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Sexism in the Music Industry

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Ariana Grande was the first artist to reach the top three of the Billboard 100 since The Beatles did in 1964. Beyonce was the top-selling artist of the 2000s. Lady Gaga became the first woman to win an Oscar, Grammy, BAFTA and Golden Globe in the same year in 2019. Adele’s ‘Hello’ was the first song to sell a million digital downloads within the first week of its release.

We see our favorite female artist accomplishing all these remarkable achievements. We hear their songs on the radio, we listen to them, we add them to our playlist whether on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music or on YouTube, and, in my case, Ariana Grande’s single ‘Positions’, which is her fifth single to debut at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, was on repeat for days when it was first released, and I never get bored of it, I still listen to it now. We do these completely oblivious to the struggle, the hardship they had to face, the oppression, exploitation and misogyny.

One first example of exploitation is the pay discrepancy in the music industry between female and male artists. Taylor Swift is a good example of this, she has struggled for years to own her own master recordings, which are the original recordings of the music that she wrote and sang. Little Mix has also spoken about being exploited in the industry, they left Simon Cowell’s music label because they felt were not being paid properly and joined a music label that allowed them more freedom and paid them fairer. Taylor Swift is one of the most successful artists in the world, but even she admits she’s still had to deal with sexism in the music industry. Swift’s entire career plagued with sexism in various forms, from constant media criticism to sexual assault and losing the rights to songs she wrote herself. It really is just systematic misogyny; women struggle to get recognition. Swift said, “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can. Wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man”. She also said, “You don’t feel a sense of any victory when you win because the process is so dehumanizing”.

Swift shouldn’t have to feel as if she could have gotten there faster if she was a man, it should be about talent and ability, and not because of gender. That is what society have made us think, that men are better off and have a better chance of achieving something much quicker and easier than women. Society have also made us think that beauty is important and if you lack that, you won’t get anywhere with just your talent alone; if you are attractive then you have a better chance of succeeding, being liked and accepted.

In the pop industry, women are expected to fit a certain stereotype. Newspaper like The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Mirror and more tabloid newspapers always criticize Adele for her weight. She was too heavy for the industry ideals and then, when she lost weight, they also criticized her. They called it a ‘revenge body’ after her divorce from her husband which detracts from her achievement. They also called her too ‘haggard’ and ‘slim’, but that was what they were demanding from her for years. They even changed to story of her weight loss to being about her divorce. Ariana Grande has spoken about how she felt the pressure to fit into preconceived, cliched ideas of her persona. She also mentioned how there are certain standards that pop women are held to that men aren’t, for example, she said, “We have to do the teaser before the single, then do the single, and wait to do the preorder”. It’s as if women are expected to do more than men, like women need to do more in order to be on the same level as a male. Ariana isn’t the first female pop star to criticize the present state of the music industry; Nicki Minaj, Dua Lipa, and Little Mix have all spoken out about their personal experiences with sexism.

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Award shows are also a good example of blatant sexism within the music industry. During an interview with New Billboard, Ariana said: “I would just love to see a chart with as many women on top as men. It’s just so male-dominated. It’s so easy for them”.

In 2020, men won twice as many awards as women at the Grammys. Women accounted for only 2% of Grammy nominees for Producer of the Year and 7.6% for Album of the Year, meaning that 98% of Grammy nominees for Producer of the Year and 92.4% for Album of the Year were male. Female producers are not recognized as much as male producers are, no woman has ever won a Grammy for Producer of the Year. Despite not winning, Linda Perry was the first woman to be nominated after 15 years in 2019, since Lauren Christy was nominated back in 2004. According to PRS for music, 13% of 95,000 songwriters are female which is not surprising as there are a great number of female-written songs that have yet to be taken seriously.

With the rise of the #MeToo movement in the past few years, you can see the dark side of the music industry being exposed. There are men in positions of power who take advantage of that to exploit women trying to get their big break. In a BBC news article titled ‘The Music Industry’s Dark Side Exposed’, a girl named Amy talks about how she was sexually harassed by her manager because she refused to be in a relationship with him. For 2 years he continued to threaten and blackmail her saying he’d ruin her career if she was to tell anyone of what he’d been doing to her. She’s not the only one who had gone through this, many do not come forward about this because they fear what might happen to them. Very recently in an interview with Oprah, Lady Gaga revealed she too was sexually assaulted by a male music producer when she was 19 that led her to becoming pregnant. Even now she refuses to name her attacker due to the PTSD she has suffered since then. This shows that even the most successful female music artists have faced this form of sexual violence, and hopefully by them speaking out, some changes will be made to protect women in this position.

Women’s experiences reveal that the largest impediment they confront is the music industry’s attitude toward women. Women’s perceptions are highly stereotypical, sexualized, and lacking in ability. Women will continue to confront a roadblock in their careers unless those fundamental beliefs are altered. Women have been subjected to prejudice and objectification. And it’s not just within the music industry, this is very much reflected on the vast of society.

Misogyny in the music industry is surviving because not enough people are doing enough to tackle it. Women and feminine-identified people will continue to be underpaid, oppressed, and discredited until we adequately address and eradicate misogyny.

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Sexism in the Music Industry. (2023, March 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
“Sexism in the Music Industry.” Edubirdie, 01 Mar. 2023,
Sexism in the Music Industry. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Mar. 2023].
Sexism in the Music Industry [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Mar 01 [cited 2023 Mar 30]. Available from:
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