What do you hate about modern music?

How much penis is there in the pop? Why the music industry has a problem for women


Rihanna, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga: the pop heaven seems full of female stars. The supposedly modern music industry is not really on an equal footing. At its core, Pop is a men's country club.

By: Katja Engelhardt, Ann-Kathrin Mittelstraß and Vanessa Patrick

Status: 09.12.2016

International pop music is a bit like the Alps. At first glance everything is fine. All the successful strong women's names: Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Beyoncé, etc. But these pop brand names hide a big problem: women are not that well represented in the charts - and in the Music industry as a whole certainly not.

That should give us food for thought, because pop is an important part of everyday life. Pop music is a mainstream topic that surrounds us all the time: the music tumbles when we go shopping, it roars out of cars, we all grow up with it before we become interested in a certain genre or subculture. Pop influences us deeply.

This also means that everything that occurs in pop music, from topics to gender stereotypes to role models, is also a mirror of our society. It's not just a feeling, you can also see it in numbers and statistics.

Female stars are rather few and far between in the charts

If you look at how large the proportion of female performers has been in the German Top 100 single charts since 2000, 2006 is almost a positive outlier with 41 percent women. On average, 74 percent are men and 26 percent women.

All artists named in the title are counted as performers. David Guetta, for example, counts as an interpreter, even when a woman sings. Although feminism and equality are always important topics in politics, business and mainstream culture, the proportion of female interpreters in the German charts has been falling since 2006.

No matter how often Beyoncé can have "feminist" behind her on stage in huge letters and Taylor Swift can emphasize a hundred times how important it is to her to be a feminist: the message has no effect on our music consumption.

Women stand in the second row of pop business

If you take a look behind the scenes, however, it looks even worse. There are usually many minds behind the hits of stars like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. - and these heads belong mainly to men.

"In the technical field there are incredibly few women even fewer than on stage. Hardly any woman is encouraged to tinker with technology or to get dirty."

Mia's kitty

Together with GEMA, PULS has carried out a unique data analysis and differentiated the authors of the 100 songs by gender, who received the most distributions from radio plays between 2001 and 2015. It's about those who work behind the scenes, not those who are on stage.

When it says woman, there is often man inside

For the top tracks on the radio for the years 2001 to 2015, we looked at the payout amounts, i.e. which tracks brought in the most money. All texts and composers count the same - man 1, woman 1. This means that if a woman has co-written 20 titles, for example, she appears 20 times as a woman.

In total there were 8,616 male and 1,107 female authors in the period. That means that around 11 percent of all songs between 2001 and 2015 were written by women. Quite a sobering average. Especially for 2015: According to the GfK figures, 43 songs from the Top 100 single charts were written with participation by women - but participation also means that at least one man was at the start for each song.

Only women have written on a single song and only one song has more female than male authors: "Pray To God" by Calvin Harris and Haim - and Haim are three sisters. Of course, there are extremely important women nationally and internationally who are behind great pop songs. Sia, for example, not only writes her own hits, but also writes for stars like Rihanna. Helene Fischer works with Kristina Bach. But that is a clear minority.

Can pop even show the world from a female perspective?

Natascha Augustin from the music publisher Warner Chappell also thinks that something goes wrong: "Around half of the population is female. So it cannot be that the lyrics are written by men for half of the population". Augustin also organizes song camps as part of her work. In which songs are created precisely for the performers who do not write their hits themselves. Augustin invites women over and over again - but hardly any come. "We have three great lyricists, not actually female composers. They are then singers in a band, but we have very few great composers or authors among women, if at all."

Augustin is not only familiar with this imbalance from the song camps. It's no different at her publishing house either: "You keep asking yourself, where are the women? At Warner Records there is one woman under ten men and the managing directors are always men anyway.

"Sure, that's a boy club up there. The American boss came to Germany and then you went to the brothel."

Natascha Augustin, Warner Music Publishing

What to do? How do you change pop music? Unsurprisingly, buying tons of Katy Perry albums doesn't help.

Suggested solution 1): Rock camps

You can try to encourage the next generation at an early stage, for example with rock camps. Lesley Kingswell organizes such an event again and again in Munich. She actually studies jazz singing in Frankfurt and also has a band herself. Every year she comes to Munich to coach the girls at the Rock Camp. The idea for this comes from the riot girl movement. Girls should be encouraged to try out instruments they feel like playing - whether it's gentle piano playing or a noisy drum set.

"At the women's rock camp there are very emotional stories. Women come who are 50 or older and say: I always wanted to learn the guitar, but I never dared."

Lesley Kingswell, Rockcamp Munich

The next stop for aspiring professional careers in the music industry could be college. Tina Sikorski heads the project workshop and corporate communications at the Popakademie Baden-Württemberg. She is currently working on an overview of students and alumni. She is already realizing that inequalities already occur in the course of studies. More men tend to apply to study at the Popakademie and accordingly more men are accepted.

Suggested solution 2): Enlightenment when studying music

There are also stark differences between the individual disciplines: at the music business level - i.e. where label managers and marketing managers, for example - work - almost 2/3 men and 1/3 women can be trained. But when it comes to where the songs are made, in courses such as composition, production, singing or guitar, the numbers become even more acute.

In pop music design and the bachelor's degree, there are significantly more men - 3/4 men and 1/4 women. The women are often singers. There are a few female bassists and drummers, but there has never been a guitarist or keyboard player.

"In interview situations, but also among colleagues, I am asked whether colleagues who once featured me write my songs. How often do I have to say: No, no, I do everything myself."

Balbina musician

Of course, it is not bad per se if more men work in certain professions. But it becomes bad at the latest when women are restricted by role ascriptions. The Berlin musician Balbina does a lot herself: She writes texts, she composes, shoots her videos and is responsible for her styling. Balbina has its own concept - and its own mind. In doing so, however, it always has to assert itself against stereotypes of roles. “Certain jobs in industry are male. In the record company one often speaks of the producer, the director, the lyricist. For me it is the case that people sometimes don't trust me to do things and I have to clear my way with my elbows to say: I can do it the same way and now I do it the same way. "

Suggested solution 3): Networks

Warner woman Natascha Augustin founded the Facebook group "Hey Ladies" together with others. Anyone who somehow works in the music industry can join here to exchange ideas and, above all, to post job offers. This is a private and business network by women for women. Another network comes from the V.U.T. - the Association of Independent Music Companies e.V., which has an extra department: Music Industry Women. Here women support other women with networking opportunities, but also by paying attention to linguistic characteristics such as feminine forms.

Mia singer Mieze names an important reason for the imbalance between women and men in pop. "You shouldn't forget that it was true for a long time: the woman does the housework and nothing creative - and she doesn't earn any serious money either. It is just not yet the rule that things can be different. My impression is that it is a whole A nice delay is needed until equality really comes into life. This is not only the case in the artistic field: women still earn less than men - no matter where! There is a long, long way behind us - and there is still a long way to go infront of us."

"We asked a label why they only have a single woman under contract. They told us women couldn't tour when they were on their period. What nonsense! And men like that are in charge of the music industry. We have decided to start our own label. "

Violent Blondes, techno duo

The music industry has an innovative, free, cool image. But it is not that progressive. That is why it should be viewed just as critically as other branches of industry. Pop music is not just pop music, it is a mirror of our society. If there is such an imbalance, it is a very sad picture that we see in the mirror.