Vick Bain discussing diversity and inclusion in the music industry

The Gender Pay-Gap in Music

The past few months has seen music, indeed all the creative industries, worry about its existential future. There has been a collective although cautious sigh of relief at the government’s focused £1.5 Billion bail-out for the arts, a glimmer of hope amongst the decimation. And yet I worry how this crisis will exacerbate inequalities. We already know women and ethnic minorities receive less pay and their jobs are more vulnerable, even in normal times. We need to keep vigilant over the coming months and put in place specific provision to assist those in need. 

So, it came as some surprise when eight music companies, out of a possible thirteen, reported their 2019 gender pay-gaps a few days ago. The government withdrew the requirement for this year a week before the deadline of April 5th. The question of why they have reported now is a mystery; perhaps they can see worse coming down the line? Next year there will be reporting for 2020 which happened just as the country was firmly locked down and it remains to be seen what impact that has had, and will continue to have, on women in the workforce. 

To give some factual background; men earn more than women in most countries; this is known as the gender pay -gap.  The mean gender pay-gap is the difference between the average hourly earnings of all the men and women working for a company.  The median pay-gap is the middle hourly earnings if you rank everyone top to lowest. The median pay-gap is generally taken as being a more representative measure because it is not affected by outliers – a few individuals at the top or bottom of the range.  However, the mean pay-gap will usually flag up the fact there are a few extremely well-paid individuals at the top of the organisation. 

This effect can be seen in the table for 2019 which is of the employees of all the major music companies in the UK who employ over 250 staff and thus have to report their pay-gaps (not including educational institutions). This shows the gender pay-gap in music and it makes for troubling reading.

Let us look at the highlights and trends: 

AVERAGE: taking the average figures of all eight companies across the industry, music companies pay their female staff 73p for every £1, that is 27% less than men (using the mean it is 19.3% less). 72% of all women and 76% of all men receive bonuses, but women only receive 77p for every £1 a man receives in their bonus, or 23% less than men (using the mean it is 43% less). And women work in 51% of the bottom quartile jobs but only 36.5% of the top quartile jobs. 

FAVOURING MEN OR WOMEN; in 2018 we had ten companies out of twelve favouring men on every statistic measured but there were two companies, PPL and Music Sales who, using the median statistic for hourly pay (but not the mean), slightly favoured women by a couple of per cent. In 2019 there is only one company who favours women, out of eight, on median pay…the new JV between PPL and PRS. 

OVERALL BEST FOR WOMEN; the new JV between PPL and PRS. They paid their female staff nearly 10% more than the men, with women occupying 49% of the top quartile jobs. 

GREATEST SLIPPAGE: was PPL, who were better than any other company in the first two years of reporting, 2017 and 2018.  They have slipped backwards considerably and in April 2019 were paying their female staff 13% less than men… this seems to be caused by top female executives leaving as the percentage of women in the highest paid jobs fell from 45.5% to 32.7% in two years. Let’s hope they were moved into the PPL/PRS JV.  

MOST IMPROVED; whilst three companies saw increases in their hourly pay-gap to the detriment of women, four companies have seen tiny improvements over the three years of reporting. Live Nation have seen the biggest increase, of five pence per hour in three years. They still pay their female staff 26% less than male staff so we cannot get too excited about it; but if they keep up this pace, they could achieve parity in 2036.

SLOWEST IMPROVEMENT: AEG a two pence increase in three years, so they are on track to hit parity in 2078. Warners are also moving slowly at three pence increase in three years; I anticipated they would move quicker because they have appointed a Head of Inclusion and have been very forceful in their diversity PR messages but it’s not translating into more women in the organisation especially at the top. Its bonus payments are still hugely in favour of men too. 

OVERALL WORST FOR HOURLY PAY; AEG has won the top spot for the greatest median pay-gap of all eight who have reported so far this year. They pay their female staff 39% less than their male staff. Live Nation have the worst mean pay-gap at 44.5% less than men. AEG were overall the worst on most of the measures in 2017 and 2018 too, although they have increased their median pay ever so slightly from 59p to 61p for every £1 that men earn. An increase of two pence in three years, so small mercies. 

GREATEST MEAN BONUS GAP: the prize for the greatest mean bonus pay-gap goes to Live Nation who paid bonuses to men that were 86% higher than those going to women (it was an astonishing 91% last year). Mean pay and bonus gaps indicate here are a few extremely well-paid individuals at the top of an organisation and Live Nation is the most extreme example of this of all the music companies. 

