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10 Women Who Helped Shape the Music Industry

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Female artists have definitely made their mark throughout the years within the music industry. Between country, pop, rock, and various genres in between, there are hundreds of women who have helped shape the industry-proving that they hold an important presence in the world of music. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re honoring 10 of our top female music leaders. 


 1. Barbara Streisand

Photo courtesy Streisand's Facebook Page.

Photo courtesy Streisand’s Facebook Page.

Barbara Streisand, pop and jazz singer, actress and film director, has sold 245 million copies sold worldwide, won eight Grammys, four Peabody Awards, and 11 Golden Globes. Streisand’s awards list goes on and on, as her popularity has grown throughout the years.  Her career has spanned over six decades, and she has earned recognition as Mother of All Contemporary Pop Divas. She will always be known for her numerous successes and her intense, inviting voice.


 2. Madonna

Cover for Madonna's album, Rebel Heart. Photo courtesy Madonna's Facebook page.

Cover for Madonna’s album, Rebel Heart. Photo courtesy Madonna’s Facebook page.

Madonna is the biggest female recording artist with over 300 million records sold worldwide. Her popularity soared after pushing the boundaries with her lyrics and music videos, which became a fixture on MTV. She achieved stardom with hit singles “Into the Groove” and “Like a Prayer” in the ‘80s, but at age 57, she is still pushing forward. Madonna is currently on her sold-out world tour, keeping the dream alive.


 3.  Janis Joplin

Photo courtesy Joplin's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Joplin’s Facebook page.

Janis Joplin defined the ‘60s and gained extreme world-wide recognition after her performance at Woodstock. Joplin was known as the lead singer of the psychedelic rock band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later during her solo career with her own backing groups The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band. Although she passed away at the young age of 27, Joplin will forever be remembered as a hippie with a booming voice.


 4. Amy Winehouse

Photo courtesy Winehouse's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Winehouse’s Facebook page.

Amy Winehouse was not only well-known for her extreme winged eyeliner, but also for her intriguing, passionate voice. Winehouse’s second album, Back to Black, which was released in 2006, sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Her heartfelt and personal lyrics helped Winehouse soar to the top, making her one of the most well-known singer-songwriters in the industry before her death in 2011.


 5. Britney Spears

Photo courtesy Spears's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Spears’s Facebook page.

Despite Britney Spears’ breakdown in 2007, she is one of the most well-known artists in the country. Her albums …Baby One More Time and Oops…I Did It Again were international successes, with “Baby One More Time” becoming the best selling album by a teenage artist. Spears gained the title of “The Princess of Pop” after her popularity increased in the ‘90s. She not only has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but also a star in every ‘90s kids’ hearts.


 6. Nicki Minaj

Photo courtesy Minaj's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Minaj’s Facebook page.

Nicki Minaj first received public attention after releasing three mix-tapes between 2007 and 2009. In 2010, she became the first female solo artist to have seven singles simultaneously charting on the Billboard Hot 100. Minaj’s rapping helped her stand out amongst other hip-hop artists throughout this past decade. Her rapping is distinctive and different from any other artist because of its fast flow and her use of alter egos and accents.


 7. Lady Gaga

Photo courtesy Gaga's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Gaga’s Facebook page.

Lady Gaga pushes the limits with her songs, talking about sexuality and relationships. In 2008, she released The Fame which sold 15 million copies worldwide. No one knows what to expect with Gaga; she likes to stand out and present herself in different ways. In her “Lovegame” music video, she dances on the poles of the subway, and in “Telephone,” she is covered in only caution tape in a prison cell. She wore the infamous “meat dress” to the 2010 MTV awards, and everyone continues to await what she will do next. Gaga’s albums continue to impress, with Artpop in 2013, and Cheek to Cheek with Tony Bennet in 2014.


 8. Taylor Swift

Photo courtesy Swift's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Swift’s Facebook page.


Taylor Swift, although originally a country artist, has definitely made a mark in the pop scene. She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame at only age 22, and has won the Nashville Songwriters Association International Award for Songwriter/Artist of the Year six times. At awards ceremonies, Swift can barely hold all of her awards, as she thanks the crowd with honest and genuine sincerity. She presented her 1989 tour with an amazing offer: fans were invited to her house for a party, and left with a polaroid picture with Swift. She continues to pursue her career with catchy beats, intense video content, and heartfelt lyrics.


 9. Adele

Photo courtesy Adele's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Adele’s Facebook page.

The English singer-songwriter Adele, released her second studio album, 21, in 2011. Adele’s successes from this album earned her numerous mentions in The Guiness Book of World Records. She is not only the first woman in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to have three simultaneous top 10 singles as a lead artist, but is also the first female artist to simultaneously have two albums in the top five of the Billboard 200 and two singles in the top five of the Billboard 100. Three years later, Adele released 25 last October, and it has already broke first-week record sales in the U.S. and UK. Her hit single, “Hello,”  became the first song in the US to sell over one million digital copies within a week of its release. Adele’s powerful voice has helped her gain an intense amount of success, and she is not done yet.

 10. Katy Perry

Photo courtesy Perry's Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Perry’s Facebook page.

Katy Perry is the highest-earning non-boxer that has stolen the spot as No. 3 on the list of Forbes Highest Paying Celebrities of 2015. Perry just completed her Prismatic World Tour, which made two million dollars per show. Although she is now currently the third richest singer debuting after 2000, Perry came a long way. She was destined for stardom after her 2008 single, “I Kissed A Girl.”  Eight years later, she has five American Music Awards, five MTV Music Video Awards, a total of 69 consecutive weeks on the Billboard Top 100, the first female artist to have an album with five number one Billboard singles, 11 million albums sold and 81 million singles worldwide, the first female artist to reach 1 billion views on Vevo, and a world tour totaling 135 million dollars. Katy Perry’s songs are inspiring, catchy, and distinctive, making her stand out amongst all artists. She is definitely one to reckon with.


Which female leaders in the music industry inspire you? Tell us in the comments below. To listen to this and even more music, download the Trebel app here.

About Olivia Perreault

Olivia is a junior journalism major, with a double minor in English and communication studies at the University of Rhode Island. She's working on becoming a music journalist so she can share her love for the grooviest tunes with the world. Her music range is wide, varying from punk and metal to indie and folk. Catch her crowdsurfing at a show in NYC or writing poems in a coffeeshop.

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1 Comment

  1. Penelope

    March 17, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    I find it interesting that Judy Garland isn’t mentioned but Katy Perry is…hmmm..

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