Pop music desperately needs more female producers

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Lawyers for Sony indicated during the preliminary injunction hearing on Friday—in which Kesha was denied the option to leave her contract with the label—that the company would consider Kesha's request to record her next album without Dr. Luke's involvement. Sure, she would still be on the Sony label, but she could potentially avoid her alleged abuser by working with another producer.

The problem with this offer? Kesha's options are extremely limited. What if Kesha wanted to work with a woman?

Let's look at this week's Top 40:


A look at the charts tells us 74 people produced the songs in the Top 40 this week, but only 3 of them were women. Three. Those women were: Bebe Rexha for G Eazy's "Me Myself & I," Meghan Trainor for "Like I'm Gonna Lose You," and Wondagurl for Travis Scott's "Antidote."

And none of them produced a song on their own without a man. 37 of the Top 40 songs this week were produced by an all-male team. That's 92.5%.


And this is not a number exclusive to February of 2016. In our data for the Top 40 for 2015, we found that only 3.8% of Top 40 producers were women last year.

And women aren't much better represented in other sections of the Top 40. Here's the data for performers:


Even though this week, Rihanna and Drake's "Work" is sitting high at the top of the charts, only 17.5% of Top 40 songs were performed by only women. And 67.5% of songs were performed by men without any appearances by a female performer. Just for comparison, women performing alone have 7 songs in the Top 40. Drake and the Weeknd alone have 6 songs.

Things are no better than they were last year. For all of 2015, women only made up 25.8% of the 178 performances that hit the Top 40.That number—25%—manages to hold steady despite how many songs come and go in the Top 40. This week, women make up 30% of songs in the Top 10, but only 15% of the Top 20.


It’s almost like there’s a cap on how many women are allowed to succeed on the charts.

And when one of America's Top 40 performers is accusing her producer of rape and emotional abuse, it's hard not to wonder if the barrier to enter the Top 40 is built out of a lot more than just how good of a hook you can sing.


In addition, again this month, women make up an even smaller percentage of the songwriters on the Top 40. Only 15 of the 143 writers it took to make the 40 most popular songs in America were women. That’s 10.4%.


What that means for a performer like Kesha—who's in the business of churning out Top 40 hits—is that the default is almost always a male coworker.

The writers are male. The producers are male. The sound engineers are male.

Women make up 50% of the world we live in, but such a small percent of the Top 40 creators. Something needs to change, and it needs to change now.


Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.

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