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Female British artists underrepresented on UK radio, study finds

The Independent logo The Independent 21/08/2020 Annabel Nugent
a person standing in front of a bright light © Provided by The Independent

British female artists are hugely underrepresented across UK radio stations, according to a new survey.

The study, reported by The Guardian, found that of the top 100 songs by British artists to feature in the UK airplay chart between 1 January and 15 August this year, only 19 per cent were by female acts. Male musicians made up just over half, and mixed-gender collaborations accounted for a third.

The same drastic disparity was recorded behind the scenes, too. In the tracks surveyed, male songwriters dominated. Only 19 per cent of British songwriters on the surveyed tracks were female; 80 per cent were male and one per cent were non-binary. Only three per cent of producers on the surveyed tracks were female.


The Gender Disparity Data report was compiled by Linda Coogan Byrne, a music industry consultant, and Nadia Khan, founder Women in CTRL, a network aimed at championing women in music and arts industries.

The report also looked at the gender imbalance in the 20 most played songs by British artists across 31 UK radio stations.

Dua Lipa et al. posing for the camera: Dua Lipa performs in Seville in 2019 (Rex) © Provided by The Independent Dua Lipa performs in Seville in 2019 (Rex)

In the 12-month period surveyed, female acts made up only 10 per cent of the most played songs by British artists on BBC Radio 1 and on Radio 6 Music.

On the network’s other stations, the figures were only slightly better. BBC Radio 1Xtra had 14.3 per cent, and BBC Asian Network 20 per cent. Radio 2 held up best with 40 per cent.

The Bauer Media stations Absolute Radio and Kerrang! had zero female acts among their top 20 most played songs by British artists. The same was the case at Global Media’s Radio X.

On Kiss FM, British women accounted for 15 per cent of the top 20, five per cent on Kiss Fresh, and a sector high of 30 per cent on Bauer’s Magic FM.

Global’s Capital FM came out poorly with only a five per cent female top 20, while Capital Xtra had 10 per cent, Heart 25 per cent and Smooth Radio 20 per cent.

An equivalent report on Irish radio airplay published in June by Women in CTRL found many stations had no female acts in their 20 most played songs in the surveyed period.


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