Women in Music – what the data shows

Note: our featured image shows ‘default woman picture’ chosen to make punkgirldiaries look like other blogs …

Oooooh! Lovely data! Apparently it’s the new oil – the commodity that is valuable and up for purchase. Data is everything; it tells you how everyone thinks, behaves and spends their money. C’mon, let’s just get a heap of data and find out what you should do to be a successful woman in music.

We’ve looked at top website Best Ever Albums to find out which women artists are highly rated over the last 16 years by the 40,000 subscribers. We know there’s a major flaw because this official-looking and calculable data is just the opinions of the music nerds with time on their hands. But, hey!

There is a clear pathway to success for women, according to the Top-Ranked Artists section and it’s nothing to do with dancing in your pants or singing love songs. Based on the data, the best strategy for a woman in music is:

Play an instrument, possibly bass guitar, in a band consisting mainly of men …

and probably don’t bother singing too much either.

In the rankings, you mightn’t be surprised that the top spot goes to The Beatles. There’s Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead in the top 10. But Kate Bush – usually cited everywhere as a great female artist – only comes in at number 56, and poor old Madonna is at 172. It does seem totally skewed to white male Western bands – we kept scrolling down looking for Aretha Franklin and there she is at 210, just above Nina Simone at 214.

But there are women in there – and they are the ones we maybe need to emulate to get popular! Hopefully you know that punkgirldiaries doesn’t do those crappy money-grabbing blogposts where you click click click – then watch about 200 adverts to count down to the number one thing you want to see. No, we’ll start with the most popular woman musician and show you the next few, even though we’re not at all keen on these lists that rank people. Here goes then – the ten most popular women in music based on the albums they played on:

Velvet Underground Drummer Maureen Tucker

Moe Tucker anthologized, “After Hours” still the best song to round out  that killer mix tape in your head | Music News | Releases | Tiny Mix Tapes

The Pixies bass player Kim Deal

Hey, Kim Deal Has Quit The Pixies - Gothamist

Talking Heads bass player Tina Weymouth

40 Years Later, Talking Heads' Most Valuable Member Is Still Its Most  Under-Recognized - PAPER

My Bloody Valentine bass player Debbie Googe and Bilinda Butcher on guitar and vocals

Photo: Steve Gullick

Smashing Pumpkins bass player D’arcy Wretzky

darcy, smashing pumpkins | D'arcy wretzky, Female musicians, Smashing  pumpkins

Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks and keyboardist Christine McVie

Fleetwood Mac - Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks - YouTube

Songwriter, singer and producer Bjork

Sonic Youth bass player Kim Gordon

Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth: Are You Xperienced? - Rolling Stone
photo: Ebet Roberts

So, today’s data takeaway says that women in the band is OK in moderation. Maybe a ratio of 1:4 works for the fans at the moment? Playing bass is a good idea, or another instrument – just get away from the centre of the stage, will you? These days, everyone tells us that data is the way forwards, and we genuinely want to tackle that gender gap. We’ve done the maths; you take what you will from our analysis. Either way, pick up an instrument and join a band with whoever you think you can work with.

And let’s end with a thought-provoking life-affirming quote, shall we?


but often just a load of bollocks


2 thoughts on “Women in Music – what the data shows

  1. Thanks, Vim, for this interesting article!. From research I do for a chapter on the Netherlands of a book to be published by Active Distribution:

    What did a search in spring 1981 of punk fanzines at Dutch site bacteria.nl to get an approximate idea of how influential well-known foreign punk bands, active in the 1977-1982 period, were in the Netherlands, show? Bands including women marked with *.

    *Crass 80 search results, include Eve Libertine
    Damned 45 Patricia Morrison on bass but that was later
    UK Subs 37 Caroline Wiseman on bass but that was later
    *Poison Girls 35 Vi Subversa, Bella Donna
    Sex Pistols 32
    Ramones 27
    Clash 26
    *Siouxsie and the Banshees 24
    Dead Kennedys 24
    Stiff Little Fingers 21
    Sham 69 20
    Buzzcocks 19
    Discharge 17
    *Raincoats 17
    Stranglers 16
    Subhumans 15
    Conflict 13
    *Slits 12
    *Blondie 12
    *Mo-dettes 9
    Exploited 9
    *Chumbawamba 8
    Zounds 7
    *X-ray Spex 7
    Adam and the Ants 7
    Undertones 5
    *Rubella Ballet 4
    *’Fatal’ Microbes 3
    Omega Tribe 3 flute player Jane Keay was later
    *Hagar the Womb 2
    Flux of Pink Indians 1 Louise Bell (guitar) was later
    Iggy Pop 1

  2. Another good post. Ever thought about Poison Ivy from The Cramps, or doing a piece on them?

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