Revealing 2023 UK Gender/Racial Disparity Report: Why Not Her? Collective’s Findings

The recent report by the Why Not Her? Collective highlights the ongoing gender and racial disparities in UK radio station airplay charts. Their analysis focused on the Top 20 domestic British artists featured on radio stations’ airplay charts and the Top 100 most played British and international songs in 2023. By sharing this data, the Why Not Her? Collective aims to promote a more diverse and equitable music industry.

The report highlighted that white male artists continue to dominate the airwaves on commercial radio stations’ Top 20 airplay charts. Moreover, these stations have been slow in diversifying their playlists, with only five to 15% of female acts featured on their heavy rotation playlists. In contrast, the BBC has made progress by featuring collaborations with mixed-gender artists over the past four years, paving the way for diverse female artists like Little Simz, Arlo Parks, and Raye.

When it comes to rock stations like Radio X, Planet Rock, and Kerrang!, there has been a shift towards including more women in their heavy rotation playlists. These stations have managed to increase the presence of female artists from zero to 25% over the course of four years.

Examining the Top 100 UK and international songs played on UK radio in 2023, it was found that Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers” claimed the number one spot, while Lewis Capaldi’s “Forget Me” was the top song by a domestic UK artist. Ed Sheeran made up four percent of the songs, and Irish male artists like Dermot Kennedy, Snow Patrol, Cian Ducrot, and Niall Horan accounted for five percent. Additionally, male artists appeared in 42% of the Top 100, while female and non-binary artists constituted 58%. Notably, Sam Smith, a non-binary artist, featured twice in the charts through collaborations with artists of different genders. In terms of representation, people of color were present in 29% of the songs, including collaborations with white artists, whereas white artists represented 79% of the artists.

The report also observed a decline in the percentage of songs by UK artists in the Top 100 UK airplay chart, from 50% in the previous year to 25% in 2023.

Linda Coogan Byrne, the lead data analyst, activist, and founder of the Why Not Her? Collective, expressed optimism about the notable changes seen in major UK radio stations. Particularly, the BBC has made significant improvements, with BBC 6 Music achieving gender parity and other key stations demonstrating increased collaborations between genders, resulting in a more diverse representation in UK music culture. Additionally, the report highlights positive developments in rock radio stations that have historically neglected women in their heavy rotation playlists but have now begun to include them.

Coogan Byrne emphasized the need for commercial radio stations to reassess their current business models in order to adapt to the future and appeal to the 18-34 age group. Greater diversity on the airwaves is crucial to reflect the changing times, as platforms like TikTok and other social media channels continue to attract and engage listeners. The report concludes by expressing hope that these data reports will continue to set a precedent for future change and adopts a collective stance in supporting women, artists of color, and the LGBTQIA community across all aspects of culture. It stresses the importance of addressing unconscious biases and calls for structural change to ensure an equal voice for all.

Gender Disparity at the Brit Awards 2023: No Women Nominated for Best Artist

The nominations for the best artist category at this year’s Brit Awards have caused controversy because they include only male artists. This raises questions about the representation of women in the music industry. The Brits introduced gender-neutral awards last year, doing away with separate male and female categories. However, this year’s nominations for best artist have sparked criticism for being male-dominated. Out of the 70 eligible artists, only 12 are female. The shortlist is determined by votes from approximately 1,200 industry professionals, who select their top five choices.

Here are five nominees in the best artist category:

  • Harry Styles, who achieved chart success with his song “As It Was” and his album “Harry’s House”.
  • Stormzy, whose third album “This Is What I Mean” was both a commercial and critical success, featuring popular hits like “Hide & Seek” and “Firebabe”.
  • George Ezra, a singer-songwriter who made a successful comeback with the single “Green Green Grass” and had a number one album.
  • Central Cee, a London rapper whose album reached number one and had two top 10 singles in 2022.
  • Fred Again, a rising house producer whose third album reached number four on the charts.

Some eligible female artists who were not nominated include:

  • Florence + the Machine, whose album “Dance Fever” reached number one.
  • Charli XCX, whose album “Crash” also topped the charts and was ranked fourth best album of 2022 by The Guardian.
  • Mabel, the 2020 winner of best British female, whose album “About Last Night” reached number two.
  • Rina Sawayama, whose album “Hold The Girl” reached number three and included a song of the year picked by BBC music correspondent Mark Savage.
  • Ella Henderson, who had a top 10 album, appeared on two top 10 singles, and received a nomination for an Ivor Novello Award in 2022.

In order to be eligible for nomination, artists must have achieved at least one top 40 album or two top 20 singles released between December 10, 2021, and December 9, 2022. The Brits introduced gender-neutral awards to be more inclusive and recognize exceptional work, regardless of how artists identify.

Although concerns were raised about the marginalization of female acts when the gender-neutral awards were introduced, that issue seemed to be addressed when Adele and Little Simz were nominated for best artist in 2022. Moreover, women or female-fronted acts won 10 out of 15 awards that night. However, Adele emphasized in her acceptance speech that she is proud to be a female artist.

Looking at the overall nominations, there has been both praise and criticism. Tim Burgess, the lead singer of The Charlatans, voiced his thoughts on Twitter, questioning the absence of female artists in the best artist category.

One reason for the underrepresentation of women this year is that fewer female stars, like Adele and Dua Lipa, released new music in the past 12 months. Only one British female solo artist had a new album among the top 100 best-sellers in 2022, compared to seven male artists.

It should be noted that women are represented in other categories at the Brits. Female duo Wet Leg, for example, have four nominations, tying with Harry Styles for most nominations. The best international artist shortlist also has more women or female-fronted acts than men.

The Brits spokesperson acknowledged the disappointing lack of female nominations in the best artist category but reasoned that it was due to fewer high-profile female artists releasing major projects in 2021 and 2022. The spokesperson mentioned that the music industry is conducting a study to identify and address barriers preventing more women from succeeding in music.

Gender imbalances are well-documented in the music industry, such as in chart success, radio airplay, festival line-ups, and artist signings. Vick Bain, a music executive and researcher, highlighted the lack of female artists signed by labels overall and the various barriers faced by women in the industry. These barriers include stereotypes from A&R and record labels, challenges faced during touring (particularly early in a musician’s career), sexism and discrimination, and unreasonable expectations for physical appearance.

The lack of female representation in the best artist category at the Brit Awards is a reflection of these systemic issues. While progress has been made in recognizing and supporting female acts, there is still much work to be done to ensure equal opportunities and representation in the music industry.

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