FEATURE: Small Steps and Big Conversations: Closing the Gender Pay Gap in Music



Small Steps and Big Conversations


PHOTO CREDIT: @lordmaui/Unsplash 

Closing the Gender Pay Gap in Music


I was going to do a more general piece regarding…

gender inequality and, to be fair, it is on my mind today! I saw a tweet yesterday posted that reacted to a tweet from BBC Radio 6 Music and Sharon Van Etten’s performance at Glastonbury. Someone commented that, given BBC Radio 6 Music has spent a lot of time covering Glastonbury and has highlighted some great female artists, that it is gender-biased and sexist. It was only the one comment on this occasion but I have seen so many other people bemoan the coverage of female performers at Glastonbury; others that feel the festival does not need to be fifty-fifty in terms of gender because music should be a meritocracy and we need to book artists based on talent – and letting more women through would spoil that, in their mind. Coming back to the BBC Radio 6 Music tweet and one can hardly accuse the station – or any other – of skewing towards women and being biased. Most stations play more male artists; they have more male presenters and Glastonbury – like most festivals, too – has more male performers. I am not sure what that tweet riled me but it has got me thinking about equality again and how this year has been defined by women. I have argued this before so, apologies, I am covering some well-trodden soil! Every year, the BBC announces its highest-paid talent and who makes the cut.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Vanessa Feltz/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I have never understood why this is done but I guess the BBC wants to be transparent. This year’s list is out and it is the first time in a long time where women have been featured in the top-ten. 

New Radio 2 Breakfast Show host, Zoe Ball, makes her debut on the list, paid £370,000 – £374,999, while Vanessa Feltz’s salary has increased from £330,000-£339,999 to £355,000-£359,999, and Claudia Winkleman remains one of the BBC’s highest paid women at £370,000-£374,999 – a similar figure to last year.

Jo Whiley’s pay has also increased by about 100k since last year, in light of her new solo evening show on Radio 2, while Fiona Bruce and Emily Maitlis mark new jobs on Newsnight and Question Time with big increases. The Today programme has also narrowed the pay discrepancies in its presenting line-up.

Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg’s salary has for the first time overtaken that of North America Editor Jon Sopel – both received increases but Kuenssberg’s was larger, putting her on £250,000-£254,999. Her Brexitcast co-star Katya Adler also got a pay bump, going from £170,000-£179,999 to £205,000-£209,999.

The list of the BBC’s top-paid stars skewed 66:34 in favour of men last year, but the 2018/2019 gender balance sits at an improved ratio of 55:45. The format of the report has also changed, with pay brackets now at £5,000 increments, compared with £10,000 in last year’s version.

It is positive seeing more women ibncvluded in the list and, at the very least, the gap is closing. In terms of radio, there are a lot of women ijn the top twenty/twenty-five but, when youi look at the top-ten earners, there is still a discrepancy:

Chris Evans – £1,250,000-£1,254,999

Steve Wright – £465,000-£469,999

Zoe Ball – £370,000-£374,999

Vanessa Feltz – £355,000-£359,999


IN THIS PHOTO: Lauren Laverne/PHOTO CREDIT: Boden Diaries 

Nicky Campbell – £340,000-£345,999

Stephen Nolan – £325,000-£329,999

Nick Grimshaw – £310,000-£314,999

Lauren Laverne – £305,000-£309,999

Jeremy Vine – £290,000-£294,999

Scott Mills – £285,000-£289,999”.

BBC Radio 2 stars Zoe Ball and Vanessa Feltz are near the top but I do feel like great women like Annie Mac and Mary Anne Hobbs should be higher up – earning more for the work they do. Consider Lauren Laverne and the fact her breakfast show has record listener figures; she is also helming Desert Island Discs and, in terms of work-rate, there are few who can match her. I appreciate pay is based on popularity and experience but I feel a presenter like Laverne is a lot more valuable than Nick Grimshaw; there are other women lower down the earnings list that, I feel, warrant greater earnings. The fact that a few prominent female broadcasters are appearing near the top of the BBC’s pay list is impressive and shows there is change coming but I do feel like there is a way to go.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @divandor/Unsplash

I do feel like the best radio at the moment is being made by women and, because of that, I wonder whether the BBC has taken that into consideration – are the likes of Lauren Laverne and Zoe Ball being paid what they deserve!? Record companies are more open when it comes to gender and pay and, since 2017, we have seen more figures come out. This article shows that there is still a way to go regarding closing the pay gap:

The three major labels, using figures from April 2017, showed 33.8% pay gap.

