LADIES, imagine this: you sign on to Spotify and you’re not quite sure what you want to listen to, so you head over to the “Browse” section and click on “New Music Friday,” to hear what the latest releases are. Maybe you do this every week! And while you might think you’re getting a well-curated, diverse selection of new releases to choose from, in reality that playlist on average is mostly dudes.
This was one of the findings of a recent article by journalist Liz Pelly over at The Baffler. Pelly spent one month listening exclusively to the big Spotify playlists like Today’s Top Hits, New Music Friday, Rock This, Rap Caviar, Hot Country, and ¡Viva Latino! to check for gender imbalance, looking at how artists self-identified to determine gender. During that month of listening, she found that:
- Today’s Top Hits, with 19 million followers: 64.5 percent of the tracks were by men as the lead artist, 20 percent were by women, and 15.5 percent were collaborations between men and women artists.
- New Music Friday, with 2 million followers: 70.3 percent of the tracks were by male artists, 20.3 percent were by women, 9 percent were collaborations between men and women.
- Rock This, with over 4 million followers: 86 percent of the tracks were by all-male bands, 9 percent were by women-led projects, and 5 percent were groups with women involvement.
- Rap Caviar, with over 9.6 million followers: only one track led by a woman appeared in the playlist for an entire month, which was “Cardi B’s “Bartier Cardi (feat. 21 Savage).”
- Hot Country, with over 4.7 million followers: 92.2 percent of the tracks were exclusively by men, 7.8 percent were led by women or featured a woman.
- ¡Viva Latino!, with over 8 million followers: 73 percent of the tracks were men-led, 24 percent of the tracks were women-led, and collaborations were 3 percent of the tracks.
So Spotify’s playlists are staggeringly male. But why does it matter? It matters because Spotify playlists are becoming an increasingly important part in making and breaking artists because these big playlists drive listening on the platform. And if someone only gravitates towards playlists, which don’t portray the entire diversity of the music industry, they won’t know what they’re missing.
Pelly points out that by primarily promoting men through these playlists, an awful domino effect can occur. She writes that “when a user listens to mostly male-dominated playlists, what is produced are yet more male-dominated playlists.” So if you constantly press play on Ed Sheeran because it’s the only thing offered to you, you’re sending a message to Spotify to recommend you more artists like Ed Sheeran, which in turn sends a message to the music industry to produce more artists like Ed Sheeran. And before you know it, the entire music industry is ED SHEERAN. *Shudders*