The Music Industry Has a Long Way to Go on Diversity, USC Annenberg Report Concludes

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Black and underrepresented artists may be heavily represented on the charts, but the music companies that release, promote and tour those artists have a long way to go when it comes to diversity in their executive ranks, according to “Inclusion in the Music Business: Gender & Race/Ethnicity Across Executives, Artists & Talent Teams,” an authoritative new study from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The report can be found in its entirety here.

The study found that across 70 major and independent music companies, just 13.9% of top executives across were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, 4.2% were Black, and 13.9% were women.

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Across the members of the senior management teams at nine major companies as shown on their websites, only 18.8% of executive board members were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, 8.5% were Black and 30.8% were women. The report notes that half of the U.S. population are women, 14% are Black, and 40% identify with an underrepresented racial/ethnic group.

The study — which was sponsored by Universal Music Group, the world’s largest music company — is the first in a series from Dr. Stacy L. Smith and Dr. Carmen Lee and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative to examine race/ethnicity and gender in the executive ranks in the music industry, surveyed 4,060 executives from the Vice President level to C-Suite roles across 119 companies and six industry categories – from music groups, labels and publishers to radio, streaming, live music/concert promotion. Annenberg has published other authoritative reports on the gender and racial diversity challenges the music industry faces, including a much discussed one on the lack of female advancement. (Variety spoke with Smith and her colleague Kate Pipier — who had many insights and observations to share — about the report on Monday; that interview is publishing later Tuesday.)

Breaking down the results by company category, the report notes that music groups (UMG, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group) had the greatest share of underrepresented (26.3%) and Black (23.7%) executives on their senior management teams. Live music and concert promotion companies (Live Nation, AEG Presents) had the fewest underrepresented (12.5%) executives and no Black senior management team members listed on their websites, but had the highest percentage of women team members (40.6%). Radio and streaming companies (iHeart Radio, Cumulus, Audacy, Spotify) held a middle ground between the other two categories: 17% of senior management team members were underrepresented, 2.1% were Black, and 23.4% were women.

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The results are not much better further down the executive chain. Of more than 4,000 executives at 119 major and independent companies and their subsidiaries, 19.8% of executives at the VP-level and above were underrepresented, 7.5% were Black, and 35.3% were women. Underrepresented and Black executives varied little from the VP/Head level of employment to EVP/SVP/GM roles, or in Chief/President positions.

For women, as power increased, the percentage of women in executive roles decreased significantly, the report notes, although the trend was primarily driven by white women’s presence in the executive ranks. More than one-quarter (26.9%) of all women executives were white women, with only 8.4% underrepresented women, which includes 3% of executives who were Black women.

White women filled 32.4% of VP/Head roles, 23.3% of EVP/SVP/GM positions, but comprised only 14.7% of CEO/Chief/President spots. In contrast, underrepresented women filled fewer than 10% of all roles: 9.2% of VP/Head roles, 8.2% of EVP/SVP/GM jobs, and 5.6% of CEO/Chief/President slots. Black women filled even fewer spots: 3% of VP/Head roles; 3.3% of EVP/SVP/GM jobs, and 2.4% of CEO/Chief/President positions.

“The path to influence in music looks very different for white women and women of color,” the report states.

Streaming companies, music groups and labels emerged as the leaders in hiring and promotion of underrepresented executives – a quarter of executive roles were held by underrepresented individuals – while only 12.3% of radio executives were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, the lowest across all categories.

“There was little mobility for underrepresented executives toward CEO/Chief/President roles,” the report says.

Record labels were the only category where the percentage of Black executives (14.4%) reached proportional representation with the U.S. population. In every other category, the percentage was less than 10%: 7.4% in streaming, 7.2% in music groups, 6.1% in publishing, 4% in radio, and 3.3% in live music and concert promotion.

“These figures are startling, given that Black artists were 37.7% of all artists on the popular charts in the last nine years,” the report states.

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Turning to women executives, not one category reached 40%. Live music and concert promotion came closest (39.1%), but other categories (e.g., music groups, streaming, labels) were similar. Roughly one-third of all executives in radio (33.2%) and publishing (31.9%) were women.

Perhaps not surprisingly, artists and the label jobs that work most closely with artists — A&R — reflect diversity the most. The researchers identified 1,750 solo artists signed to the labels investigated in the study. Of those, nearly half (48.3%) were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, 31.2% were Black, and 31.8% were women. The reason for music labels’ comparatively more inclusive performance also became clear when the Artist & Repertoire (A&R) executives were evaluated. A full 34.2% of A&R executives across the three music groups and independent companies were underrepresented – which is close to proportional representation with the U.S. population – and 26.7% of all A&R executives were women.

Slightly less than a quarter (21.2%) of A&R executives overall were Black—above proportional representation to the population, but below the percentage of Black solo performers on the charts. Where companies still lag is for underrepresented women –-less than 10% of all A&R executives were women of color and less than 5% of A&R executives were Black women (4.8%), although the presence of women of color on the popular charts has steadily increased in recent years.

The report’s conclusion begins: “Commitments, statements, and charitable giving are all important ways for companies to take action to foster racial justice. However, change begins at home. To truly foster an equitable, inclusive industry, companies must look carefully at the way they recruit, hire, and promote. This must extend to the way positions are siloed or stereotyped, and how preference may be given to certain types of people or experiences that facilitate movement up the proverbial corporate ladder. At the core, this examination must include a careful look at the attributes and perceptions of leadership embraced by companies and the people that inhabit these organizations.”

Read the full the 25-page report in its entirety here.

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