To wrap up Women’s History Month in the US, we highlight the Black female artists and fans helping to close the gender gap in the music industry with their social and streaming “votes.”
Editor’s Note: As US Women’s History Month draws to a close, Chartmetric continues its year of honoring Black artists in the context of what we normally do: nerd out on music, data, and culture.
Our February installment during Black History Month focused on how Black music in Detroit, Memphis, and Baltimore intertwined with a local reality laden with racism and inequality.
This month, we attempt to honor the US National Women’s History Month theme for 2021: “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.” While this month’s theme addresses women’s suffrage, from a data perspective, we can parallel the electoral vote with the music “vote.” In other words, we will look at 100 artists that Black women seem to love most, examining how women fare against men in a still male-dominated industry.
In an effort to explore gender in the music industry in a more nuanced way, we first filtered our 2.8M+ artist database by those artists that have a majority (50 percent and higher) Black and female Instagram audience.
We then ranked the Top 100 artists by Cross-Platform Performance, Chartmetric’s overall ranking system that includes several streaming and social media platform statistics.
Of those 100 artists, the top artist split skews slightly male: 48 women and 52 men.
Streaming platform presence of each gender skewed male on Deezer, Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube, though there were three to five more male artists on each.
Social media presence of each gender skewed male on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook by three to four more male artists on each. (TikTok was left out due to only 27 of the 100 artists having linked TikTok profiles in our database.)
88 of the 100 artists are coded as US-based, four each from the UK and France, three from Jamaica, and one from Canada.
Frequent artist genre tags: Pop, Rap, R&B, Soul (including variants like Indie R&B)
Top 3 artists: Pop Smoke (CPP rank: 61), Megan Thee Stallion (CPP rank: 65), and Nelly (CPP rank: 229)
Top 100 artists included active artists (e.g., Summer Walker, Stefflon Don), semi-active artists from earlier decades (e.g., Jodeci, Babyface), and legacy acts (e.g., Chaka Khan, Gladys Knight & The Pips).
As a baseline, let’s remember that the music industry, unfortunately, continues to be an oldboys‘ club, though there are signs of change.
With this larger context in mind, here’s how both genders compare on various streaming and social media platforms with a majority Black female fandom in mind.
Quick math note: Averages will most likely show the number you’re expecting, but will skew toward very big or very small numbers, e.g., Bill Gates walks into a bar, and everyone’s average net worth goes up by several billion. Medians are basically the same, except that it will ignore such extreme outliers and find the middle most value out of the bunch. This will be important below.
Women Dominate on Instagram and Twitter
On Instagram and Twitter, female artists are hands down dominating male artists.
On Instagram, 48 women profiles feature 153M+ followers in total, with three-time 2021 Grammy-winner Megan Thee Stallion leading with 21M IG followers on hers alone. This is 1.6x more than all the males combined at 94M followers. Women average 1.7x more than the men with 3.2M Instagram followers per profile, and more than double them when it comes to median followers per profile.
In the Twittersphere, 46 female Twitter handles beat out male Twitter handles with 49M aggregated Twitter followers, over men’s 36M followers. R&B icon Mary J. Blige leads women with 6.1M Twitter followers, though Atlanta Rap legend T.I. wins overall with 9.2M. Women edge men out on average followers per profile at about the same rate, but taking median into account, with 578K followers per profile, women have more than 4x the Twitter followers per profile than men.
What’s the takeaway? Women are just better at the social media game than men? Platform demographics certainly are a factor: According to a 2019 Pew Research survey, 43 percent of US women and only 31 percent of US men use Instagram regularly. The same study found men’s Twitter usage at 24 percent, over women’s 21 percent.
However, US women’s overall social media use has outpaced US men’s since 2009, going from 26 percent to 78 percent of women in 10 years’ time, while men went from 26 percent to only 65 percent. It’s quite possible that over time, women have simply gotten better at the communication of brand and personality.
Women Aren’t Faring Well on Deezer and Pandora
For Deezer Fans or Pandora streams, women are losing out to male artists in terms of aggregate sum, averages, and medians. 51 male Deezer profiles add up to 13M Deezer Fans (T.I. leading with 2.3M), while 47 female profiles are only 0.6x that at 8.1M Fans (Mary J. Blige leading women at 1.1M).
It doesn’t look any better with Pandora streams either: Women profiles total a cool 23B streams (’90s R&B star Monica leading women with 2.3B streams all-time). While 23B streams are certainly nice, it’s only half of the men’s aggregate at 46B, again led by rapper T.I. overall at 5.8B streams all-time. It looks even worse in terms of median figures, with women at 252M streams per profile, only 0.4x of the men’s median at 627M streams per profile.
Whether these peculiarities play into these particular gender gaps is too complex to understand here, but hopefully the gaps will continue to close.
Women Draw Mostly Even on Spotify and YouTube
There’s a big gray area here in gender gaps, and it plays out with nuance on Spotify and YouTube, two of the world’s most relevant music streaming platforms.
The bad news is that this dataset’s women artists lose outright on YouTube Channel Views, in terms of sum (25B vs. 18B), average (509M vs. 391M), and median (271M vs. 186M). This doesn’t count user-generated content views (UGC), which are surely a huge factor overall. But for whatever reason, YouTube users don’t seem to consume content from the female artist YouTube profiles as much as the males’.
YouTube Subscribers play out differently: While women are barely edged out with 39M total subscribers against the men’s 41M, women win decisively on YouTube in terms of average subscribers per profile (1M vs. 890K) and median subscribers per profile (697K vs. 515K).
On Spotify, men barely have more aggregate followers (55M vs. 52M), but women edge a win on average Spotify followers per profile (1.086M vs. 1.076M) and more decisively on median followers per profile (964K vs. 771K). The differences here are relatively minimal compared to other platforms, so it’d be fair to say the gender gap for this dataset is smallest on Spotify.
However, when it comes to Spotify Monthly Listeners (MLs), women take home the gold with an aggregate 206M MLs vs. men’s 187M. Women also achieve a better average (4.3M vs. 3.6M) and median (3.5M vs. 2.2M). Granted, Monthly Listeners is a highly volatile metric, so this could change day to day.
The Gender Gap Is Real, But It Seems To Be Narrowing
We designate certain times in society to recognize people that have both collectively shaped us and also been too often ignored. It’s an oxymoron: specifically remember who we regularly forget.
As we’ve seen in Black women’s favorite artists, the gender gap at play here in a mostly Rap and R&B soundscape seems to be wider in some places, with some of those being decisive wins for women in music. There also are spaces that seem almost equal: This will morph depending on genre, platform, and whoever happens to be hot at the time.
Nonetheless, the work toward gender equality is never-ending, and we hope these data suggest that, slowly but surely, that labor is paying off. While this article was written in a “women” versus “men” fashion, we surely need everyone to make those small, everyday decisions to create an equitable music industry together.