Gender pay gap data for the UK published at the start of April showed that Universal, Sony and Warner are still lumbered with significant pay disparities in favour of their male executives.
The main headline from that report was that the average gender pay gap across all three companies is 29.6% – with 29.1% at Universal, 20.9% at Sony and 38.7% at Warner.
There’s still work to be done at the biggest music corporations, then, but a number of their independent competitors do offer a glimmer of hope for the music business in general.
Although organizations with fewer than 250 staff are not required to make their pay gap data public, some indies in the UK business have been bucking the trend on gender diversity for a while now.
Not only because they feel it’s the right thing to do, but it actually benefits their businesses.
Take Absolute Label Services, best known for powering album campaigns for a broad range of clients including Steps, All Saints, Jake Shears, Alice Cooper, 67, Dappy and many more in recent years.
Absolute actually boasts a workforce made up of 57% women with zero pay gap at the company.
“I’ve been here for 18 years and I’ve never seen gender play a role in career progression at Absolute,” says Absolute’s Financial Director Debs Cutting.
“From recruitment to promotion, we have always rewarded people based on ability, work ethic and character. Our policy is to put the right people in the right roles. If the right person is a woman, she is not just given the opportunity but, as the business grows, is encouraged to develop her own career. We’ve always been supportive of flexible working hours and job sharing, supporting people who want to have a family.
“Equal representation benefits us hugely as a company, especially at a creative and management level. Our current senior management team is 60% female.”
Absolute works with various organizations to give breadth to its recruitment process, regularly giving apprenticeships to budding executives through schemes run by UK Music and Creative Access, the latter of which is specifically geared towards paid opportunities in the creative industries for young people from under-represented backgrounds.
“We’ve been in partnership with Creative Access since 2014, and have had two interns come through their programme and gain full time jobs here,” says Cutting.
“We also work with DiVA Apprenticeships, which values the diversity of the young people they support through their training schemes. We’ve had four apprentices from DiVA so far, two of which, again, were employed full-time following their training and continue to work here.”
“In the A&R department, we have three women and three men. Industry-wide, that’s an area that I feel is often very male driven, so it’s exciting that we’ve got an equal balance.”
Sarah Liversedge, Bucks Music Group
Indie publisher Bucks Music Group – which has a wealth of young writers on its roster and a catalogue including copyrights from heavyweights such as David Bowie, T Rex and Procol Harum – operates without a gender pay gap, employing 14 women and 16 men across the company, with a 10-strong senior management team split 50/50.
“I think it’s quite an organic process,” says the company’s Director Creative A&R Sarah Liversedge, who is also Managing Director and owner of her own BDi Music, administered by Bucks Music Group.
“If someone leaves, we’ll assess their department as a whole and think about who we want to step into the role. We get an overview of the balance and the cross-section of people that we already have in the department.”
Liversedge suggests that gender balance within a company should be approached in the same way as ensuring teams have a broad enough range of skills and expertise.
“Our sync team used to be dominated by men and so we were really happy to bring Fahima Jan on board, primarily because she’s an excellent creative sync and licensing exec, but also because she offers female perspective and experience,” she says.
“In the A&R department, we have three women and three men. Industry-wide, that’s an area that I feel is often very male driven, so it’s exciting that we’ve got an equal balance. We have executives in the department like Hannah Vincent who leans towards alternative rock and heavy metal. Again, you wouldn’t traditionally expect to find many women A&Ring in that genre, so we’re very proud that she’s driving that forward for us.”
Fellow indie publisher Reservoir, which has offices in New York, London and LA – all led by women – has a similar gender split: 19 men and 17 women, with four women and five men in the UK office, and zero pay gap both in London and across the whole company.
“We have always sought the best qualified and most equipped individuals, and competitively compensate each employee based on their qualifications and experience,” says Reservoir’s Founder and CEO Golnar Khosrowshahi, based in New York.
Khosrowshahi says that, as a result, Reservoir is a company that represents the diversity of society.
“Our business perspective has been one governed by the most qualified outlook of those in leadership positions on our team,” she adds.
“Their qualification may be informed by diversity, but it is certainly not because of their diversity. Similarly, our construct internally is reflected in our clientele, as we have a diverse roster across gender, race, sexuality, and genre.”
“We have always sought the best qualified and most equipped individuals, and competitively compensate each employee based on their qualifications and experience.”
Golnar Khosrowshahi, Reservoir
It may be hard to take much encouragement from the most recent pay gap data disclosed by major companies across the UK industry, but Khosrowshahi says, broadly speaking, there are reasons for optimism.
“It is great to see initiatives like She Is The Music and Spotify & SoundGirls’ EQL Directory – for which our writer Ali Tamposi serves on the Advisory Board – and our writer Carla Marie Williams’ female empowerment movement, Girls I Rate, for example,” she says.
“More women are being recognised for their accomplishments. Cardi B just became the first solo female rapper to win the Grammy for Rap Album of the Year and the Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical) went to a female mastering engineer for the first time, also.”
Bucks and BDi Music’s Liversedge adds: “There are more events and awards that inspire and bring together strong women from right across the industry now. The PRS Foundation is very supportive with things like Women Make Music, and I’m one of the mentors for the Lynsey de Paul Prize, which provides a bursary and mentoring for emerging female solo music creators. So there are lots of schemes that are pushing women forward in the industry.
Liversedge also says that women in music are making a far more concerted effort to support each other.
“Five or 10 years ago, I think women were still very protective over their success,” she suggests. “Because they’d fought so hard for it, I don’t think sharing was on the agenda but it definitely is now. I think that’s because women feel so much more empowered.
“Having said all that, you only need to go to one of the industry award ceremonies to see that they’re very, well, male. That always knocks me back when I go to certain events – how male dominated and chauvinistic they are.”
Absolute’s Cutting adds that, despite moving in the right direction, there is still a reluctance from many to really champion equality.
“We’re seeing more accountability and that’s driving a change,” she says. “Slowly but surely, having more women and more people from different cultural backgrounds will naturally lead to greater diversity.
“Until then, when we see a cultural or gender imbalance or injustice, we need to make sure we’re proactive in addressing it. There’s still a stigma around doing that – you can still be branded a whistle blower or trouble maker – but I think, as we make progress, people will become more empowered to contribute to change.”Music Business Worldwide