The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released a study exposing the music industry’s lack of diversity. In 2017, 83.2 percent of artists were men and only 16.8 percent were women, with the year continuing a six-year downward trajectory for female artists. Of the study’s 651 producers, 98 percent of them were men—see where this is going? Breaking into popular culture may be difficult, but with the rise of platforms like TIDAL, Spotify, Bandcamp and Soundcloud – as well as Instagram’s user-friendly interface and endless opportunities for interaction – unsigned musicians have had, as of the last five years, more access to and opportunities in music’s underground world.
It might be argued that New York City is losing its creative class – gentrification is a major component of this argument, especially when DIY venues are shut down every other week – but the underground is still alive and thriving thanks to women and LGBTQ+ DJs, singers, dancers, event producers and their loyal supporters. The same artists that are intentionally and perpetually locked out of the music industry are the ones in control of the alternative underside. Whether it’s debuting their tracks at New York Fashion Week or performing on Sway in the Morning, get better acquainted with 13 black women from across the diaspora you need to be listening to right now. —Shaira Chaer