Women in entertainment have been underrepresented for far too long, which is a shame since some of them have made such important contributions to the industry. The Musical Mitten, as a show run by two women, has felt this impact in our research as a majority of the artists we turn up are men, and women are shoved to the background.
Again, there is a notable lack of female representation on the music scene.
This year, the University of Southern California published a report entitled “Inclusion in the Recording Studio?” which examines the gender of music creators over the course of nine years. The study assessed the artists behind the top 100 songs of each year from 2012-2020. Nine years and 900 songs later, the authors concluded that only 21.6% of artists in the US singles charts during this time were women. The gap in the behind-the-scenes music roles are even more significant. Only 12.6% of the lead songwriters in the same time period were women, and of the 900 songs studied, 57.3% did not feature a single female writer. Worse yet, only 2.6% of the producers of those songs were women.
It hasn’t helped that a majority of record labels are run by men. Artists may be the face of their music, the ones you see on stage, but labels are the ones that control the content the audience sees. According to the Rolling Stone article, “The Major Record Companies Have a Big Gender Problem – But There are Positive Signs for the Future,” there are thirteen major record label groups in the United States. Only one of these is run by a woman: Sylvia Rhone of Sony’s Epic Records. To combat the lack of female record labels, women like TT the Artist, Suzi Analogue, Hether Fortune, and Gretchen Wilson have founded their own smaller labels. Doing so gives women more control and freedom over their creativity, narratives, and identity.
A woman’s identity can rely heavily on her appearance. Their bodies have always been a topic of controversy, which only seems to get more intense when they are exposed to the public eye. Women’s bodies are seen as objects to be used for entertainment, not as human beings. Then there is the music industry’s unhealthy obsession with youth. Once women reach a certain age, they face criticism for not looking “perfect”, and fade from the spotlight. After that flawless image is lost, these women will often feel pressured into having procedures like plastic surgery to maintain as much of their youth as possible.
Women like Anita Baker, May Erlewine, Suzi Quatro, and Lizzo are so important to see in the music industry. These women have overcome criticisms, cliches, and expectations, and they come from our home state. They’re not the only ones either. Madonna has spoken out on ageism, and the impact of the women from Motown can still be heard to this day. There is always some positivity to be found in music. In fact, Women in Music is a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness, promote equality, and emphasize the diversity of women within the music industry. They and their volunteers have been for the past few decades to level the playing field in the studio and on stage, not just in Michigan, but all around the world.
Episodes like Run the Radio (Girls) and more can be found on The Musical Mitten's website, https://themusicalmitten.wixsite.com/themusicalmi.