As we celebrate International Women’s Day, we at RouteNote Elevate feel it is the perfect opportunity to look back at the past year and review what has happened for women in music. We’d like to take a moment to reflect on the success stories of female musicians and have a look at important milestones for gender equality in the music industry.

Top Charting Queens in 2023

2023 was a big year for women in music, as Taylor Swift topped the Billboard 200 with three albums in 2023 – “Midnights” (a carryover from 2022), “Speak Now” (Taylor’s version) and “1989” (Taylor’s version). Along with the Billboard 200, she also led the Hot 100 with three hits. These two accomplishments combined have not been achieved by any other artist. The three hits on Hot 100 were “Anti-Hero” (a carryover from 2022), “Cruel Summer” and “Is It Over Now?” (Taylor’s version) [from the vault].

SZA was another artist who ruled the Billboard 200 in 2023, as her release “SOS” was No. 1 for 8 weeks. With its 8 weeks as No. 1, SOS was the second-most-logged release on the Billboard 200 in 2023. (The most-logged was Morgan Wallen’s “One Thing At A Time”). Aside from SOS, SZA had her tracks “Kill Bill” (No. 1) and “Snooze” (No. 2) on the Hot 100.  Last but not least, SZA logged 21 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot R&B/HipHop chart with Kill Bill, surpassing the previous record of 20 weeks set by Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” (feat. Billy Ray Cyrus) in 2019.

A Festive Christmas Cheers for Women

Christmas 2023 was a cheerful time for women in music as well, as Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” finally topped the Hot 100 in December, 65 years after its release in 1958. Followed by “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” was the returning star of the Christmas Hot 100 show, “All I Want For Christams Is You” by Mariah Cary, which topped again for the 5th year in a row.

Queen Beyoncé’s Top-Grossing Tour of 2023

Meanwhile, 2023’s top-grossing tour belonged to Beyoncé – according to figures reported to Billboard Boxscore – as her Renaissance World Tour grossed $579.8 million and sold 2.8 million tickets.

Last but not least, 7 out of the 10 top spots on Billboard’s annual list of Greatest Pop Stars of the Year, were held by women. Taylor Swift, SZA, Beyonce and Ice Spice held the top four spots for 2023 (in descending order) while Karol G was at No. 6, Olivia Rodrigo at No. 7 and Doja Cat at No. 9. This leading ranking by Taylor Swift is for the third year in a row, which is more than any other artist ever.

Addressing Gender Discrimination and Misogyny in Music

While it is great to see so many incredible women breaking records at the top end of the industry, the music is still playing a darker tone when it comes to discrimination and misogyny. This was made clear on January 30th 2024 with a new report from the Women and Equalities Committee on Misogyny in Music, which concluded that despite increases in representation, women working in the music industry are still faced with heart-breaking treatment such as: gender discrimination, sexual harassment and assault, limitations on opportunity and unequal pay. In light of this report the UK Government is now urgently requested to “bring forward legislative proposals to prohibit the use of non-disclosure and other forms of confidentiality agreements in cases involving sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment, and discrimination relating to a protected characteristic.” Additionally, the UK Government has been urged to look at having additional requirements placed on other areas of the music industry.

As upsetting as this report is, we value the importance of it seeing the light of day, illuminating the issues often more whispered about in the dark corners than spoken out loud. We really hope that this report can help push some changes in a positive direction – not just for women, but for all marginalized groups in the music industry.

Elevate Navigating Towards Equality

This past year, we have worked hard at RouteNote Elevate to create dialogue focusing on the inequality women face in the music industry. We have taken the opportunity to educate ourselves on the topic to see where there might be room for improvement on our behalf, we have shared what we have learned, and we have created new opportunities for women and gender expansive artists, labels, communities and industry professionals and we aim to continue doing so as long as needed.

12 Signs That Women Ruled the World of Entertainment in 2023
Misogyny in Music