Warner was the worst offender with a 49% gap, Universal with 29.8%, and Sony at 22.7%.

Live Nation’s UK operation reported a 46% gender pay gap, alongside an incredible 88% difference in bonuses between male and female employees.

Since then, many sectors of the music industry have worked hard to address the problem, caused largely by the fact that only 31% of leadership positions at majors were filled by women.

Morna Cook MBE, senior director of HR, Universal Music UK told Music Business Worldwide, “At Universal Music, diversity and inclusion isn’t driven by compliance or obligation.

“Success in our fast-evolving industry depends on us attracting people from all kinds of backgrounds, and having a team that truly reflects and supports the incredible diversity of our artist roster and society.”

Universal has been working on its paid interns program, more mentoring of its female executives, and working at a 50:50 split in its A&R teams.

Sony implemented “inclusive environment” learning programmes and better support for working parents.

Warner, which in 2017 had 41% of females in its workforce but only 16% in leadership roles, has taken a look at its staffers through a diversity and inclusion perspective, and put more women in frontline roles”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @helloquence/Unsplash

Music Business Worldwide break down the statistics ion more detail:

In the top-earning quartile of Universal Music UK’s business, 73% of employees are male and 27% are female.

The average hourly rate of pay across the whole business is 29.1% lower for females vs. males.

(Taken as a median %, this figure falls to 20.9%.)

When it comes to bonuses, female executives are paid 24.4% less on average than their male counterparts.

Bonus pay is given to 81% of males and 80% of females.

In the ‘upper middle quartile’ of Universal Music UK (ie. the second tier of executive pay), 59% of employees are male and 41% are female.

In the top-earning quartile of Sony Music UK’s business, 60.2% of employees are male and 39.8% are female.

The average hourly rate of pay across the whole business is 20.9% lower for females vs. males.

(Taken as a median %, this figure falls to 1.3%.)

When it comes to bonuses, female executives are paid 50.1% less on average than their male counterparts.

Bonus pay is given to 76.3% of males and 71.5% of females.

In the ‘upper middle quartile’ of Sony Music UK (ie. the second tier of executive pay), 50% of employees are male and 50% are female.

On April 1 Spotify revealed its figures for the first time after its UK workforce crossed 250 employees 2018 .

As at April 5 2018, Spotify’s UK mean gender pay gap was 11.6% and median gender pay gap was 16.8%.

Average bonuses for women at Spotify were 19.7% lower than men and 10.3% lower at the median.

On this date, 42% of Spotify’s UK workforce were women and 58% were men”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @stereophototyp/Unsplash

I am not saying that very radio station and record label insists all men and women are paid exactly the same because, when it comes to earnings, the issue is more complicated than that. I do think questions need to be asked in both areas. I realise radio earnings are linked to listener figures but I do think, in general, not enough women are being put in popular slots and being recruited to big stations. Look at all the major stations in the U.K. and there is still a big imbalance and that does not look like it will be redressed anytime soon – even though BBC Radio 2 overhauled this year and has three women (Zoe Ball, Sara Cox and Jo Whiley) leading big shows. I think radio bosses do need to work to redress gender imbalance and, when it comes to record labels, why is there still a gap?! Maybe things will improve in a few years but a lot of the biggest labels out there are still paying men more than women. A lot of the problems relating to pay gaps relates to recruitment and retaining women in various sectors of the music industry. Before I sort of conclude and look ahead I want to bring in an article that was written by the UK Music’s Head of Diversity, Felicity Oliver:

This month was the deadline for companies with 250 or more employees to report their gender pay gaps. This is the second year that organisations have been required to publicly disclose these statistics after the Government made it compulsory in 2018.

Shining a light across industries has given us an insightful, if unsurprising, snapshot on the state-of-play for women. Last year it was revealed for the first time that the country’s biggest organisations paid men 78 per cent more than they paid women.


PHOTO CREDIT: @kmuza/Unsplash 

This year’s statistics go to show that change won’t happen quickly as a BBC analysis of this year’s figures found that across 45 per cent of firms the discrepancy in pay actually increased in favour of men.

Although reporting is in its early stages, and this year’s results do not indicate a huge change from last year in relation to the music industry, progress has been made on an individual level. Many firms have introduced workplace schemes that should bring about improvements. This is something that UK Music will continue to monitor and develop.

UK Music’s 2018 Diversity Survey results which measured gender and ethnicity across the music industry workforce, found there was an encouraging 6.3 percentage point increase among female workers aged 35 to 44 and a welcome 6 percentage point increase in females aged 45 to 64.

