How Music Streaming Algorithms Hinder Female Artists

Annie Mac

Photo: Simone Joyner/WireImage/Getty Images


How Music Streaming Algorithms Hinder Female Artists

Music events, popular playlists and even entire genres tend to skew heavily towards male artists—music streaming platform's algorithms may be partially to blame

GRAMMYs/Nov 8, 2018 - 06:06 am

It's always a special moment when a festival lineup you've been anticipating is finally announced, yet so often it's tinged when your see it and have to ask: Wait, where are all the women? We've known that live music events don't book enough women for some time now, so why hasn't the gender gap shifted more?

As Tshepo Mokoena recently highlighted in her Noisey op-ed, music streaming platforms are partly at fault as not only do their popular playlists favor male artists, research shows their algorithms do as well, consequently promoting a continued gender imbalance. As men continue to be more heavily promoted to listeners and receive more streams, many festivals, especially those run by the streaming companies, will continue to keep booking more men. Algorithms are not going to help the music industry have better gender equality until the humans lead the way.

As streaming continues to shift music consumption, Spotify continues to play a major role in how music listeners, especially younger ones (55% users are between ages 18-34), discover new music and artists. Mokoena highlights the sparsity of women on some of Spotify's most popular playlists, including RapCaviar, often seen as a list of who's hot in hip-hop in the U.S., where only 10.8 percent of artists featured from May 2016 to December 2017 were female. While female rappers may historically be a minority, Lil' Kim and Missy Elliott have paved the way for next generation of rappers like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B to set new records and break the mold for what a rapper looks and sounds like. There are, of course, plenty of other talented female rappers currently making waves, like Northern California's Saweetie and London's Stefflon Don, yet looking at playlists like RapCaviar, you wouldn't know that. At the time this was written Cardi B and Minaj are the only females on the playlist.

As Mokoena points out, Spotify's algorithms may partially be to blame for the continued unequal representation of female artists in music, yet so are people. She points to Liz Pelly's experiment for Baffler, where she set up a test Spotify account and listened only to popular playlists, including RapCaviar and others (like Today's Top Hits and New Music Friday, which also featured more male artists) to see what music the service would suggest for her, which were more male-heavy playlists. As Spotify explained, they choose music experts and cultural ambassadors to curate many of their playlists. As people continue to making gender-skewed playlists, algorithms will follow their lead. In Mokoena's words; "That's not just a coincidence – algorithms reflect the culture in which they're developed."

Inevitably, Spotify charts and data from other steaming services and social networks play into which artists get booked at festivals, which are slowly starting to address gender inequality. Earlier this year 100 music festivals and conferences globally pledged to fight the gender gap by creating a 50/50 gender balance on their lineups by 2022 with the UK-based Keychange initiative. This is a step in the right direction, especially given Pitchfork's 2017 findings that showed that of 23 music festival lineups in 2017, including their own Pitchfork Music Festival, only 14 percent of acts booked were female.

At this year's Coachella Beyoncé made history as the first ever black female to headline the popular festival since its inception 19 years ago, a baffling fact. Queen Bey was actually slated to headline in 2017, yet dropped out due to her pregnancy and was replaced by Lady Gaga, who was the first solo female headliner at the event in 10 years, since Bjork in 2007. According to Paper, the festival increased its female artist presence from 25 percent of performers in 2017 to 33 in 2018, the year many dubbed as "Beychella."

Mokoena looks at the lineups for two upcoming music festivals she deems important to UK music and compares them: Spotify's Who We Be Live in London, a grime and rap focused event inspired by the streaming service's playlist of the same name that serves as somewhat of a UK version of RapCaviar and not surprisingly has a male-heavy lineup, and Annie Mac's AMP Lost & Found in Malta, an electronic music focused event whose lineup features a more impressive offering of female artists.

