliciakeys at the #GRAMMYs. She is one of the most genuine and thoughtful people I know—there’s no one better to help us all celebrate the unifying power of music! pic.twitter.com/8cMhTmsClA— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) February 11, 2019
Despite the headway women made this year, an ominous presence of inequality still looms over the industry.
The hashtag #GrammysSoMale marked the 2018 awards show and when looking at the statistics for the previous year it is clear why.
In 2018, the data for the Grammy’s five biggest awards (Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Producer of the Year) showed below 50% inclusion for female nominees.
Among those categories, only one truly showed a close-ratio between males and females, the year’s best new artist.
Similarly, among the many positions in the industry (specifically songwriters, producers, and artists) the only category that females had made any ground was as an artist.
These statistics make for an interesting conclusion about how women are perceived valuable within the arts, and even more so, how our society is learning to view women’s contribution to the arts.
It is also important to note that music fandom is roughly equal between males and females.
This shouldn’t be shocking considering the demographic of the planet alone, and that music has always belonged to everyone.
Music subscription services also show roughly equal reports of use between males and females. Males apparently use Spotify more while females lean to Apple Music.
A difference between platform selection should not garner a change in the representation we hear and see within the content we stream!
After Recording Academy President Neil Portnow told female artists to “Step it up”, it appears they have.
This statement from the get-go was false and problematic in many regards, but one that is primal to the discussion of awards show representation is the fact that until this past year, women were not in control of who was even nominated.
Women produce, women write, women dance, women sing, women have been stepping it up for a long time, but they’ve been ignored.
The academy needed to step up in their acknowledgment of the longstanding contributions that females have made and continue to make in the music industry.
The improved diversity at this year’s awards show reflected the changes that were made to the voting committee and has been a step in the right direction.
But there is something still troubling within the increased representation we are seeing. Females were once again primarily acknowledged in the artist category only.
If females only surpass males in terms of their pop star persona and nothing else, what does this say about our beliefs in female skill and talent in the entertainment industry?
Are females only performers of art and never producers?
Are we only acknowledging them as vessels for our entertainment?
Things need to change.