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Spotify amplifies women in Africa

The Equal programme showcases a commitment to supporting female artists, writes MONICA KEMOLI-SAVANNE, Spotify artist and label partnerships manager for East Africa

Despite being at the forefront of so many cultural moments through their music, it is common knowledge that female artists will often not see the same recognition for their work as their male counterparts. As times have begun to change, thanks to increased awareness of the inequalities present in the industry, we are finally seeing the landscape shift so that female artists get the recognition they deserve.

One of these shifts in the music industry has been the advent of streaming platforms. Over the last decade or so, music consumption patterns have changed driven by the rise of streaming platforms, and this change is bound to have an impact on under-represented groups in some form or other. In order for that impact to be positive, it’s important that streaming platforms be intentional with initiatives that support women in music and help to eliminate imbalances within the creative economy. 

Spotify’s EQUAL programme is one such initiative which spotlights a cross-section of women in music in order to close the gap and foster gender equality. Our EQUAL hub has curated 35 market-specific playlists and contains the EQUAL Africa playlist which promotes music made by women across the continent. Artists featured on Spotify’s EQUAL Africa playlist are exposed to a global listenership and are also provided with off-platform support and tools to bolster their careers.

The impact of these tools is visible in the data. Within six months of our global EQUAL programme launch in March 2021, our playlists had cumulatively collected 29 million streams from 177 different markets. Now, 16 months after the programme’s launch, we’re celebrating Women’s Day in South Africa by acknowledging the growth that our EQUAL Africa artists have forged for themselves. In the short time since its launch, the EQUAL Africa playlist has seen 4.5 million streams in 184 markets. To further drive their reach, EQUAL Africa artists have also been featured in over 9 000 Spotify editorial playlists, which are curated by our editorial team.

It’s undeniable that our EQUAL African artists have made their mark on the industry worldwide. Artists that are featured on the playlist have received over 8 billion streams globally. Prominent South African musicians Uncle Waffles, Kamo Mphela, Nomfundo Moh, and DBN Gogo – who was the very first South African musician to be profiled as an EQUAL artist – have all been featured on the EQUAL Africa playlist. This month’s EQUAL Africa artist is another example of South African talent, genre-bending vocalist Sio, whose alternative house sound has earned her international acclaim. Exposure to new audiences is central to artists finding opportunities in their home country and beyond, and through EQUAL we hope to support the work these women have done to succeed in the ways that they have.

The ability to make music independently has shifted in a big way, with any aspiring musician now able to platform themselves. In this way, music streaming platforms have been pivotal in the opportunities available to female musicians. Women aiming for a career in music are able to share their own work and find their audience from anywhere in the world. However, equal access to creation is not enough. Initiatives that actively work to level the playing field are necessary in order to enact change and progress the careers of all women in music. Because of this, Spotify remains committed to our goal of closing the gender gap and celebrating local female talent, and we look forward to seeing our EQUAL artists taking up opportunities on a global scale. 

With a new EQUAL artist featured on the playlists every month, make sure you tune into the music of our EQUAL Africa artists here, and our EQUAL artists from around the world here.

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