Andreea Gleeson, CEO of music distributor TuneCore, delivered the ‘Changemaker Keynote’ address at the NY:LON Connect conference this week, focusing on how the music industry is creating change through diversity.

Besides running TuneCore, Gleeson is the US ambassador for the Keychange initiative, so this is an area that has been one of her priorities for some time.

“Today’s music industry is demanding a range of viewpoints to really fuel our evolution,” she said.

“Abraham Lincoln, one of the most famous presidents in the United States, was famously known for bringing on everybody he ran against in his presidential election to be a part of his cabinet for this exact reason, which is to bring varying viewpoints to the table… and ultimately progress thinking. And that is the value of diversity.”

Gleeson talked about the reasons why diversity is important: it increases innovation, strengthens the skillsets of teams, and boosts revenue and profits – all benefits backed up by research.

One of those is an ongoing study by consultancy firm McKinsey. “They found that the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.”

Where is the music industry now? Gleeson pointed to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s latest findings, which found that the representation of women in music as artists has not improved in the last decade, as well as limited opportunities for songwriters and producers who are women.

As for the industry side, USC Anennberg has been exploring that data too, and has found shortfalls on both gender and ethnicity grounds.

“There is a lot of room to grow,” is how Gleeson sees this. “As we work our way down through organisations, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

‘This is a cycle that we have to break’

She also presented data on gender pay gaps at music companies in the UK, where the average pay gap for major labels is 28.2%, while Spotify and Apple are 15.3% and 18% respectively, and Live Nation at 34.3%.

“Women are just not paid as much for the same exact role as their male counterparts, and we have room to improve here.”

Gleeson addressed the reasons for this underrepresentation, with TuneCore having worked with Midia Research on a study to find out what the key challenges are.

81% of respondents to that survey thought that it is harder for female creators to get recognition, with the study also pinpointing a lack of role models; less likelihood of women getting involved in the technical side of music, and the fact that almost two thirds of women creators identified sexual harassment or objectification as a key challenge.

“This translates to both on the creator side and on the executive side why we’re seeing some of this participation being low,” she said, before noting that two fifths of female creators said they frequently feel a lack of confidence when performing or presenting work or ideas to colleagues.

“You can understand why. If they’re coming to the table, and they don’t feel they’re coming to a place, to an environment where they have equal opportunity, and where they also feel like they’re being discriminated against, it’s going to affect their confidence,” said Gleeson. “And this is a cycle that we have to break.”

The study also asked women what they want to see happen differently. “Women want change to come from organisations. They want to see other women in leadership roles, because that will encourage more women to participate,” said Gleeson.

“They also want to have access to resources, they want to have safe spaces, and they want to be able to be given these opportunities.”

Gleeson also talked about how music companies can set about making these changes, recommending a book called ‘Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard‘ which has influenced her thinking.

‘You’ve got to build a support system around you’

Gleeson went on to suggest ways people can drive and foster diversity, equity and inclusion in music. As individuals, we can diversity our music consumption: looking for balanced playlists and going to festivals and venues that have made diversity commitments.

We can also read up on the research about the barriers being faced in the music industry, and learning about unconscious bias. Gleeson also encouraged people to nominate colleagues for initiatives like SheSaidSo’s ‘Alt List’ and the Keychange Participant Program.

For people in management roles at music companies, they can spend a bit more time when recruiting to ensure the candidate pool is diverse; invest in learning and development for team members who may be part of an underrepresented group; and collaborate with peers across the industry on how to support diversity.

Companies can set goals and measure and share their progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, while investing in DEI training, coaching and mentoring, and identifying pay gaps and conducting “role levelling” to address it.

Gleeson also hopes music companies will sponsor some of the organisations trying to drive change: Keychange, SheSaidSo, HyperTribe, She Is The Music, Color of Change and Women in Music being some of the examples she cited.

She also offered some advice for people who are members of underrepresented groups.

“Number one, you’ve got to build a support system around you. You want to find those likeminded peers. It’s going to help you network, it’s going to let you know about opportunities,” she said. “A lot of women creators knew about these organisations but were not members of them… So join them! Don’t waste time.”

Gleeson also advised assessing your strengths and weaknesses, in order to grow and improve. “Be proactive and seek out resources that will help you prepare for that opportunity when it comes: that you are ready,” she said.

And lastly: a basketball or netball analogy: “You will miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take. Don’t second-guess yourself,” said Gleeson.

“We already saw from the Midia study about how often women struggle with confidence… I know that’s not fair and it’s hard, but you’ve got to have the confidence and take the shots.”

“Apply for the job! Submit an application for that showcase! Remember that you belong in this industry, and that you need to own your space.”

You can see Gleeson’s presentation slides here, with links to many of the resources mentioned. Her keynote was part of the ‘Creating Change Through Diversity & Independence’ focus session at NY:LON Connect, which was presented by TuneCore. Read our full coverage from the conference here.

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