Arab superstar Latifa debuts as SAWTIK’s godmother to mentor 16 emerging female artists including Jara from Saudi Arabia
Spotify, the world’s largest audio platform, launches ‘SAWTIK’, an initiative to celebrate and amplify the voices of emerging unsigned female artists in MENA, following research that unveiled their deepening underrepresentation in the region’s music scene.
With female artists comprising less than 13% of those signed by MENA-based labels in the past five years, SAWTIK, which means “Your Voice,” will use Spotify’s reach to raise their visibility, while offering them education, networking opportunities and marketing support. SAWTIK debuts with an impressive line-up of 16 talented voices from the region and Arab superstar Latifa joins as the initiative’s first-ever godmother.
Recognizing the scarcity of female artists in the MENA music industry, Spotify conducted a region-wide research collecting insights from across the music ecosystem. With findings showing there is still a long way to go to level the gender playing field in the region’s music industry, Spotify saw the need to launch SAWTIK.
Data highlights the challenges for emerging female artists in MENA
Stigma and stereotyping. Around 60% of aspiring female artists feel stigmatized for pursuing a career in music, where 1 in 2 aspiring female artists say they were advised against it. Half of the labels surveyed believe the ratio of female to male Arab artists had declined in the last 10 years due to sociocultural restrictions and female stereotyping. A quarter of the aspiring artists surveyed believe female stereotyping is making it difficult for them to break into the music industry, where 1 in 2 aspiring female artists have never recorded music, limiting their exposure and source of income to only live performances.
High demand for female-driven Arab music but limited access. 86% of the labels surveyed agree that there is demand for Arab female artists, yet finding new female artists to sign remains challenging. The same rings true for listeners, where around half of non-mainstream music listeners do not listen to local non-mainstream female artists as they are not aware of any. Half of the labels surveyed say that female artists make up more than 40% of their top 10 performing artists despite representing 25% or less of the labels’ entire catalogue.
Their voices will be heard
The launch of SAWTIK will see Spotify turn up the volume on the MENA’s most enthralling voices, showcasing the depth of the region’s talent, and helping emerging female artists break into the music industry. The 16 artists joining the initiative’s launch phase span the region from Morocco to Tunisia, Algeria, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE.
Commenting on the launch, Claudius Boller, Managing Director for Middle East and Africa (MEA) at Spotify said: “While Arabic music continues to thrive in the region and around the world, female artists continue to be underrepresented. SAWTIK is one of the many ways we are looking to amplify the voices of emerging female artists across the Middle East and North Africa and use Spotify’s global reach to further their careers. We are only beginning this journey, and with Latifa joining SAWTIK as the initiative’s first godmother, the artists will have an extraordinary mentor who will provide guidance and knowledge.”
Latifa will work with SAWTIK’s emerging female artists closely to nurture and endorse their future efforts. Speaking about SAWTIK, Latifa said: “Female Arab artists continue to fight stereotypes and other barriers in the pursuit of their musical passions, and the research from Spotify confirms this. My journey hasn’t happened without its challenges and while I enjoy a successful career, there are many others still waiting for the right opportunity to shine. With SAWTIK, female artists have a powerful platform to showcase their talent and connect with audiences who will love their music across all genres. I am excited to extend my support to these artists and help them see a real lift in their careers.”
Making them seen: A SAWTIK takeover of curated playlists, billboards, design collaborations and more
To honour its commitment to women in music and the arrival of SAWTIK, Spotify is also launching a regional campaign highlighting the musical and cultural contributions of female artists through a series of activities and experiences. On-platform, listeners can see Arab female artists taking over the covers of 18 of Spotify’s flagship playlists including Arab X and Arab Hip-Hop, as well as throwback playlists and many more for a week with a call to action to check out SAWTIK’s official playlist. Additionally, the first song on each of these playlists will be by female artists. The SAWTIK playlist will continue to feature the region’s incredibly talented emerging female artists that deserve to be recognized for their art. Music fans can also catch the faces of SAWTIK’s debut artists on billboards in Cairo, Riyadh, Amman and Casablanca.
Lynn Fattouh, Consumer Marketing Manager for Middle East and Africa (MEA) at Spotify said: "We designed the SAWTIK initiative to support emerging unsigned female artists with the access and tools they most needed. We are elevating their voices through our SAWTIK playlist, which embraces their unique sounds. The SAWTIK playlist is built to expose the region’s best emerging female artists. It will connect them to new and existing audiences and put their work under the music industry’s radar.”
Spotify is also dedicating its social media publication to SAWTIK artists for the next 48 hours and will host the work of Arab female visual artists who created art pieces celebrating female empowerment and SAWTIK. All the visual creative pieces can be found on Spotify’s local instagram page.
This is just the beginning for SAWTIK. In the coming months, Spotify will roll out several activities supporting emerging female artists from the region, including hosting its first-ever female only masterclass to educate female creators about Spotify For Artists and how to successfully market their music. Spotify will continue to find new ways to uplift the careers of female artists from the region.
Join Spotify and celebrate female emerging artists from MENA through discovering their music on Spotify’s playlist “SAWTIK”.
Spotify conducted a region-wide research collecting insights from across the music ecosystem including aspiring female artists, listeners, music experts and MENA-based labels.
Spotify Research Key Findings Commissioned By Nielsen
Spotify worked with Nielsen on a regional multi-layered research study done both qualitatively and quantitatively with aspiring female artists interested in pursuing a musical career (age 16-40), male and female music listeners who are engaged in the industry (age 16-40), across different social classes. Music industry experts were also covered qualitatively for additional insights. The research was conducted in January and February 2020 across 4 key markets: Egypt, Lebanon, Kuwait and Morocco.
Aspiring female artists:
Industry Experts interviews:
Music Label Survey
An anonymous online questionnaire was conducted with leading labels from the MENA region about gender representation in the music industry. Fieldwork was undertaken between September 23 to October 6.