Mac is an important figure in dance music being an influential DJ who has hosted popular BBC Radio 1 shows since 2004 that have helped put many younger DJs and producers on the map. She is personally making sure that her festival reflects the true diversity of the electronic genre.   Mac clearly understands her role as an influential women in dance music and took it seriously when booking talent for the festival.

"There's so much brilliant female talent in electronic music at the moment that it's a no-brainer to be able to make as much of an equal gender split as possible with a dance music festival, she told Noisey. "I'm so excited to see all these brilliant new girls that we've booked play, like CC:DISCO!, DEBONAIR, Emerald and then obviously the more established DJs like Shanti Celeste and SAOIRSE up to Honey Dijon and Peggy Gou. It's a joy to be able to put it all that talent in one place."

Electronic music is another heavily male-dominated genre, so it is important to have women like her who are aware of the challenges of being a female in the industry and able to use their influence to shine a light on other talented women in their field and expose more music fans to a more diverse artist offering. Lost and Found's 2019 lineup, which includes Mac and another female DJ, The Black Madonna, as a headliner is not a 50/50 gender split, but is one of the more impressive, diverse offerings for any electronic music festivals of late and is a big step in the right direction

All in all, if how we consume music is still being shaped by underlying cultural biases and what other people are listening to via streaming algorithms, then we as human beings have to create an environment that advocates for women in music and celebrates and promotes them as artists, just as we have always done for men.

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Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY


Allen Hughes' "The Defiant Ones" Wins Best Music Film | 2018 GRAMMY

Director Allen Hughes' four-part documentary takes home Best Music Film honors for its portrayal of the unlikely partnership that changed the music business

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 02:09 am

The team behind The Defiant Ones celebrated a big win for Best Music Film at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The crew awarded include director Allen Hughes and producers Sarah Anthony, Fritzi Horstman, Broderick Johnson, Gene Kirkwood, Andrew Kosove, Laura Lancaster, Michael Lombardo, Jerry Longarzo, Doug Pray & Steven Williams.

In a year rife with quality music documentaries and series, the bar has been set high for this dynamic category. The Defiant Ones is a four-part HBO documentary telling the story of an unlikely duo taking the music business by storm seems better suited for fantastical pages of a comic book, but for engineer-turned-mogul Jimmy Iovine and super-producer Dr. Dre, it's all truth.The Defiant Ones recounts their histories, their tribulations and their wild success. These include first-hand accounts from those who were there in Iovine's early days, such as Bruce Springsteen and U2's Bono, as well as those on board when Dre and Iovine joined forces, such as Snoop Dogg and Eminem.

The competition was stiff as the category was filled with compelling films such as One More Time With Feeling, Two Trains Runnin', Soundbreaking, and Long Strange Trip. 

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Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam

Photo: Kevin Mazur/


Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it

GRAMMYs/Feb 13, 2019 - 04:05 am

Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.

McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award

The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.

"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."

With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.

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Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs



Portugal. The Man To Aida Cuevas: Backstage At The 2018 GRAMMYs

Also see James Fauntleroy, Reba McIntire, Latroit, and more after they stepped off the GRAMMY stage

GRAMMYs/Jan 29, 2018 - 05:39 am

What do artists do the moment they walk off the GRAMMY stage from presenting, accepting an award or performing? Now, you can find out.

Take a peak at Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner Bruno Mars, 60th GRAMMY Awards Host James Cordon, Cardi B minutes before her electrifying performance of "Finesse," and more!

Also see Best Pop Duo/Group Performance GRAMMY winners Portugal. The Man posing with their first career GRAMMY Award, Best Roots Gospel Album GRAMMY winner Reba McIntire right after she walked offstage, Best R&B Song GRAMMY winner James Fauntleroy, Best Remixed Recording GRAMMY winner Latroit, and many more, with these photos from backstage during the 60th GRAMMY Awards.

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Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Glenn Danzig

Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images


Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show

Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion

GRAMMYs/Aug 22, 2017 - 05:28 am

There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.

The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.

This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.

"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."

Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.

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