Diversity In the Music Business? It Doesn’t Exist…

America’s got a pretty dirty history when it comes to race, but at least the situation is getting better.  And some would argue, completely transforming: after all, we just inaugurated our first black president a second time, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federally-observed holiday.

So why isn’t the music industry transforming, as well?  After more than a decade of disruption, it actually feels as if this industry is getting worse.  Anecdotally, I used to work at a heavily-alpha, suffocating, nepotistic major label (Sony Music Entertainment in New York), yet I was surrounded by some very powerful women and well, lots of people who weren’t white.  These days, a large percentage of my interactions through Digital Music News are with white men, a fair number of whom are ridiculously wealthy.

Don’t believe me?  On MLK day, I took a look at Billboard’s recent ‘Power 100‘ list, marking down every gender and race.  Of course, Digital Music News’ list would feature a lot of different disruptors, but these are undoubtedly some of the most influential (and rich) people in this business.

Here’s what I found.

I. Overall

II. Male vs. Female

III. White vs. Non White

32 Responses

  1. Jaded Industry Dude

    Yep. Seems about right. But I don’t get the impression it’s on purpose or anything. I’ve been in all sorts of different invironments and I never percieved racial or gender-tension. The music biz doesn’t care as long as you get your job done.

  2. Donna Ross-Jones

    Really? Really? It’s an accident? LOL. Gotta love your kind heart and willingness to see the best in folks. On the flip side, consider this: Compare this chart to the work force in the industry, the creatives; or break things down by simple consumer market share. You’ll get the same outcome: Women and minorities are critical to the business but they are not reaping the rewards. Accident, not so much. It’s a boys club, and a white boys club for sure. As an executive who’s been fortunate to do pretty well – so there’s no sour grapes here – I promise you this is by design.
    Paul, THANKS to you for posting this article. There’s nothing quite as illuminating as a color graph!

  3. QSDC

    If the music business is so white, then why has the Billboard Top 10 been dominated by non-white acts for so long?

      • EL GALLO



        • PAnda

          all you have to do is read a book, or take a look around. Were all slaves to the rich dont belive me…
          The average pay ratio for a fortune 50 company is 243:1
          really a CEO needs to make that much more then a worker?
          So yes we are slaves, they (the rich) keep everyone else down because they want to make more money. They are the ones who back politicians and who set the wages of their companys. Take a look around whos more picky right now the worker or the company.

          • R.P.

            all cap self loathing idealists deserve no responses. whatever education they have was not enough to command so, but thanks for the response panda.

    • Adam

      That’s a seriously ignorant comment. I’m not attacking you, but start doing a little research on race relations and maybe get good book to help you understand things you haven’t been exposed to yet. If you were to answer your own question, what do you think the answer would be? Use your brain a little bit…

  4. Nadir

    QSDC asks, “If the music business is so white, then why has the Billboard Top 10 been dominated by non-white acts for so long?”
    Paul’s study of diversity is a study of music biz execs, not of artists. This is more about who is making the money, and who has the power from a business standpoint. That certainly isn’t the artists (and never has been).

    Also the makeup of the Billboard Top 10 is largely a function of how the charts are reported. Since they are moving away from an airplay model, and more to a download and streaming model, we may see a shift in chart action as well.

    • EL GALLO

      I guess the name Berry Gordy Jr. is a mystery to you?
      Or Michael Jackson, who bought out the rights to the Beatles catalogue? Or Master P who is now an executive of a mini-musial empire?
      You Regressives, in your zeal to brown nose your PC commissars, end up insluting the “people of color” of which you (whatever race you might be) obviously have nothing in common with.
      The “diversity racket” is just that, a politcal racket that keeps the step-and-fetch it’s relevent, and keeps them on the payrol.

  5. El Gallo

    The “divesity” game is always played up by the Hip and Cool, you know, the “disruptive”.
    The NBA is dominated by Blacks and no one cares, so is much of the performance side of the music industry- and no one cares.
    The typical Leftist rant is to bitch about where the money is and see if they can find anything that will incriminate capitalism, Western Civilization, and/or Christianity- that’s their marching orders. Accusing any of the three of bigotry and racism is the standard fare and always gets an easy “yeah! Yeah! Power to the people!” pavlovian respose that qualifies in their circle as “critical thinking” and “disruptive” or “activism”
    They are the bean-counters of the bean-counters. The day Blacks want to concentrate on the executive side of the music business they will get there and do well- it has simply not been a focus for them at this time. Does it just torment the writer to see other White Males making money? Or are you just brown nosing your PC commisars so you can keep your job?

