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Women in the Music Industry

by Tana Coulon

Talented women dominate the music industry, with ground-breaking records, breathtaking performances, and astonishing lyrics. Classic artists such as Whitney Houston, Madonna, and Aretha Franklin, the first woman inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, have paved the way for women in the music industry to this day. However, despite the successes that these women have achieved, there have also been hardships along the way. Female artists continue to struggle in finding their voice and breaking continuous barriers that have been built by people who said they wouldn’t make it.

In today’s music industry, Beyoncé is one of the most talented artists and her work heavily reflects through her achievements. She holds the title of having the greatest number of Grammy Award nominations, and has won 28 Grammys. In addition, she was the first black woman to headline for the Coachella Music Festival.

Beyond being a brilliant artist, Taylor Swift is a constant advocate for social justice issues around the world, a defender of women’s rights, and stands up for what she believes in. She received Billboard’s first Woman of the Decade award.

During her acceptance speech, she stated, “I saw that people love to explain away a woman’s success in the music industry, and I saw something in me change due to this realization. This was the decade when I became a mirror for my detractors. Whatever they decided I couldn’t do is exactly what I did.”

The road to success has not always been a trouble free journey. Inequality in the music industry has been an extensive barrier that many women have long been challenged with. Nina Simone was a musician that was also an early civil rights activist who strived for more equality.

Another significant issue facing artists is the consistent objectification and degradation of women in the media. Alicia Keys, a well known pop artist, states how as a young girl she felt pressure to market herself in a sexual way. She described her feelings in an interview with The Telegraph in 2013.

“That was a huge battle. As a young girl coming into this thing, I felt huge pressure. You don't know how to navigate it because everyone's going 'Oh that's beautiful, that's nice, why don't you unbutton the shirt a little lower, pull the skirt a little higher, it's really nice.’ And you're just trying to figure out how to not look like an idiot.”

In 2016, Madonna earned the title of “Woman of the Year” at the Women in Music Awards. During her 15 minute speech, she utilized her time to share her experience of "blatant misogyny, sexism, constant bullying, and relentless abuse" that she has encountered in her career as a pop star.

Although often held to a different standard than their male counterparts, a growing number of female artists are paving their own paths in the industry by starting their own music labels. More and more people are advocating for women by stepping into leadership roles, offering more support, and battling the sexual harrassment that countless women have dealt with in the industry. Through these new advances, the music business is pivoting into a more positive place that provides young female artists with greater opportunities.


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