Billboard’s Power 100 shames the music biz and should trouble us all

Outrage over perceived prejudice is a strong currency online.

If you’re red in the face with indignation, it’s far easier to come by clicks, followers and Likes.

MBW is careful of this stuff, because it often doesn’t do anyone any good.

Although it can be fun to read, all fabricated exasperation usually achieves is a lessening of impact when genuine inequity is displayed.

This is one of those times.

Here are some alarming facts about the latest Billboard Power 100 list:

  • The entire Top 10 is made up of white men
  • A non-white face doesn’t appear within the Top 30
  • Women comprise just 9% of the list

Segmenting the new Power 100 by race throws up the most troubling results.

This is an arguable take, and a nuanced one: if you categorise white Hispanics as white people, then there are just two non-white faces in the Top 50 – Warner/Chappell CEO Jon Platt (No.31) and OVO founder Oliver El-Khatib (No.47).

That means white people make up 96% of the top half of the list.

Continuing this rationale, just 7.8% of the entire Top 100 are non-white individuals – including Roc Nation’s Jay Brown (No.52), Epic‘s LA Reid & Sylvia Rhone (No.54), UMG‘s Jeffrey Harleston (No.60), MasterCard’s Raja Rajamannar (No.66), Maverick’s Cortez Bryant, Gee Roberson & Shawn Gee (No.77) and 300 Entertainment/manager Kevin Liles (No.81).

(MBW worked out these % figures by taking the appropriate fraction of a percentage where a relevant person is included as a group, and as 1% when they were the sole entrant.)

Including white Hispanics, the percentage number of non-white people inside the Top 100 increases by 5.5%.


This isn’t a stick with which to beat Billboard.

The publication says it went through arduous protocol to ensure its list was as reflective of true influence as possible. (Although there are a fair few questionable omissions – not least Tidal & Roc Nation mogul Jay Z.)

Neither are we having a pop at those who ended up at the summit.

It’s hard to argue that Lucian Grainge isn’t the most powerful exec in music, or that Michael Rapino (No.2) and the Apple Music team (four more white men, No.3) aren’t presiding over hugely powerful platforms. (Spotify‘s Daniel Ek, however, might have something to say about being seven places below Jimmy Iovine.)

Yet surely we can’t all stand by and applaud the depiction of an industry which appears so non-diverse – and proud of it.

At some point, we’re going to have to hold a collective, meaningful discussion about the sort of music business we wish to work in, as well as who it systemically rewards – and who it does not.


 Music Business Worldwide

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