The clever new Spotify tool every music fan needs to know about

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Moya Lothian-McLean
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Why not bring gender equality to your listening habits?

International Women’s Day has given inadvertent birth to a host of marketing schemes. Some are markedly more successful than others. And whilst it’s important to recognise what Spotify and Smirnoff’s latest partnership is in aid of (cold, hard cash), there’s no denying their new tool is a genuinely useful innovation that could make us more mindful about our listening habits in 2018.

Dubbed the ‘Smirnoff Equalizer,’ the extension analyses your Spotify listening habits over the last six months (sorry Apple Music fans, there’s nothing for you here) and breaks down the ratio of male-to-female artists you listen to. And we guarantee the results will be shocking. 

For the sake of research, I tested the tool, predicting a fairly even split between the female and male artists who are piped through my speakers. If anything, I thought it would be skewed towards women. Previous end of year analysis of my music consumption had revealed four out of five of my top artists of 2017 were women (SZA, Kelela, Beyoncé and Rihanna, in case you were wondering). 

Three of my top five songs of 2017 were also by female artists, whereas a fourth featured a woman. Compared to Spotify’s global top 10 most-streamed songs of 2017 - all by men, with the only two appearances by women being a feature and on a duet – it seemed obvious that I was streets ahead in the sonic equality stakes.

Or not. 

The dismal reveal of my skewed listening habits

When the results came through, I discovered that I’d been grievously fooling myself. Only 36% of the musicians I listened to were women. 

What was worse – if anything could be worse than such a rude awakening – was that this was apparently significantly more than the average person. 36% was suddenly considered substantial.

It makes sense when considered in the context of the music industry, a place so inhospitable to women that specific initiatives have to be launched in order to ensure female artists get onto 2% of producers of the top 600 songs of the last five years are self-identified women. But it still comes as a shock to see that inequity replicated on a micro level – particularly when it’s your personal shortcomings laid bare. 

Thankfully, the Smirnoff Equalizer seems to anticipate this response and offers up an ‘equalized’ Spotify playlist, balanced and adhering to your tastes. Using a slider, you can alter the percentages of male and female artists (non-binary performers are included too, if they match your listening habits, a note reads) to produce a more balanced collection of songs. 

“We developed the Smirnoff Equalizer in partnership with Spotify because we believe that when we get to discover talented women artists and their phenomenal music, we’ll all have a better listening experience,” said Neil Shah, Smirnoff’s Global Senior Brand Manager. 

“This is really empowering people to actually understand how their behaviors are subject to gender biases, and allows them to address those behaviors in a way that is natural to them,” added Shah, who also oversaw last year’s launch of Smirnoff’s ‘Equalizing Music’ campaign to double female festival headliners.

And whilst one 20-song (and slightly genre-confused) playlist won’t change things overnight, the Equalizer is an extension that shouldn’t be discarded once 8 March has passed. Sexism in the music industry, whilst a considerable mountain, is not insurmountable. But it will take a cognizant effort to change our ingrained listening habits. One SZA song at a time.

Images: Rex Features