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10 Women Who Are Changing the World of Music

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Read Time: 7 min

From instrumental performers, songwriters, and vocalists to music journalists, attorneys, and executives, women have come a long way. In this article, to celebrate International Women's Day on 8th March 2017, I'll show you ten influential and dynamic women across music's global playing field. 

1. Sara Clemens

Sara ClemensSara ClemensSara Clemens article: Pandora's Sara Clemens' tips to achieving market disruptor status

As the chief operating office of the United States' largest music streaming service, Pandora, Sara seeks to broaden the scope of the musical giant and create greater transparency, thus changing the way the company is viewed. 

Her influence has given artists greater access to marketing tools and control over their own presence. By the use of analytics, they now have a much greater sense of their demographics which facilitates the growth of their audiences. 

Clemens was recently ranked in Billboard's 50 Most Powerful Women Executives in Music list in 2015, and then again in their100 Most Powerful Women Executives in Music list for 2016. Her notable achievements being Pandora's purchases of the data company Next Big Sound and the company Ticketfly

Clemens also ran other artist-friendly resources and innovations to help advance the company's relationships in the industry. 

2. Adele

Photograph by Egghead06 - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0

You'd have to be sleeping under a rock to be unaware of this popular singer's magnitude. The BRIT School for Performing Arts graduate was discovered via her post on Myspace. 

Since then, she has won countless Grammy Awards, having swept the most recent show. She is the first woman in history of the Billboard Hot 100 to have three top ten singles, as a lead artist, at the same time. 

The song she penned for the James Bond film Skyfall garnered a Golden Globe Award, a Grammy and an Academy Award for best song. 

Her current record sales are in excess of 100 million units. 

In addition to countless other philanthropic endeavors, Adele has been a major contributor to MusiCares founded by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, also known as NARAS, to help musicians in need.

3. Peng Liyuan

Peng Liyuan, image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Peng is a very popular soprano folk singer and president of the People's Liberation Army Academy of Art. 

Artistically she has garnered many singing awards nationwide, enjoyed successful singles, and sung the theme songs for several popular television series. 

Prior to her current position with the Academy of Art, she was a civilian member of China's People's Liberation Army and held a civilian rank that would be the equivalent of Major General. 

She is also an active advocate of education for girls. No stranger to criticism, Peng performed for the martial-law trips following the Tiananmen Square protests, and was met with heavy criticism from Tibetan rights groups.

Peng Liyuan is married to a Chinese politician.

4. Bozoma Saint John

Bozoma Saint John presenting at Apples WWDC 2016Bozoma Saint John presenting at Apples WWDC 2016Bozoma Saint John presenting at Apples WWDC 2016
Bozoma Saint John presenting at Apple's WWDC 2016

Ghana-born, Bozoma Saint John, was named Women In Music's 2016 Executive of the Year. As the first black woman to present at an Apple event, the dynamic head of global marketing for iTunes and Apple Music, took the stage by storm demonstrating new Apple functions to the beat of rap music. 

Saint John resents outside references to her being female and black, and feels she simply does what she does better than anybody else by coming across as down-to-earth and approachable.

You can watch Bozoma Saint John's presentation at Apple's WWDC 2016. The presentation starts at 71 minutes.

5. Dolly Parton

Dolly PartonDolly PartonDolly Parton
Dolly Parton in 2011, photo by pipilongstockings photo licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0

Singer, songwriter, musician, producer, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist are all hats worn by larger-than-life Tennessean Dolly Parton. 

From a humble background, Parton is known primarily as a legendary country music performer and debuted her first album in 1967. She is the all-time most honored woman country performer and has racked up 25 number-one songs on Billboard, more than any other woman artist. 

Parton starred in quite a few movies including Steel Magnolias and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Her critically acclaimed Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors was a recent made-for-TV film that also had a successful sequel. 

Parton owns a major amusement park in the Smoky Mountains called Dollywood and remains a true benefactor to the people of her childhood community. Her literacy program, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library provides books to countless children free of charge.

Most recently she provided massive financial assistance to families stricken by the 2016 Smoky Mountains wildfires.

