“As hip-hop and R&B dominate pop culture and drive accelerating music industry gains, there’s an increasingly glaring discrepancy between the color of the artists making the most popular music and that of the top executives getting the credit,” Mitchell writes.
Adding: “Executives of color are still relatively scarce atop major music companies — at least, those they don’t own themselves. That select group includes industry veterans like Warner/Chappell Music chairman/CEO Jon Platt, Epic Records president Sylvia Rhone, Motown president Ethiopia Habtemariam and Universal Music Group (UMG) executive vp business and legal affairs/general counsel Jeffrey Harleston.”
“There’s definitely a challenge in the music industry with respect to the pipeline for black executives, which is interesting when you think about the impact of the music that is being sold, because a lot of that is urban music and black culture,” music attorney Julian Petty, partner at law firm Nixon Peabody, told Billboard in February. “You can’t just have a few folks there. We’ve got to figure that out.”
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A former major-label senior vp lays out a typical scenario: “[White executives] think that because they cut the check, that it buys them favor with the young, often black artists from the hood. It’s all good until the white executives can’t communicate with the new millionaire and his management team. Then the executives stress out the black female product manager to get answers about the artist, his new album, video edits, etc., because the white head of the company doesn’t want to offend the new young black millionaire. So the black executives do all the grunt work while the white executives get the credit.”
Another record-company executive used a historical analogy: “It’s like back in the day when sharecroppers tended the cotton fields, tilling the soil, sowing the seeds and nurturing the crop through all sorts of challenges. When the crop proved to be bountiful as harvest time rolled around, the white overseers stepped in and took charge, reaping most of the profits.”
There has been some progress, according to the report, which also notes that the majors are working to diversify.
Still, says a major-label senior vp, “We need to fight for our seat at the table.”
Read the full report here.