KMA Gender Distribution 2004-2014

Starting with a look at how the categories in the Korean Music Awards have changed over the years, followed by a look at which genres typically do better in the general categories of the Korean Music Awards, this instance of the KMA history series will have a look at how male and female solo artists and groups have fared in the awards 2004-2014.

The line-ups of groups may change as times passes. These statistics have been gathered considering the gender of a solo artist or the members in a group at the first year of nomination, meaning that e.g. both Rumble Fish and 9 and the Numbers have been counted as mixed groups even though the former is now a female solo artist and the latter is now an all-male group. To my knowledge there have not been any solo artists or band members nominated for the Korean Music Awards openly identifying as third gender.

Gender Overview


Before we get into the details with gender distribution for the specific awards categories, above is a chart showing the gender distribution for nominees in the general and genre categories of the Korean Music Awards. The total number of nominees has fluctuated since the start, but in recent years has been somewhere around a hundred. Each nomination has been counted meaning that if an artist or group has been nominated for 2 different awards the same year there will be 2 entries that year for that specific artist or group.

Since the start the majority of the nominees in the Korean Music Awards have been male. On average there have been roughly as many mixed groups as female solo artists nominated. All-female groups are the rarest to find nominated in the Korean Music Awards–very few female groups were nominated for any award during the first years of the Korean Music Awards, but in 2010 there was a sudden increase. The number of nominated female groups has declined since.

As could be seen from part 2 of the KMA genre breakdown, two thirds of the women nominated for Female Artist of the Year were not nominated in any of the genre categories. This may explain why in 2008, after which the nominees for any of the general awards with only 1 exception were also nominated in at least 1 of the genre categories, the Male Artist/Female Artist/Group of the Year categoreis were replaced by simply Artist of the Year.

Gender Winners Overview


The gender distribution for the winners of the general and genre categories of the Korean Music Awards resembles the gender distribution for the nominees of the same categories, albeit with sharper turns. Again male solo artists and groups are better represented while female groups generally are less represented.

Something to consider while studying the winner chart is that 2004-2007 the Artist of the Year category was separated into Male Artist, Female Artist, and Group of the Year meaning that at least 1 winning female solo artist per year was guaranteed.


Although few female groups have won any awards throughout the years, however, when several female groups have been nominated female groups are on average more likely to win. The table above shows winner/nomination ratio


General Awards



The general awards categories of the Korean Music Awards cover Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Artist of the Year, Rookie of the Year and the now discontinued Performance of the Year. The diagram and table above shows Artist of the Year only 2008-2014 as the category prior to that was instead 3 categories covering Male Artist, Female Artist, and Group of the Year.

The ratio for female solo+groups vs. male solo+groups nominations has historically been roughly 1/4 for Album of the Year and Artist of the Year. For Song of the Year and Rookie of the Year the ratio is closer to 1/3. Male solo artists are best represented in all categories except Rookie of the year, where the preference is 5/2 times for groups over solo artists–compared to all the other categories where the ratio in general is closer to 1/1.

The only ever female group to have been nominated for Album of the Year is Big Mama, competing with debut album Like The Bible in 2004. The only ever female solo artist to have been nominated for Performance of the Year is Jangeun Bae, competing in 2008.

General Awards Winners



Looking to the winners of the general awards categories there is an even lower representation of female solo artists and groups. No female solo artist or group has ever won either Album of the Year or Performance of the Year. For Album of the Year the female/male winner ratio is 1/4, just as the nominee ratio for the same award. For Artist of the Year, however, the female/male winner ratio is only 1/6. Looking to winners of Rookie of the Year the preference for groups over solo artists is even stronger than that when looking at nominees with an 11/2 ratio.

Song of the Year has been the category least likely to see anything but a male solo artist to win. The only ever female group to have won is Girls’ Generation that took home the award thanks to “Gee” in 2010. The only ever female solo artist to have won is IU that took home the award thanks to “Good Day” in 2012. The only ever male group to have won Song of the Year is Hot Potato that took home the award in 2011 with “고백.” The first year of the KMA, 2004, is the so far only year where a mixed grop won the awards–Loveholic with “Loveholic.”

Artist of the Year has been a male oriented category–at least as far as the winners are concerned–since it became the joint category it is today. Not until 2014 was there a female winner in Sunwoo Jung-A. In the group oriented Rookie of the Year category only two solo artists have won the award so far: Jung Jaeil in 2014 and Younha in 2008.


