10 out of 12 Music Industry Trade Bodies Don't Employ a Single Black Woman

A new report into the UK music industry has found vast disparities in employment across the different organisations that represent venues, independent labels and artists.
Ryan Bassil
London, GB
Nao performing live
Nao. Photo:Gonzales Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

A new report published on Wednesday has found shocking disparities of employment of men and women – in particular Black women – across 12 music industry trade bodies in the UK.

Ten out of 12 of the organisations surveyed do not have a single Black women on their team, according to A Seat at the Table, a report produced by the not-for-profit organisation Women in CTRL. In certain senior roles, there are no Black women employed at all.


Black women only make up 3 percent of board members across the 12 organisations. Only 27 percent of the trade bodies surveyed employ female CEOs, and none of them are Black women. There are also only two Black women employed on the team or executive teams of all 12 trade industry boards, out of 122 possible roles in total.

Given the popularity of Black female musicians in the UK from both grassroots to BRIT-award winning level, these stats are especially damning. Whether it's Mercury and Grammy nominee Nao, BRIT Rising Star winner Celeste, viral superstar Lady Leshurr or rap heavyweight Little Simz, the British music scene is rife with successful Black female musicians whose interests deserve full representation.

"The data shows such clear disparities for equity and representation especially at the senior levels, and the change needs to come from the top down," Women in CTRL founder Nadia Khan told VICE.

Trade bodies are set up to actively lobby and represent the interests of their members and industry, and the 12 organisations in the report are key players in the UK music industry. They are:

– The Association of Independent Music (AIM) represents the UK's independent music sector. Their 800 members include the likes of XL Recordings, Ninja Tune, Domino and Bella Union labels.

– The Ivors Academy (BASCA) campaigns for the rights of music creators, as well as hosting two yearly flagship award ceremonies, the Ivors and the Ivors Composer Awards. Dave and J Hus are among the nominees in the 2020 Ivor awards, for their songs "Black" and "Must Be', respectively.


– British Phonographic Institute (BPI) includes three of the biggest UK labels in their membership base (Warner, Sony and Universal). This crew administers Bronze, Silver and Gold records to artists who achieve a set amount of UK sales. They also fund the BRIT School through their charitable arm, the BRIT Trust.

– Featured Artist Coalition (FAC) was founded in 2009 by singer-songwriter Billy Bragg to represent the rights and interests of artists at a legal, government level.

– Incorporated Society of Musicians (ISM). Ten thousand members go to them for legal advice and representation.

– Music Managers Forum (MMF), which represents 500 music managers in the UK by bringing their views into consultations with UK government, while also providing statements to media. They also run training courses for aspiring music managers.

– Music Publishers Association (MPA) represents music publishers across the UK and helps musicians, composers and producers manage their copyright.

– Music Producers Guild (MPG) represents the people producing the music.

– Music Venue Trust (MVT) represents music venues.

– Phonographic Performance Ltd. (PPL) help get its musician members paid if their song is broadcast on TV or radio, or in public.

– Performing Rights Society (PRS) is similar to PPL, but advocates for composers and songwriters (e.g. if someone gets paid via PPL for their performance of a song, but it's a cover, the original songwriter gets paid via PRS).


– UK Music is the umbrella organisation that nearly all the above trade bodies fall under.

In an industry that recently responded to the Black Lives Matter movement with their Show Must Be Paused campaign – a day in which music businesses shut down to reflect on racial injustice – it's clear that many trade bodies also need to look internally for how things might be able to change in the future.

A couple of organisations have reached an gender parity across teams, with both BPI and PRS reaching a 50:50 split across their team. However, no one on those teams are Black women. In fact, of all of the trade bodies analysed, only the British Phonographic Institute and the Incorporated Society of Musicians employ Black women at all; with Black women making up 16.6 percent of the BPI team and 6.25 percent of the ISM team respectively*.

"We ask all organisations to commit to our Diversity Pledge, and engage with us to set deliverable 12 months targets for their organisations," Khan told VICE. "It's time for these organisations to proceed with purpose and offer a #seatatthetable to women and minorities in the music industry."

In future, she also says that Women in CTRL would like to "extend the study to include age, class and more detailed reporting to include all underrepresented groups in the industry."


Correction: this article was amended on 24 July to reflect figures provided by an ISM spokesperson, rather than the 1% figure included in the Women in CTRL report.