Women Representation in Music Awards and the Industry Over the Years
Updated: Aug 22, 2022
What are Music Awards?
Every year, global headlines of almost all news outlets are swamped with results over a certain artist winning a certain distinction in the music industry. These are called music awards — they are awarded annually based on votes. Some music awards are determined by public and fan polls; however, the voting academy also determines others. This article will focus on women representation in three of the many awards in the industry: the Grammy Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and The BRIT Awards.
To start, The Grammy Awards are considered the most prestigious in the music world. There are awards for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and other awards based on the genre of music. The nominees and winners of the Grammys are selected by the Recording Academy comprised of artists, producers, and musicians; this means that voting is not open to the public. Next, the Billboard Music Awards (BBMAs) results from public interaction by listeners within 12 months, including radio airplay, streaming, and sales. Additionally, certain categories are open for the public to vote for their favourite artists. Lastly, The BRIT Awards, which have several categories such as Global Icon, Breakthrough Artist, and International Group. Like the BBMAs, the BRIT has categories that rely on public votes. Additionally, some categories rely on the voting academy of music composers, publishers, artists, and others.
Women Representation in Music Awards
Historically, these honourable distinctions in the music industry have underrepresented women-identifying artists as nominees and winners of the awards. Music awards have also been categorised to create gender-based divisions. For example, the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards in 2010 had a “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance” category or the BBMAs’ “Top Female Artist” category. In a sense, gender-based categories give a chance for women to be nominated and win music awards, which increases women representation. However, these categories create a divide between achievement and inclusivity. Several well-known figures have called out the situation, including Sam Smith in a tweet that calls to celebrate everyone.
Moreover, although gender-based categories exist, women’s representation is still lacking in mixed categories. For example, based on research conducted by the Annenberg Institute showed that in 2017, only 16.8% of the 600 most popular songs were composed by women-identifying artists. As a result of the BBMA’s nomination system, women who don’t make the charts are most likely to not qualify for an award. Of course, the top 100 or 50 charts are all based on fan interaction, but it is also important to understand barriers for women entering the music industry. Although this method of nomination seems “fair,” it shows ignorance in which sexism in the music industry is not considered. This issue still occurs to date in the Grammys, where in the 2021 awards, only 198 of the 853 (23%) nominees identify as women.
At a Bigger Scope: The Music Industry
It is also true that some of the biggest artists in the industry today encountered sexism. For starters, Taylor Swift. Although she holds many of the most prestigious awards, she feels a double standard in the industry where she gets criticised for using her personal relationships as a theme to her songs. On the other hand, not many would say the same to a man. In an interview a few years back, Taylor Swift also confirmed that she feels her success is less supported and accepted once she becomes formidable and performs in stadiums.
Another example of sexism in the music industry would be from the successful artist Grimes and her personal experience. In an interview with Rolling Stones, she also claimed that some in the music industry would manipulate the situation and initiate an intimate relationship. To be more specific, Grimes said: “But I will say that I’ve been in numerous situations where male producers would literally be like, ‘We won’t finish the song unless you come back to my hotel room.’”
Progression Over the Years
As time passes and people are held accountable, much has changed for women. The Grammy Awards — which used to have gender-based categories — eliminated these in 2011. Followingly, many other music awards have stripped out these divisions. Also, in their commitment to increase diversity, the Grammys committee pledged to double the number of women-identifying voters in the voting academy by 2025 in hopes of increasing representation. Furthermore, together with Berklee College of Music and Arizona State University, the Grammys are to research and study women’s representation in music. On top of that, Harvey Mason Jr., president of the Recording Academy, has also hired a diversity and inclusion officer and funded women in music organisations.
Also, The BRIT Awards have recently confirmed that they will no longer create awards based on gender. The president of the BRIT Awards, Tom March, agreed that awards should be given based on their music and work, not how they choose to identify. Moreover, stripping these categories also create room for inclusivity, especially for non-binary individuals.
Opinion Column and Final Words
Although numerous measures have been taken to increase women’s representation in the music industry and awards, there is still a long way to go to create a supportive industry for women; there needs to be constant support as they are now at a great disparity. Personally, I believe that in creating a fair system in music awards, voters should look beyond the statistics and review each artist’s journey contextually. This would create a sense of appreciation for those that have faced barriers in their career and finally inspire younger children to pursue their dream as artists.
There are several organisations that support minority groups, including women, in the music industry. Here are some that you can help get involved with virtually!
Written by Serlina Azaria