Report calls out “pitifully low” numbers of women and non-binary people in technical roles in music industry

Report calls out “pitifully low” numbers of women and non-binary people in technical roles in music industry

A major new report has called for an increase in the number of women in production and engineering roles in the music industry.

Fix The Mix has today (April 11) unveiled its first annual report on gender representation in audio and production engineering roles, and has called on major labels to extend their DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) initiatives to hire more women and non-binary producers and engineers behind the scenes.

With studies conducted by We Are Moving the Needle, Jaxsta, Middle Tennessee State University and Howard University, the report found that while women and non-binary people are more likely to be credited in junior roles in the technical fields, they are vastly underrepresented in senior roles across all genres.

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It also noted that the credits for the top 10 streamed tracks of 2022 across five major digital service providers (DSPs) reveal a significant gender gap, with only 16 of the 240 credited producers and engineers being women and non-binary people (6.7 per cent).

Additionally, across these DSPs, the best of 2022 playlists sourced from TikTok and Spotify have the weakest representation of women and non-binary people in technical roles, with only 3.6 per cent and 3.7 per cent in key positions respectively.

Looking at credits in the top ten songs across DSPs, the report found that women and non-binary individuals are more highly concentrated within assistant roles than in key technical roles.

Metal was found to have the lowest percentage of women and non-binary people in key technical roles, while electronic music and folk and Americana had the highest representations. You can read the full report here.

Brandi Carlile. Credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Musician Brandi Carlile, who is also a soundBoard member of We Are Moving The Needle, said of the findings: “We’ve got such a long way to go to reach parity in the studio, but I know we can get there.

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“This is a systemic problem in the recording industry that we cannot ignore any longer. I’m not sure everyone knows exactly where to start…but it begins with the courage to take a
chance on someone who may not be getting recognised regularly in the field. We have to start somewhere.

“It’s no one’s fault and everyone’s fault at the same time. Even me. I urge my fellow
artists and producers to make hiring decisions that work toward a more equitable future.”

Co-author of the report, Beverly Keel, Dean of Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Media and Entertainment added: “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. 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.

“There should be no pride in being the best of the worst. It should go without saying that the genres with the lowest representation should convene their leaders to quickly develop solutions to this problem.”

Maggie Rogers live
Credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns

Musician and producer Maggie Rogers, who is another soundBoard member, added: “We simply have to do better for women and non-binary creators in the industry.

“It’s heartening to see more women and non-binary individuals enrolling in audio and production programs, and I’m dedicated to supporting their growth through organisations like We Are Moving the Needle.”

Emily Lazar, Grammy Award-winning mastering engineer and founder of We Are Moving The Needle said: “This study confirms what I’ve known after spending decades behind the board in the recording studio – women are not being given the same opportunities as men in production and engineering roles.

“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. 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.”

Keel added: “I hope this report serves as a wake-up call for record labels, artists, and others who hire producers, engineers, and other technical creatives who record songs.

“Until we see women and non-binary people hired and invited to the table where decisions are made, the industry will continue to merely pay lip service to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

Fix the Mix was an initiative launched in 2022 by We Are Moving the Needle and Jaxsta, the
world’s largest database of official music credits, along with other music organisations focused on closing the enormous gender gap in the music industry, particularly in behind the scenes roles.

The report offers suggestions to improve the balance that are “meant to empower both major music industry players and individuals to drive measurable change” and include calls for the major music companies to extend their well-funded DEI initiatives beyond full-time employees to also include the hiring of more women and non-binary producers and engineers for their releases.

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