Like most companies, Spotify has a long way to go when it comes to representing women equally on its platform, and the result is costing female artists money.
A new report from journalist Liz Pelly over at The Baffler found that the streaming service’s featured playlists use significantly more music from male artists than from females. So when you go to the Browse tab and select something like Rap Caviar or Hot Country, you’re much more likely to encounter songs from male performers—ultimately boosting their streaming numbers and helping their positions on the Billboard charts. As Spotfy’s role in the music industry continues to grow, the impact of being featured on something like New Music Friday or Today’s Top Hits can be huge for an artist. These big playlists are proven to drive listening on the platform, and if a subscriber gravitates toward playlists—say for driving in the car, working out, or just soundtracking a dentist’s office waiting room—and those playlists don’t portray the entire diversity of the music industry, listeners have no way of knowing what they’re missing out on.
Pelly spent one month listening exclusively to Today’s Top Hits, New Music Friday, Rock This, Rap Caviar, Hot Country, and ¡Viva Latino! to check for gender imbalance. Specifically, she had an eye toward how artists self-identified to determine gender. During that month of listening, Pelly reportedly 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.
With representation stats like that, it’s easier to understand why female artists with strong chart performance—like Cardi B—are so few and far between.
Spotify has been working to make their official playlist curation more socially responsible in recent months, so it can add “gender parity” to its list of to-dos.