It doesn’t take an elaborate research study to know that men dominate the music industry. Just watch award shows, look at the charts, and listen to the radio. But, the world is now filled with data, and those that analyze it.  Maybe we can learn from those studies and make some sense of what’s happening.


The University of Ottawa studied how men dominate COUNTRY radio play from 2000-2018.

Their theory is that radio is the beginning of the funnel. It’s where we often hear new music. Radio stations are the original “influencer” when it comes to music.  The University of Ottawa found that women’s songs are “spun” MUCH less often than men’s. As an example, female artists are only played 11.3% of the time.

The top male artist, Kenny Chesney has his songs played over 6 million times a year on the radio. Carrie Underwood, the top female artist, comes in at about 3.1 million spins.

Here’s their spin counts for 2000-2018.


KENNY CHESNEY 6,047,111        CARRIE UNDERWOOD 3,182,237

KEITH URBAN 5,190,766,             MIRANDA LAMBERT 1,998,598

TIM MCGRAW 4,776,507              TAYLOR SWIFT 1,824,994

BLAKE SHELTON 4,614,800         MARTINA MCBRIDE 1,460,390

BRAD PAISLEY 4,600,921             SARA EVANS 1,233,404

Listen to the radio, you’ll begin to hear it for yourself. The University of Ottawa surmises that the lack of radio spins trickles down into the entire industry and influences sales, concerts, and award shows.

“These results do not just confirm gender imbalance, they show us the severity of the inequality that plagues country music culture, and how much more men are privileged in this space.” said Dr. Jada Watson in Rolling Stone Magazine. Dr. Watson led the study which can be found in its entirety here.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at University of Southern California studies gender and race imbalance in the music industry.

Rather than radio airplay, they analyzed Billboard Charts and Grammy nominations (2012-2019) from all genres (not just country as above). Their study explores gender and race for artists, producers, and songwriters.

Here’s a few shocking stats from their study to get your attention. 

In 2018, 82.9% of artists on the year end charts were male and 17.1% were female.

56% were white and 44% were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups.

In 2018, 73% of female artists were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups which is up 40% from 2012.  (a welcome bright spot)

Only 2.1% of music producers are women. 2.1%!

Grammy nominations over the last 5 years? 89.6% were male and 10.4% were female

Read the full study here.


Northwestern knew that “women are grossly underrepresented in the music industry”. They wanted to know why.  So they studied the music itself.

Their research evaluated 4 components of over 225,000 songs:

  1. Sonic features which help establish danceability.
  2. Listener assigned genre (rock/country/pop/hip hop etc)
  3. Record-label
  4. The artist’s collaboration network.

Using those 4 factors, with 90% accuracy, they could identify an artists gender without even considering vocal range which is how the REST of us normally ascertain an artist gender.

Here’s a few of their conclusions

  1. Men’s songs are considered more danceable due to their “sonic” makeup., and women have more acoustics in their music. (generally of course)
  2. Genres: Men are more commonly identified by listeners with  rock, rap, and reggae genres. While women are more commonly connected to pop, R & B, and soul music genres.
  3. The 225,000 songs evaluated, represented 5,000 labels. 1/3 of those 5,000 labels have never signed a female artists. 1/3 HAVE NEVER SIGNED A FEMALE ARTIST!
  4. Female artists have smaller collaboration networks and tend to work alone more than men.

Read more about the Northwestern Study here.


Why is it important to be aware that men dominate the music industry?  Apart from equal opportunity and how sad the world would be if we had never found artists like Dolly Parton, Aretha Franklin and Beyonce?

Songs tell the stories of our lives. We react emotionally to them. We celebrate to them and nurse our wounds to them. If so many of them are told to us by men are they representing our feelings accurately or are they shaping our feelings? Does it matter? YES, when we are living in a society that has such strong baked in patriarchy that’s it’s hard to tell what’s up and what’s down, it matters.

Is that why we all love Lizzo? Did she nail us as a demographic better than a man could ever do?

Many of these answers are yet to be known. The comforting part is that we are researching, thinking, and becoming aware of them. THAT is more than half the battle.

In the meantime, toss that hair and check your nails.


Interested in male dominated industries and how they would be different with a woman’s influence? Think about city design. Barcelona Spain did, and they made some incredible changes. Read more about it here.