    • ps

      “a didrty history when it comes to race”

      Oh yeah, what a cool incriminating disruptive PC remark.
      First: as opposed to who and where? Have you eer left the USor the West?

      Second: You mean the people that fought a war to put an endd to institutional slavery, and then embarked on a civil rights movement to end insitutiional racism? Have you looked at the photos of the dead on the batelfields of the Civil War?
      Slavery was considerd normal by most of planet Earth by most humans- until the 19th and 20th century Western consciense was aroused. Slavery is still practiced in parts of East Africa where the Aab slave trade was an centuries old catastrophe that ended only when hte British forced the Saudis to give it up.
      Read some “disruptive” history for a change- like original sources and not the echo chaamber of Regressive wirters.

      • paul

        So, I should become a more enlightened slavery apologist like you?

        • EL GALLO

          Your real goal has nothing to do with slavery- it has to do with doing the bidding of your PC votes plantation owners. You want to incriminate capitalism by associating them with racism and slavery- that’s the real goal.

          • Adam

            El Gallo – you are way out of your league. You have embarrassed yourself publicly and clearly know absolutely nothing about race or race relations in the USA. Go do some research and talk to some people of color in a class about racism, and then see how you feel about the things you just said. You mean well, but you just are missing a large piece of the puzzle and don’t really understand how to put yourself in another race’s shoes. You can’t win this fight talking like you are, everyone else is going to see right through your meaningless and uneducated comments. If you pick an argument about race, start by learning something true first. This argument isn’t about how I feel vs how you feel vs how someone else feels. There are very real facts and realities about how race has affected things that you clearly never have been told or that you just haven’t been exposed to. You can’t just discount slavery and say you didn’t do it. Damage is done. I’ve fought this argument from your perspective as an ignorant fool before I actually learned about reality. I suggest you do the same…

          • el Gallo

            I categorically reject your emotional argument that referred to nothing of substance and nothing of history.

            YOu are beating a horse over and over as though the real concern was racial equality, when in fact the real argument is a veiled attack on Western civlization and capitalism.
            I repeat: slavery was ended by the West- not started by the West.
            But more importanlty, you are trying to imply that racism is why there are not more black people in the halways- that you frequent- as though that represents where everyon else is walking.
            In your book I have “embarrased” myself, becaue in the echo chamber you live in everyone parrots the same tired lines.
            There are many Black conservatives in America that reject your partonizing attitude towards them and see you, and your thinking, as the problems they have to overcome. You can’t believe that can you? It’s because you have probably never spoken to a Black conservative. Try it- it might penetrate the dense opiating fog the liberal establishment is immersed in.

  6. pps

    By the way,
    When you looked around yourself at those coorporate meetings (I’m taking you at face value), you might have noticed that there was inevitably a disproportionate number of Jews. Does that bother you too? Any rants on that yet, or is that not in your marching orders?
    [some might have been family of mine in case you’re going to get on another moral soapbox]

    • Adam

      Don’t start with the anti-semitism. And what problem could any Jew actually have with the article that Paul wrote? I’m one too. This is an inflammatory comment that has nothing to do with the constructive and interesting discussion going on here. What kind of answer are you looking for?

      • el Gallo

        Don’t start with the “hate” crime card either. My wife and daughter are Jewish, etc. My comment about there being a dispraportionate number of Jews in the music business was compliment, not an attack.
        I am addressing the entire question of looking for whatever you think are the right percentages of people in what business as though that calls for a Liberal solution that will inevitably lead to some kind of policing law.
        People find the occupations they feel most comfortable in for many reasons- looking for color coding in everyhting you see under the phony cover of “Diversity”, and then implying there is racism at work- is the same old self-serving Liberal rant.
        There will be more Black people in the corporate side of the music industry, if and when more Black people want to go there. They don’t require permission or egging on from the culture police.

  7. Paul (New York)

    Dirty History? I am so sick of this kind of empty, apologist rhetoric when it comes to race. Are you suggesting that black people are barred from getting jobs in the music industry? That allegation would be patently, inherently, and legally false. And to the person that responded with a “they’re not the slave owners” your reasoning is bankrupt and scandalous. How many of you readers actually know white people that have a family history of slave ownership? This article isn’t a discussion about race – it’s another incendiary opinion piece. Did you mention the shrinking industry, and Billboard’s flawed survey? No. Of course not. You only mentioned how you were surrounded by Alpha types and lots of people of color when you had a job at Sony. What happened to that job? When I go to conferences of small Indie label record companies, and there isn’t a black ownership group there, am I supposed to feel bad? Your infantile “feelings” about this subject are trumped by legal and financial realities that you simply refuse to observe.

