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The Future of Music Production: Why Representation Matters

Last Updated: July 1, 2023
A new study from Fix the Mix acknowledges how much work needs to be done in the music industry regarding inclusion for women and non-binary-identifying audio professionals.

The conversation regarding representation in the entertainment industry grows louder and louder. From behind the scenes to in front of the camera, inclusivity matters the most if we are ever to realize a world in which music, film, and television truly relflect the lives and the lived experiences of the society in which we live.

Now, Fix the Mix — a new initiative launched in 2022 by nonprofit group We Are Moving the Needle — has shared an annual report revealing in plain terms the extent to which women and non-binary people are underrepresented among the ranks of music producers and audio engineers.

The report analyzed over 1,000 songs released in 2022 and demonstrated that only 16 of 240 credited producers and engineers on the top 10 most-streamed songs of that year were women and non-binary-identifying.

Where The Numbers Come From

The numbers derived from streaming data found that women and non-binary people are represented more by comparison in assistant-type roles, where 12.6% more women and non-binary people are represented compared to key producing and engineering roles. The report shares 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.”

“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 the representation of women and non-binary people,” wrote 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 pitifully low in 2023. In any other industry, these low percentages of genres with the best gender representation would be an embarrassment, so I hope these ‘high achievers’ are not resting on their laurels.”

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What This Says About The Music Industry

The 2023 Grammy Awards revealed how much work truly needs to be done due to the lack of representation. Though there were 28 categories in 2023, 17 credited zero women or non-binary people for roles as producers and audio engineers. According to the Fix the Mix report, only eight projects listed women and non-binary people as producers (11.5% of all producers), and three listed women and non-binary people as engineers (3.9% of all engineers). The study results revealed that 7.6% of women and non-binary people were recognized for their work, and that 30 men compared to just one woman have been acknowledged among the eight major award categories at this year’s Grammys.

The report also analyzed the list of releases with RIAA Diamond certification, which recognizes singles and albums with over 10 million units shipped. It found that out of the top 50 songs on that list, only 1.6% of the technical roles behind them were filled by women or non-binary people, while 98.4% were men. The study reveals that only four women and non-binary individuals are credited, three are producers, and one is an engineer among the top 50 songs included on Spotify’s “Billions Club” — songs with over one billion total streams on the platform — women and non-binary people made up just 2% of those same high-level studio roles.

How To Move Forward

Fix the Mix shared several next steps the music industry needs to take in order to raise up these numbers for 2023 and beyond in order to create a safe, inclusive environment for the next generation of audio engineers and producers.

“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,” co-author Emily Lazar, founder of We Are Moving The Needle wrote. “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 changes in their hiring practices so we can achieve gender parity in production, engineering, and mastering roles.”

Click here to read and download the full report from We Are Moving the Needle’s Fix the Mix initiative.

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