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New report puts the spotlight on the “significant gender gap” that continues in the recording studio

By | Published on Wednesday 12 April 2023

A new report has again confirmed that female and non-binary producers, sound engineers and other studio personnel are “vastly underrepresented” on the biggest music releases.

The Fix The Mix Annual Report reviews production credits for the most streamed tracks across various digital services, finding that “the credits for the top ten streamed tracks of 2022 across five major [streaming services] reveal a significant gender gap, with only sixteen of the 240 credited producers and engineers being women and non-binary people”.

The report has been put together by the US-based organisation We Are Moving The Needle, in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and Howard University, and utilising music data from Jaxsta.

It aims to extensively review all the people involved in producing the most streamed music of last year, including “the top-line key roles of producer, engineer, mixing engineer and mastering engineer, as well as additional production and recording roles including programmer, vocal producer, editor and assistant roles”.

The research has been influenced and informed by the ongoing work of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which monitors and scrutinises gender diversity in the entertainment industry. Indeed, it was that initiative’s work on gender diversity in the recording studio – or the lack thereof – that motivated mastering engineer Emily Lazar to launch We Are Moving The Needle back in 2021.

However, the Fix The Mix report explains, by digging a little deeper this new research shows that there are differences in terms of gender diversity in the studio according to genre, with the average number of female or non-binary production team members varying from zero to 17.6% depending which specific strand of the music industry you look at.

“Metal has the lowest percentage of women and non-binary people credited in key technical roles at 0.0%, with rap and christian/gospel trailing closely at 0.7% and 0.8% respectively”, the report reveals. “These numbers highlight the need for major advancements across the cultures of these genres’ recording communities”.

Meanwhile, electronic music “stands out for its relatively high representation of women and non-binary people in producer roles, accounting for 17.6% of all producer credits on the top 50 songs of 2022”. Although, as the report notes, even in the genre with the best diversity, the number of female and non-binary producers and engineers involved in the biggest tracks is still depressingly low.

By digging deeper into the production credits, the report also shows that “women and non-binary individuals are more highly concentrated within assistant roles than in key technical roles”. Where streaming services provide that level of detail, “assistant roles have 12.6 percentage points more women and non-binary people on average than do key technical roles”.

“While this higher concentration of women and non-binary people in assistant roles may indicate a growing pipeline of these contributors rising into key levels”, it says, “it could be indicative of a glass ceiling preventing this demographic from an upward trajectory”.

“These findings challenge a misconception that women and non-binary individuals lack the qualifications to be hired as producers and engineers”, it goes on. “Instead, the data suggests that they are qualified and present in the proper entry-level roles, but they are not advancing to the next level”.

“This may be indicative of inequity around opportunities for advancement, underscoring the need for greater efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the recording industry to ensure that qualified individuals of all genders and identities have an equal chance to succeed and contribute to the industry’s continued growth and evolution”.

With all this in mind, the report confirms that – despite many great diversity initiatives being launched within the music industry and many music companies launching their own inclusion programmes – much more still needs to be done.

“It is important for the music industry to acknowledge and address these barriers to advancement, in order to promote diversity and inclusivity in the profession and ensure that all qualified individuals have the opportunity to succeed”, the report states.

You can access the industry-facing Fix The Mix report here – or download the academic research here.