Business

Spotify's EQUAL Program Supporting Female Artists Unveils Inaugural Class

Saweetie
Dennis Leupold

Saweetie

"It's on us to help the industry shift," says Spotify's Marian Dicus.

Spotify aims to foster equity for women in audio with the official launch of its EQUAL Music Program and inaugural class of 35 female artists from around the world -- including Saweetie, Natalia Lafourcade and Tkay Maidza -- who will receive playlist support, marketing and more for the next year.

The program announced today (April 29) builds off of Spotify's EQUAL campaign for International Women's Day last month, which included a playlist hub for female artists and podcasters and a 15-member EQUAL Board. Alongside the artist program, the newly-announced elements include a suite of additional playlists and the relaunch of Spotify's directory of female creators in partnership with SoundGirls, all with the new tagline "Women at full volume."

Women comprised only 20% of artists on last year's Billboard Hot 100 Year-End chart, according to the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's latest study, with no significant increase in nearly a decade. Spotify vice president, global co-head of music Marian Dicus says that as the largest streaming service in the world, Spotify has not just a commitment, but an obligation, to help change that.

"It's on us to help the industry shift," she says. "Equity in audio is something that is one of our number-one priorities, and it really has to be."

The inaugural class of 35 artists were each cherry-picked from across 35 international markets, spanning more than 50 countries. "We're selecting people who really showcase the local music scene, so that they can be amplified on a global platform," Dicus says.

For the next year, Spotify will highlight these artists on EQUAL local playlists -- each of which will each feature an "Artist of the Month" on the cover -- as well as a flagship EQUAL global playlist. Additionally, Spotify will promote the 35 artists with both on-platform and out-of-home digital marketing efforts.

"As a female artist working in the music, we have to work twice as hard as men just to get the recognition we deserve, not to mention having to deal with societal pressures and sexism associated with just being a woman," Saweetie says. "Together with EQUAL, I hope to bring more awareness to the diverse talent that women of all backgrounds bring to our lives, shedding a light and creating a stage for all our voices to be heard."

Courtesy Photo

Spotify is also bolstering its efforts outside the platform with the EQUAL Board, comprised of 15 organizations around the world which are focused on advancing women in music. Spotify will provide a one-time grant of an undisclosed amount to each organization on the list, which includes She Is the Music in the U.S., Girls Rock Australia Network and She Said So in Italy.

"Our hope is that every quarter, the board can focus on something different," Dicus says. "Maybe the first quarter will be around helping visibility for women producers, and then the next quarter will be something else. This is really about tangible action."

Finally, Spotify is relaunching an expanded version of the EQL Directory, the global database for female and gender-non-conforming people in audio which was created in partnership with the nonprofit SoundGirls in 2018. The directory, where creatives can create profiles and find work, will now be known as the EQUAL Directory.

"The difference is not just the name," Dicus says. The new version is open to creators from more international markets and disciplines, including not just audio but film and television production, gaming, podcasting and more. "I think that’s important because the disciplines now are so fluid," she adds.

To further highlight the accomplishments of female creatives, Spotify is also launching a new Created By Women Playlist, which will feature 40 songs written, produced and performed exclusively by women.

Spotify already has a long history of initiatives which support female creators, including partnerships with She Is The Music and Girls Make Beats, its sponsorship of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative's annual study and its Sound Up program to support underrepresented podcasters. And the company isn't done, as Dicus says that EQUAL is just "one piece of more work that needs to happen."

"We always say that we crush discovery," Dicus says. "Now, we’re really aiming to be the place that is supporting more women artists, and giving those artists a level of discovery on a global scale."