Study Finds UK Music Industry Remains a Man's World

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A view from the Emirates Airline of the 02 Arena at sunset with Canary Wharf and the London skyline in the background.

Despite efforts to improve diversity within what has long been viewed as an overwhelmingly white and male run industry, there remains a shortage of women and BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) staff in senior roles throughout the music business, according to a new survey by umbrella trade organization UK Music. 

The survey found that while BAME representation in the music biz is higher than the U.K. population as a whole (15.6 percent, compared to 12.8 percent nationally), the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic music people in senior positions decreases by age, with 12 percent of those aged between 35 and 44 employed in senior roles. When it comes to BAME staff aged between 45 and 64, the number slips to just under 8 percent.   

A similar pattern is repeated when it comes to gender, with women accounting for 60 percent of intern positions, but only 30 percent of senior executive roles. Women aged between 25 and 34 make up 54 percent of the U.K. music business, but appear to be leaving the industry in greater numbers than their male colleagues as they get older, with women aged between 45 and 64 making up just 33 percent of the entire workforce.

Globally across all industry, the number of women in senior roles has risen 5 percent in the past five years to stand at 24 percent, according to a report by Grant Thornton. The proportion of businesses without any women in senior management roles is around 33 percent.

"It seems that we have reached a moment where the need to improve the diversity of our industry is being matched by a desire by all the interested parties to put initiatives in place that will make a significant difference," stated Keith Harris, chairman of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce, which instigated the inaugural pan-industry workforce diversity survey last year.

Just under 3,000 people took part in the survey, spanning major and independent record labels in the United Kingdom, music publishers, managers, producers, royalty-collection societies and the live music industry. UK Music says the survey will be repeated on an annual basis to track and improve representation throughout the industry, with Harris "optimistic that over the coming few years we will see a significant improvement." 

The push towards improving diversity in the music business follows on from Brit Awards bosses making sweeping changes to its voting panel after last year’s event was overshadowed by controversy over the lack of black nominees.

Despite critically acclaimed and big-selling releases from homegrown grime, hip hop and urban artists like Stormzy, Lethal Bizzle, Skepta and rap duo Krept and Konan in 2015, no black artists were up for the biggest U.K. prizes at the 2016 Brit Awards -- held in February – leading to #BritsSoWhite becoming a trending topic. Laura Mvula, Jack Garratt and Stormzy were among the artists who criticized Brits' organizers for failing to represent the diversity of the British music scene. 

To help ensure that the same controversy isn’t repeated at this year’s event, labels trade body BPI, which runs the Brit Awards, has invited 700 new members from across the U.K. industry to help pick the nominees and ultimate winners of the 2017 awards. Out of the 1,200 names on the 2017 invite list, 52 percent are male, compared to 70 percent in 2016, while 17 percent are BAME, compared to 15 percent previously. 

"The history of British music is one of merging multiple genres from numerous cultures into unique sounds," commented Jo Dipple, UK Music chief executive. "Diversity has allowed our industry to sustain a global reputation for the U.K. Nurturing and bolstering workforce diversity adds strength to this country’s astonishing musical output. The two go hand in hand."