Smirnoff & Spotify: Unlikely Partners in Feminsm

Smirnoff & Spotify: Unlikely Partners in Feminism

If you’ve read legit anything I’ve written since I took AP US History -- and first got my young impressionable mind on some Betty Friedan -- you know that feminism is a key part of my *brand*. But today is the day I learned that maybe some part of that brand is a lie. I was sent a link to the “Smirnoff Equalizer,” a new extension that goes through your Spotify listening habits and gives you the percentage of female artists compared to male artists, a simple enough litmus test to check the gender balance of one’s listening habits.

So I wanted to run the analysis and see how my Spotify records reflected this feminist brand I had apparently crafted for myself. I connected my apps and eagerly awaited the results. It came back with 84% men vs. 16% women. On first site of those bold white numbers on my screen, I was disheartened, but then I figured out that this is actually better than the average listener’s breakdown. Which is pretty bleak if you think about those metrics. Admittedly I do perhaps listen to genres (i.e. rap) that favor male performers, but I thought I’d at least be listening to women a quarter of the time. This isn’t inherently bad, but more interesting and reflective of the wider context I listen to music in.

I could argue that this is more a reflection on the music presented to me by the industry. Spotify shows a surprising amount of introspection, and includes that “In 2017, 100% of the top streamed tracks were performed by men artists. We’re missing out on so many good tunes by women.” Just two of Spotify’s Top Ten were female artists.

This PR push is meant to acknowledge International Women’s day. Spotify and Smirnoff have teamed up to tell us how to live our best feminist lives. And while I do think that this is a ploy to cast themselves as feminist heroes instead of capitalist money grubbers, maybe we can learn something from this. Spotify and, I guess, Smirnoff (makers of Smirnoff Ice), could have just run ads promoting female musicians. Instead they chose a tactic that directly confronts users and their own listening habits.

I was impressed that they do offer you a playlist based on your taste that features female and non-binary artists to actively sway these stats. And all amidst the sea of #TimesUp pins and buzzy Oscars speeches, this week this is quite the topical release. So, perhaps there is both some sincerity and some efficacy to this odd, yet compelling campaign.

Go ahead and take the test for yourself. Put on the album of a lady singer you haven’t listened to yet. Maybe try to include more women on the next playlist you make. I know I will. And next time you go to Ice your pals, do it to some feminist beats.