However, there remained fewer women overall in these age groups, highlighting an issue with the retention of females aged 35 and over. The lower number of females than males in senior posts is a key factor to consider when reflecting on the gender pay gap reporting.

I’m confident that the gender pay gap reporting will not only tackle disparities in pay but also help to elevate more women into senior leadership positions across the industry. Change is starting to take place already. It has opened up difficult conversations in the workplace for the first time and is going some way to create a more inclusive industry.

Flexible working and parental leave packages must reflect the needs of society while companies must take responsibility of their recruitment processes. UK Music has supported Labour MP Tracy Brabin’s ‘selfie leave’ campaign along with MPG Executive Board member Olga FitzRoy from the MPG. It’s also great to see mentoring schemes being established within industry to create an inclusive network of support.

Our report showed an encouraging increase in younger females entering the industry with a 10.7 percentage point increase. However, we must do all we can to ensure these women are equipped to rise up the career ladder to the very top.

Only when we have tackled the gender pay gap head on can we achieve genuine gender parity in our industry”.

IN THIS PHOTO: Billie Eilish/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There is a long way to go but I think, from radio stations and labels through to every other corner of music, there needs to be a review regarding pay and promoting more women into senior positions; retaining more women and creating greater visibility. There are so many great female broadcasters, producers; label employees and journalists that are not getting the same opportunities as men and, when they are in the same job, they are getting paid less. It takes me back to my early point about this year’s music and how 2019 has been defined by great women and the wonderful material they have put out this year. I wonder whether the women who appeared at Glastonbury and made it so wonderful were paid the same wage as the male performers. The BBC’s publication of earnings showed movement and improvement but it also highlighted that, certainly in radio, some incredible popular women are not, I think, being paid what they deserve and there is still an imbalance regarding the number of women on stations compared to men. That gender imbalance extends across music and, as this article outlines, there is still a divide when it comes to producers and songwriters:    

But the disparity between representation on the stage and behind the scenes is stark, to say the least. Only four out of 871 producers were women of color. Out of 400 songs and 871 producers, only 2 percent were female. “The gender ratio of male producers to female music producers is 47 to 1,” the report said.

When it comes to songwriters, 57 percent of the songs studied did not credit a woman. Meanwhile, only three tracks (counting as less than 1 percent) did not credit a male songwriter. Among female songwriters, 43.3 percent are women of color.

PHOTO CREDIT: @diskander/Unsplash 

Men outdid women when it came to songwriting credits on the Hot 100 over the past seven years. Max Martin had the most credits at 39, while Nicki Minaj topped the list of female songwriters with 18 credits. A quarter of the songs were written by the top 10 male songwriters”.

2019 has been an improvement on 2018 regarding steps forward but I do wonder whether a big enough leap is being made. Considering a lot of the labels and businesses are being run by men, is progress slow because they are not the ones affected? This feature from last year confronted the pay gap at festivals and how change is being predicted. I am pleased there is motivation for change but, as we think about closing the pay gap and promoting more women into management positions, I also think we need to start at grassroots level regarding recruitment. In studios, radio stations and at festivals, women are still in a minority and I do not think this reflects the talent and quality out there. Festivals are working to close the pay gap but, as 2019 has been such a strong year for women, I feel constructive and progressive conversation needs to happen quicker. I do think attracting more women into live music and behind the scenes roles is crucial.

 PHOTO CREDIT: @diskander/Unsplash

This IQ article from earlier in the year shows some big music organisations are working hard but many say the same thing: more can be done and we cannot be complacent. I look out and am seeing improvements but I think, if we want to bring more women into music, then we need to tackle the pay gap. Many women will look at the figures and, whilst they will note the evolution from last year, the fact there is disparity still might make them feel like they will be underpaid compared with their male colleagues. I keep saying how 2019 is being defined by terrific women and this extends beyond the stages and feeds into studios, labels and beyond. I do believe the gender pay gap will close completely at labels, radio stations and festivals very soon because I think the industry is so much richer when we encourage more women to shine and inspire. I shall end things here but, in concluding, the fact discussions are happening and articles are being published gives me hope things will keep heading in the right direction. Businesses are fighting for change and acknowledge things do need to change regarding recruiting more women and promoting them to senior positions. From the fabulous stars of BBC radio to festival standouts; the industrious female producers and the brilliant label bosses and P.R. representatives that are pushing music to new levels, we owe the fantastic women in music…

 PHOTO CREDIT: @diskander/Unsplash

A bigger voice and a larger cut.