Genre Awards



Considering the gender distribution for the genre categories of the Korean Music Awards, it is clear that some genres are almost exclusively the domain for men: Rock, Rap & Hip Hop, and Soundtrack. The strongest female representation can be found in the Dance & Electronic genre with 37% of nominees being either all-female groups or female solo artists.


In addition to differences between genders regarding music genres, there is also a difference in whether the nomination is for one of the album or song categories. The table above shows how many of the totals nominations in the genre categories were for albums from 2006-2014, as there were no genre song categories prior to those years. For the Jazz & Crossover category the span is only 2006-2008 as the Best Jazz & Crossover Song category disappeared thereafter. Soundtrack has been excluded from the table above as there was never any Soundtrack Song category.

Overall female groups and female solo artists are more likely to be nominated for songs rather than albums in the respective genre categories. The only clear exception is Modern Rock, however the total count of female nominees in either Modern Rock category is very small (1 female group; 3 female solo artists) so a proper conclusion can barely be made. For Dance & Electronic–the genre where the female representation was the strongest–less than a third of the nominations have been in the Best Dance & Electronic Album category.

Genre Album Awards

The gender statistics for the genre album categories largely resembles the proportions for the total genre categories, albeit with less female representation.

In the case of Rock Albums, there have so far only been one female solo artist nominated: blues vocalist Kang Huh Dalrim for her 기다림, 설레임 in 2009. The so far only female group to have been nominated in the Modern Rock Album category is mukimukimanmansu with debut album 2012 in 2013. Whang Bo Ryung and Jang Pil Soon remain the only two female solo artists to have been nominated for an album in the same genre. The R&B & Soul category has seen a relatively large share of female artists, but the only all-female group to have received a nomination for Best R&B & Soul Album is Big Mama with Like The Bible in 2004.

The Soundtrack category primarily considers solo artists–the 3 “mixed groups” registered are soundtracks where the majority of songs are contributed by a variety of groups and solo artist with no music director listed in Daum’s movie database: Ireland (아일랜드), My Lovely Sam-Soon (내 이름은 김삼순), Bravo! Jazz Life (브라보! 재즈 라이프). While the category lasted only two female musicians saw their movie scores nominated: Japanese composer Yoko Kanno nominated in 2008 for her work on movie The Show Must Go On (우아한 세계), and Shim Hyeon Jeong nominated in 2012 for her work on movie The Man from Nowhere (아저씨).

Genre Album Awards Winners


The winners of the genre album categories further pronounce the tendencies to favor male groups for Best Rock Album with the only male solo artist to win the category being Jeong Cha Sik for his second solo album 격동하는 현재사 in 2013.

The best success rate for winning the award after being nominated is found among the soundtracks gathering various artists, where 2/3 have won. The highest rate after that is 1/3 shared by male solo artists in the Modern Rock album category, female groups and female solo artists in the Dance & Electronic album category, and female artists in the R&B & Soul category.

Genre Song Awards



Contrary to the genre album awards categories, the genre song awards categories sees stronger female representation.

For Rock Songs, again the only every female solo artist to have a song nominated is Kang Huh Dalrim in 2009 for her “기다림, 설레임“. The only ever female solo artist to have a song nominated in the Modern Rock category is Lang Lee in 2013 for her “잘 알지도 못하면서“.

Out of all genre categories, historically the by far most male dominated is Rap & Hip Hop where only once a co-ed group has been nominated–Primary Skool, with Kim Sin Young playing the keyboard. The year was 2007 and the song was “지붕 위의 바이올린“.

Genre Song Awards Winners



Just like with the Rock Albums, there is a strong favor of male groups for Best Rock Songs. Similarly, even though there have been almost as many male solo artists as male groups nominated for Best Rap & Hip Hop Song, there is a strong favor of male groups also there.

Disregarding the Jazz & Crossover song category, which only lasted 3 years, the best success rate for winning the award after being nominated is encountered among female groups nominated for Best Dance & Electronic Song where nearly 1/3 of nominees have won. Notably, in the same category any solo artist has yet to be named a winner.

Data sources, award nominees: 한국대중음악상; Pgr21
Data sources, gender: Bugs Music; maniadb

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.