Friday was International Women’s Day, so let’s survey the music industry landscape to gather how it fairs in its support of them. Scanning this year’s Billboard Power 100, it’s clear that even though women are doing well in the charts, that success doesn’t extend to the boardroom. There’s only one woman in the top 50 – Atlantic Records Group Chairman/COO Julie Greenwald – and she shares her number 19 slot with Craig Kallman, with whom she runs the label. Altogether there are no more than 11 women on the list.
What is going on? After all, it’s 2013 – not 1960. Yet it appears the more things change, the more they stay the same.
A few years ago a UK survey concluded that two thirds of people working behind the scenes in the country’s music industry were male, and that almost 47% of the remaining third were women earning less than £10,000.
Of course there are many brilliant women working in A&R, publishing, marketing, PR and as managers. Yet at the executive and management level the survey showed a distinct lack of females, illustrated by the fact only 6% of women in the business earned more than £29,000, compared to 22% of men. Though I assume the Billboard Power list tends to be more focused on the US (Brit Lucian Grainge grabbed the top slot, but he is based in LA these days), it’s clear that the boardroom is still very much a boys’ club on both sides of the Atlantic.
Why? Sexism is, of course, still prevalent – many are the times I’ve been assumed to be a PA, or a girlfriend tagging along, at music industry events. And, as with all other fields of work, child rearing is still an issue, which is compounded by the late nights spent at gigs that are part of many job descriptions.
Having worked with and engaged with hundreds of women in the industry through the years, I’ve also noticed that they tend to have less of a desire to be the centre of attention, illustrated by the lack of women on trade conference panels. Many of them share the view of Jeanette Lee, co-founder and joint director of the independent record label Rough Trade Records, who once told me: “I don’t like to do interviews. I just like to get on with things.”
So, in honour of International Women’s Day, we’d like to celebrate the powerful women who are shaping today’s music industry yet, for some reason, were left off the list. At the risk of unintentional omissions, here are just a few that comes to mind:
How can a power 100 list omit the only woman in charge of a major label? Sure, EMI was recently taken over by UMG, but Vidler is still at the helm, and has shown deep concern for what happens to her artists during a very trying time.
As SVP International Legal and Business Affairs for Warner/Chappell, Dyball is in charge of deciding what new digital music services the publisher chooses to license, while always putting what’s best for its songwriters at the forefront of her mind.
Helen Smith and Alison Wenham.
The heads of the International Music Companies Association (IMPALA) and the UK’s Association of Independent Music (AIM), respectively, fought hard to block Universal’s takeover of EMI. Though they didn’t succeed, their efforts surely played a part in the EU Commission’s decision to force UMG to sell off a substantial number of labels, including Parlophone, in order to gain approval.
Now over to you – who are the women in the music industry you think deserve a big shout-out, and why?
Written while listening to Emilia Mitiku’s “You’re Breaking My Heart” – which surely should be the next single off her excellent, Billie Holiday-tinged album I Belong to You.