6. Iman Hashi

Iman HashiIman HashiIman Hashi
Screenshot of the Faarrow website featuring Iman Hashi, right.

Iman and her sister Siham, are Somali sisters that make up the Canadian duo Faarrow. Their family fled its homeland to escape civil war and relocated in Toronto as refugees. 

Fearing cultural taboos, the sisters later moved to Atlanta to pursue their growing music interest and eventually attracted Universal Motown. This connection was, however, short-lived and the girls relocated to Los Angeles where they adopted the name Farrow, a combination of the words 'faith' and 'arrow'. 

Their unique music evolved into a fusion of Pop, Hip Hop and World music with heavy emphasis on drums. The duo currently both serve as spokeswomen for the U.N. Refugee Agency and are involved with other humanitarian efforts as well.

7. Pussy Riot

Pussy RiotPussy RiotPussy Riot
By Denis Bochkarev - Denis Bochkarev at Красная площадь (Red Square). Current photo. (album and license)., CC BY-SA 3.0

Pussy Riot is a collective of approximately 11 women, Russian protesters who make up the Moscow punk rock group. 

They have been known to perform in unauthorized venues with provocative and guerilla undertones. In addition to their opposition to so-called dictator, Vladamir Putin, the band's themes include LGBT rights and feminism. 

Their performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, which was meant to protest the Orthodox church's support of Putin, led to the criticism and arrest of some of the group's members. 

Amnesty International became involved in their cause which contributed to their eventual release. The group performed at the Sochi Olympics but were attacked by security guards.

8. Taylor Swift

Taylor SwiftTaylor SwiftTaylor Swift
Photograph by Eva Rinaldi, licensed Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic CC BY-SA 2.0

Taylor Swift is an American singer songwriter who became the youngest artist ever signed by Sony ATV Music Publishing. She soon became the youngest person to ever write and perform a number one song on the Hot 100 Country Chart. 

Swift has won countless awards, setting various records along the way, and is one of the best-selling artists of all time. Her name is included in Times's 100 most influential people in the world, Forbes 100 most powerful women, and Forbes Celebrity 100

Her philanthropic efforts include but are not limited to Red Cross disaster relief, Hope for Haiti, and Architecture for Humanity. She has been honored by Do Something Awards, Tennessee Disaster Services, and the Big Help Award

She is an active advocate for literacy and against online predators.

9. Inna Modja

Inna ModjaInna ModjaInna Modja
Photograph by Xmrsmile - Own work, Licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

French singer, Inna Bocoum, was born in Mali and given the nickname she now uses by her mother. The name means Inna is Bad

Her parents and siblings encouraged her musical leanings. Inna's influences range from Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald to Rap, Heavy Metal, Blues, Soul, and Disco. Her eventual sound could be described as Pop Soul. 

She has released several successful albums, including her Love Revolution album which contained two top ten singles. 

Inna, along with four of her sisters, were all victims of female genital mutilation (FGM) without parental consent, and now speaks out against this horrific crime. She lent her voice to benefit Les Voix de L'enfant.

10. Dina LaPolt

Dina LaPoltDina LaPoltDina LaPolt
Photograph by StirlingScot - Own work, Licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Entertainment attorney, Dina LaPolt is an artist rights advocate based in Los Angeles, California. 

Formerly a rock musician on the East Coast of the United States, she later became a club promoter and artist manager. Eventually after attaining her bachelor's in music, she relocated to San Francisco where she was a member of an all-girl band, Irresistible Impulse, which gave voice to her gay and lesbian rights advocacy. 

Soon thereafter, she got her law degree. She was the attorney for the Tupac Shakur estate and facilitated some of his posthumous releases. 

LaPolt has been actively involved in advocating for songwriters rights and headlined when she filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice on behalf of songwriters. She made the recent 2016 Billboard's Top Music Lawyers as well as 2016's Top Women in Music.

Many More

Obviously, these women are the tip of the iceberg. Countless others, along with them, are changing the way the world views music, and more importantly the way the world views women.

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