I’m a millennial raised by a single mother. Growing up, I always argued that there were things I wanted to do or be rather than be a mother (not that there is anything wrong with that). I wanted to have it all and do it all, I wanted to be both the career person and the Mother. I wanted to hang with the boys, play sports and throw a punch just as hard as them. The line “like a girl” always insulted me. “You run like a girl!” What do you mean ‘I run like a girl?’ I run normally. I have never wavered when saying, “I’m a feminist!” Because I’ve always believed we can do it all, and just as well as men.
So, I was a little surprised today when I took the Smirnoff’s Equaliser feature and saw that my playlists are not as equal as I believed. I believe women can do it all, but apparently, I don’t believe in equality when it comes to my playlists.
Smirnoff worked with Spotify on analysing a user’s listening data. The last six months of your listening habits are studied and female artists vs. male artists are tallied, and then they give you your results. My playlist equality came back with my listening habits covering a 66% male to a 34% female ratio. However, this split is higher than the average listener, with most playlists coming in with less than a 70/30 division. Even more surprising is the fact that from the 600 biggest tracks in 2018, only 2% were made by women.
The tool lets you repent of your sexist listening habits by creating a more balanced playlist, with the divide between male and female artists being decided by you, the user.
While I wish I could blame the inequality of my listening habits on myself alone, I can’t. You see, I’m a lazy listener, I don’t make my own playlists, I let Spotify decide for me. I choose the mood I’m in and click one of Spotify’s already curated playlists.
To get to the bottom of the sexism in my playlists, I went to Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits playlist. With 23 million followers, 74% of songs were either by male artists or headlined by male artists. Spotify’s #ThrowbackThursday playlist has a more equal divide, with 60% of songs being by male artists. If you are anything like the 700,000 that subscribe to New Music Friday playlist, you will find that 70 % were by male artists and only 20% by female artists.
I can blame Spotify for having a sexist influence on my playlists. The question is why does it matter that Spotify’s playlists are majority male? It matters because Spotify has a major influence on artists’ careers: the app can either make or break a performer. For an artist to make it onto the New Music Friday playlist, they are instantly introduced to over 700,000 new listeners and we don’t know what we are missing by listening to majority male playlists.
And when you only listen to artists similar to Drake or Ed Sheeran, who have both held the title of the most streamed performer on Spotify, we send a message to the music industry that we only want more artists similar to these. And before we know it, the world is flooded by Ed Sheeran, Drake and their clones – while we miss out on great music by talented women.