The Billboard Awards Celebrated Women. The Problem Is, They Won't Make History.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
If you watched the Billboard Music Awards last night, it probably felt like a celebration of women. Ladies were the top draw of the show: host Kelly Clarkson's vivacious personality made a strong impact; ICON Award winner Janet Jackson gave a short-but-fierce medley performance of her hits and a stirring speech; everyone from Camila Cabello to Christina Aguilera with Demi Lovato to Jennifer Lopez to veterans Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue gave boisterous, crowd-pleasing performances. Taylor Swift dedicated one of her awards to "future female artists who just picked up guitar or learned how to play piano." Think what you will of those Uber segments with women songwriters, but in addition to being good PR for a company under fire for their poor treatment of women, that was seriously important representation also. The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that only 11% of the most popular songs released in 2017 were written by women. Seeing women modeled as successful songwriters will encourage young women to think of it as a career field they can enter.
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But men still dominated the actual awards. Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran took home six BBMAs each, with Bruno Mars and Luis Fonsi close behind at five each.
All of the (mostly women) performers featured on the show will very likely see a sales and streaming bump, a statistic heavily tracked after every awards show. After the Grammys, Bruno Mars had his biggest streaming week for "Finesse" since he dropped the track, garnering 40.4 million streams that were largely people watching the performance again on YouTube, Billboard reported. Luis Fonsi's "Despacito," Logic's "1-800-273-8255," and Zedd and Maren Morris's "The Middle" saw similar gains. The awards show bump only means good things for performers' chances at being nominated for a Billboard Award (or Grammy, or VMA) the next time around. Yes, awards aren't just about buzz or critical embrace — especially the Billboard Awards, which run on chart data.
It was also wonderful to see so many women having a moment on social media as the world reacted to the show via Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to share their opinions. There's a glow-up that comes with that as well: when people hear a new song you love or an old song you forgot you love, they share the YouTube video. That improves the chart position, increases the streams, and better positions the woman artists being celebrated. YouTube shares as well as mere @ mentions are both important, because social media also plays into Billboard's charts. In fact, the social chart was the premise under which Billboard got BTS there (for the second year in a row) last night. The South Korean boy band with very loud fans won the Social Artist award. It was their only nomination.
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It's no small thing, and we laud Billboard for making sure that women were the centerpiece of their awards show, especially after women hardly got any time on camera as performers or winners at the Grammys back in February. All those small gains from the the "awards show bump" an artist gets becomes part of the data that follows them around. It impacts how much a record label spends on marketing them, and how big of a priority they are. It's a piece of the pie that's considered when it comes to offers for corporate endorsements and commercial sponsorships, how much they can command for touring, how big the rooms they can play on tour are, what playlists they get added to on radio and streaming services, and more. It seriously impacts their bottom line.
A problem remains, however: very few women left with awards last night. They cleaned up (obviously) in the gender-segregated categories but, as far as pop music goes, Camila Cabello, in the fan-voted Billboard Chart Achievement Award, and Taylor Swift, for Top Selling Album, were the only women who took home a trophy in a mixed-gender category. Why is this a problem? Because when we go back to review the Billboard Awards for 2018, it won't matter who was on the show (unless they have an iconic clip that goes viral). What we'll look back on in the future is the list of winners. Those wins will become bullet points in the data that the stakeholders who invest money in these artists (record labels) refer to. The more awards you have, the more lauded you are, the more No. 1's you rack up, the more value you have.
It's awesome that women were represented at the 2018 Billboard Music Awards. In the short term, it will juice their careers and profiles. In the long term, though, women are still losing.
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