    Census Bureau stats (census.gov)
    White 78.1%
    Black 13.1%
    Asian 5.0%
    Hispanic 16.7%

    • JustMe

      But which segment do you think is the fastest growing!!
      The rich white boys club is not getting younger, and their money will not stop them from dying off. They are already “old” in terms of music biz. You can’t take it with you… neither the job title, nor the money (parachutes only work when you’re alive).

      “Census Bureau stats (census.gov)
      White 78.1%
      Black 13.1%
      Asian 5.0%
      Hispanic 16.7%”

      • Paul (New York)

        so…..your answer is the fastest growing demographic segment should hold all the Power 100 jobs, right? No practical experience, no business history, it’s simply a matter of your skin color that gets you to the front of the line —- just want to be clear about your perspective.

        • sb1000

          and what do census bureau stats say about ration of men to women?

  8. MusicaMorena

    Thanks for posting this article, Paul. There are so many that like to ignore the blatant diversity problem this industry maintains; chalking it up to unintentional coincidence and chance. What those people don’t realize is that they have simply never been subjected firsthand to those diversity challenges and assume it’s not a prevalent issue. Let us not forget that many of this industry’s undercutting and questionable dealings happen behind closed doors, and the diversity issue is no different. Just because things are out of sight, they shouldn’t be out of mind – epecially when it’s occuring so obviously.

    • el Gallo

      So siento MusicaMorena,
      Pero tambien soy Hispano y no estoy de acuerdo.
      The fact that you need to talk about “behind closed doors” is just another indicator of how the only way to keep this issue of racism live is to admit that you don’t actually see it, but if you insist it’s there then it must be occuring in some secret nefarious room somewhere- somewhere you’ve never been.
      There are enormous opportunities waiting for everyoe in the music industry. Whenever I ask my students why they have chosen the music industry as their field, almost none of the Blacks and Hispanics mention any kind of corporate of administrative job.
      I try and present to my students that the music industry is gigantic and there are places in it for them that might not be their first choice now, but that they might actually like better than they ever imagined. They need to keep their options open, keep up with the changing times, and be flexible.
      Telling young students and entrepreneurs that there is a secret nefarious racist conspiracy waiting for them out there is counter productive, wrong, and doesn’t serve any one’s real interests except to gather more votes for the Liberal Establishment’s war on free enterprise.

  9. R.P.

    There is such a notion as economic slavery. I actually thought I was talking to some of the more enlightened music industry peers, but I see not.
    Say less in 2013. [my resolution]
    I almost forgot to just watch you guys and learn. You do teach me things from time to time. I am grateful.
    Best to all, including that moron GALLO

    • El Gallo

      For MR. R.P., the resident intellectual Imbecile,
      I wasn wondering how long it would take till one of the Regressivve Liberal Fascist went for the instrument of choice when it comes to any socio-political deebate- name calling and ridiculing in an attempt to marginalize.
      Everyone who disagrees with the party line is either a Bigot of some type, or stupid.
      Conservative Blacks are called “porch Negroes” openly on public television and in print.
      I teach a “diverse” group of students, many from the inner cities. The pollution coming from the Left, and this kind of rhetoric has not served them well. But then again, the objective is neither truth nor equality, but rather “culture jamming” by whatever means necessary to keep the votes coming.
      the music industry is wide open. There are no conspiracies against anyone. Stop spreading this nonsense.

  10. Miss Kristin

    I just love you guys. You are my HOME page bookmark and I always enjoy the reading. Thanks for taking the time to research things like this for all artists. YOU ROCK!
    You are definitely WINNERS in my book. I look forward to the next ten years of change in the music industry. The more people make a stand for the value of music, the more power it has to change and evolve. Music always reveals GREAT artists, who help change the world for the better. Creation is birth… when new wonderful music is born, something special occurs and transports.
    Miss Kristin Pedderson
    New Music for a New Age

  11. Versus

    These numbers do not prove anything “dirty”. Numbers alone are not evidence of unfair discrimination policies; there may be self-selection at work as well.
    – V