Women & Non-Binary People Make Up ‘Pitifully Low’ Percentage of Producers and Engineers in Recording Studios, Report Finds
The new study published by nonprofit initiative Fix the Mix confirmed a dismal lack of representation across all genres.
The authors of a new report that paints a dismal portrait of gender diversity in recording studios are calling on major labels to step up their efforts to hire more women producers and engineers.
Published by Fix the Mix — an initiative launched in 2022 by nonprofit We Are Moving the Needle and official music credits database Jaxsta — the first annual report, created in conjunction with Middle Tennessee State University and Howard University and released Tuesday (April 11), found that women and non-binary people are drastically underrepresented in audio producing and engineering roles in recording studios.
Analyzing 1,128 songs from 2022, the report (Lost In The Mix: An Analysis of Credited Technical Professionals in the Music Industry Highlighting Women and Non-Binary Producers and Engineers Across DSP Playlists, Genres, Awards, and Record Certifications) found that only 16 of the 240 credited producers and engineers (6.7%) on the top 10 most-streamed tracks of 2022 across five major digital service providers (Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube and TikTok) were women and non-binary people.
The levels of representation varied across genres. Among the top 50 songs across 14 genres examined in the report, metal had the lowest percentage of women and non-binary people credited in key technical roles at 0.0%, with rap and Christian & gospel coming in at 0.7% and 0.8%, respectively. On the other end of the spectrum, electronic 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, while folk & Americana was close behind at 16.4%.
“While this research notes the genres that have the best and worst gender representations, it is important to note that every genre needs improvement in representation of women and non-binary people,” said report co-author Beverly Keel, dean of Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment, co-founder of Change the Conversation and co-founder of Nashville Music Equality. “It is difficult to fathom that representation remains so pitifully low in 2023. In any other industry, these low percentages of the genres that have the best gender representation would be an embarrassment, so I hope these ‘high achievers’ are not resting on their laurels.”
Analyzing data from streaming services that report assistant credits, the report also found that women and non-binary people are better represented in assistant roles, which have 12.6% percentage points more women and non-binary people on average than key technical roles. The report suggests that, “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 could be indicative of a glass ceiling preventing this demographic from an upward trajectory.”
This year’s Grammy Award nominees didn’t fare well in terms of representation either. Of all winning albums in the 28 “best in genre” categories in 2023, 17 credited zero women or non-binary people in the key technical roles of producer and engineer. A total of eight projects listed women and non-binary people as producers (representing 11.5% of all producers) and three projects listed women and non-binary people as engineers (representing 3.9% of all engineers). The total number of women and non-binary people credited in technical roles was 19 out of 249, or just 7.6%. Across the eight Grammy Award categories that honored people in technical roles, only one woman was recognized versus 30 men.
To offer a wider look at the music industry, the report also analyzed the RIAA diamond-certified list (songs that have achieved 10-times-platinum status) and the Spotify “Billions Club” (songs that have received 1 billion streams on the streaming platform). Of the top 50 songs on the RIAA diamond-certified list, there are a total of 248 key technical roles credited. Of those, 224 (98.4%) are filled by men while just 4 (1.6%) are filled by women or non-binary people. Of the four women and non-binary individuals credited, three are producers (two of which were the main artist on the track), while one is an engineer. Among the top 50 songs included on Spotify’s Billions Club, women and non-binary people make up only 2% of key technical roles.
The new report acknowledges that its numbers differ from the “pioneering” research conducted annually by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which found that only 2.8% of music industry producers were women in 2022. The Annenberg study uses the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End Charts as a measuring stick, while the Fix the Mix report looked at 757 top-streamed songs, 30 Grammy-winning albums, the top 50 songs on the Spotify Billions Playlist, and the top 50 songs certified diamond by the RIAA.
“Ensuring that there is more gender and racial diversity among music’s creators is not actually a complex problem if you want to solve it,” said co-author Emily Lazar, Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer and founder of We Are Moving The Needle. “The most important step is for artists and record labels to be able to hire from a more diverse pool of producers, mixers and engineers, but it’s exceedingly hard to hire people when you can’t find them. We hope this report will give decision makers the motivation and tools they need to make real change in their hiring practices so we can achieve gender parity in production, engineering and mastering roles.”
The report finishes with a list of recommendations and solutions to address the gender gap, including accurately crediting all technical contributors, diversifying hiring practices, educating the industry, finding and hiring women and non-binary producers and engineers, demanding data transparency, amplifying representation and encouraging active participation, supporting the changemakers and developing forward-facing solutions.
To see genre, streaming service and key role breakdowns, you can check out the full report here.