ALPHA MALE BONUS CULTURE: it is interesting to note that the top three consistently worst companies for pay and bonuses are those in the live sector. Bonus cultures in other industries such as finance have been shown to exacerbate pay-gaps and encourage gendered cultures. The Equality and Human Rights Commission in its inquiry into the finance sector after the 2008 financial crash and the Women in Finance Treasury report in June 2018 both found ‘Alpha Male bonus culture’ to be a major barrier to gender equality. Academic studies of bonuses show they are often discretionary, arbitrary, and counter-productive in organisations. They also have the potential to have negatively gendered consequences, as is demonstrated with these, quite frankly, shocking bonus pay-gaps.  

VERTICAL HIERARCHY; the vertical hierarchies that exist in the music industry are shown clearly from the fact women generally consist of 51% (some up to 70%) of jobs in the lowest quartiles of the companies but only a third in the top quartiles. This also masks who is in the board roles and the top 10% of positions, these are likely to be mostly men, I would guess 80 to 90%. The results here backup other research that shows whilst women have increased participation in the music industry workforce over the years, they are segregated into the entry level and lowest paid jobs. Part-time work, which is also included in these analyses, is also not paid very well and probably forms a substantial part of the gap. 

We also need to take note of who is NOT included in these pay-gap reports, regular freelancers and what is referred to as IR35 workers who remain off the official employee count. I am aware of dozens of IT professionals in some of these music companies who have been there for many years, who do not work for anyone else, who are paid 6 figure sums and yet are allowed to be classified as self-employed under IR35 rules and are therefore not be included in these employee statistics. This is a peculiarity of IT professionals, who are mainly men, and I believe their remaining off the employment books hides further inequity in the music industry as we transform into a technology industry. 

In previous years companies have published reports explaining why they have these pay gaps and what they intend to do to address them.  Usually the reason given for these gaps is due to the lower representation of women in leadership roles, which is true.  They then declare they thereby intend to improve their gaps by retaining and promoting its female staff into leadership roles, but as we can see progress has been glacially slow and inconsistent. 

Despite its limitations this public reporting has shone a light on the entrenched pay-gaps in the workplace that have existed since women started entering the workforce. And now companies have an incentive to correct this, their reputation. Government needs to now extend the reporting to include mid-size companies to enact further change.  This has been successfully carried out in other EU countries.  We can see what is happening in large companies, but we know this is happening in small and mid-size companies too, right? 

There are other legislative efforts being made to reduce the gap too, including in some states of the US such as New York and California and more recently in Canada that ban employers from asking about applicants’ salaries before offering them a job.  This is referred to as a ‘salary history ban’ and disallows applicants to negotiate salaries based on previous pay which entrenches the gender pay-gap.

We also need to extend the legislation to include ethnicity pay-gap reporting, as the CBI representing 190,000 UK businesses recommends, would be another positive move towards reducing discrimination. The research shows that black and minority ethnic men and women receive far less per hour than their white colleagues.  The music industry has shown considerably public support this past month about Black Lives Matter; but are Black and minority ethnic staff receiving the same job opportunities and pay? Research suggests not. 

We know these gaps exist for female musicians too. Australian collecting society APRA and RMIT University found in 2017 that female members were not receiving the same level of remuneration as their male colleagues. Similarly, in 2018, The Screen Composers Guild of Canada found in its research that ‘the amount that men earned on average from upfront composing fees were 8 times higher than what women earned’.  GameSoundCon has conducted a salary survey of its game audio members every year since 2013, reporting significant pay-gaps for its male and female members in each year despite equivalent experience in the industry. And research published by Honeybook in 2019, a management and invoicing platform used by freelancers, analysed over 350K invoices and found female musicians had earned only 38% of what their male colleagues had earned, the greatest pay gap of any of the professions. 

And yet the World Economic Forum points out that having female leaders in organisations changes the culture of the business and can lead to better financial success. Management consultants McKinsey (2018) highlighted companies with greater gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more profitable. Other research such as the Cranfield Female FTSE 100 annual report (2018) stresses the fact that the best performing companies have low pay-gaps with more women employed throughout and in leadership roles. 

It is about time the music industry took note. The statistics reported prove the music industry is still run by men and rewards them considerably more. We can see the vertical hierarchies in every company, we can see the lower pay and far lower bonuses. There is a smattering of PR each time the reports are published but it is not translating into meaningful change. And yet in the music industry, now more than ever, we need resilient, calm, and dedicated leadership. Women are there ready to step into those positions and lead us through this crisis. Let us hope the next few years sees more women in leadership roles and a vast improvement of these extraordinary pay-gaps. If not, I fear it is only a matter of time before women are forced to leave the music industry in greater numbers than ever. And that is a loss to us all. 

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