Streaming algorithms, are they sexist?
It’s no secret that the music industry frequently does women a disservice and unfortunately streaming platforms contribute to it. In a 2021 study of streaming algorithms, it was found that, on average, 7 songs by male artists were played for every 1 song by a female artist.
In early 2020, 400 million people subscribed to one streaming service. We’ve all heard about Spotify algorithms. They recommend music based on listening habits, and this is how many people find new artists. The songs may be recommended in new playlists or they might play after another playlist has finished.
However, a new study has found that streaming algorithms are more likely to pick music by male artists than females. The study also looked at users' listening habits and found that female artists made up 25% of streams. We do have our female superstars such as Taylor Swift, who dominate amongst the most popular artists, but most female artists are still not as popular.
Under 25’s are the biggest users for streaming giant Spotify with over 6.03 million users. What message does the algorithm send to young people?
Women are vastly underrepresented within the music industry. Just over 30% of artists in the 2020 Billboard 100 were women. The 2020 Spotify Wrapped statistics showed that the top five most streamed artists were all male, with similarities across all categories. Male artists tend to be more heavily promoted and shouted out about, which leads to booking agents, booking more men. If we can change the algorithm for good, it could help to create better gender equality within the music industry.
How we can change the algorithms
The team behind the study did an experiment. The more female artists listened to, the more that the algorithm equalises itself. They believe with the re-ranked algorithm, users would change their behaviour and listen to more female artists.
The good news is, there is a fix! Simply by streaming more female artists. The more female artists you listen to, the more that will be recommended. We can bring down the sexist algorithms once and for all.
Being conscious of artists listened to is super important for algorithms, but also for festival lineups. If more female artists are streamed, the more likely we are to see female artists and gender minorities at big time festivals.