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Gender: Calm down, what's the fuss?

Gender: Calm down, what's the fuss?

Chair: Natasha Bent, Coda Agency (UK)

Guest speakers:
Emma Banks, CAA (UK)
Raye Cosbert, Metropolis Music (UK)
Folkert Koopmans, FKP Scorpio (DE)
Dame Helena Morrissey, Legal & General (UK)
Lucy Noble, Royal Albert Hall (UK)

What are the live music industry’s shortcomings when it comes to achieving a truly diverse workforce? Is the gender pay gap a sound measure of inequality? And why is there such little black and minority-ethnic (BAME) representation within promoters and agencies?

Those questions were discussed during a spirited debate for ILMC’s Gender: Calm Down, What’s the Fuss? panel on Wednesday. Led by Coda agent Natasha Bent, panellists included Raye Cosbert (Metropolis Music), Lucy Noble (Royal Albert Hall), Emma Banks (CAA), Folkert Koopmans (FKP Scorpio) and Dame Helena Morrissey (Legal & General).

The UK government has ruled that by April, companies with over 250 employees must publish their gender pay gap statistics – the difference between the average amount of money men are earning compared to women.

While most live companies won’t be required to publish their numbers, Noble said that the Royal Albert Hall still did the research, and found the stats are 3.3% higher in favour of men (the average pay gap is 11%). That’s down to the fact that two of its most senior staff members are male. “If you’ve got men in senior positions, it can make the figures look a bit negative whereas you might actually have a lot of diversity in more junior roles,” she explained.

Banks said that those who make decisions about pay shouldn’t need employees to ask for more money, and instead should be offering rises based on inflation and success. “Most of the people who work at CAA don’t come asking, we look at what they do and offer them a pay rise if they are worthy of it.

“If the only way you get paid more is to ask, ‘please sir, can I have some more?’ that’s a sad indictment on the company you work for. Everyone that’s in a position of power should take a look at themselves and ask, ‘What am I doing about this?’ The same goes for people being overpaid.”

The discussion then moved on to managing a career in music with a family. Bent said she was disappointed with the lack of family-friendly working environments she experienced when taking her newborn son to meetings. “It was extremely difficult with breastfeeding and there were no changing mats [in the companies I went into].”

Morrissey suggested more fluidity around both men and women being involved in childcare and maternity/paternity leave, as well as an open attitude to doing a job without being chained to a desk.

Koopmans pointed out the difficulties in maintaining effective communication when employees aren’t working from one place. “It’s a challenge,” he said. “You have to have a really good communication structure.”

“WE ALL WANT TO BE REPRESENTED AND SEE SOMEBODY THAT WE CAN RELATE TO”

Banks then moved the debate on to racial diversity, which she said is a big problem in the agency world. “The people that apply for jobs are white and primarily middle class. We really need to focus on how to get people that are not white and middle class into this [industry]. Yes, at the moment at CAA there is a higher proportion of male agents to female, but I’m [mostly] disappointed about the ethnicity balance.

“Maybe they don’t want the opportunities we are offering? The grime scene is very entrepreneurial and grassroots, and perhaps working for a bigger company doesn’t work for that kind of music and the people [behind it].”

Cosbert responded by saying that those from BAME backgrounds have felt that the “door has been shut for a long time” in terms of entry into the traditional music business. He continued: “Grime is people going, ‘If you’re not going to open the door for me, I’m going to break it down and do my thing anyway’.

“I’m from an immigrant family and at school you were told, ‘You’re going to drive a bus, go and mill metal or something like that’. When my mother found out about my job, she said, ‘Really? I didn’t know we could do that and get ahead.’ When I turned up in my first nice car she asked where I stole it from!

“But there is a certain spirit now with a lot of the younger kids I speak to who say that the opportunity is there. As an industry we can offer a lot of more in how we present ourselves to them, [making clear] we can support you and you can come through the ranks.”

Recruiting a diverse workforce is just the beginning and Morrissey said working environments should allow everyone to be themselves. “It’s really important that a woman can be valued for being a woman, and ethnic minorities can bring whatever they’ve got. The problem at the moment with the industry is that we want diverse people, but impression is that you join us, and you have to behave like people already there.”

Bent suggested that live music firms address gender and diversity issues and answer questions together (rather than delegating to the women alone), and find ways to support those looking to enter the industry – Coda ran a competition for four students to attend an awards lunch where they were able to talk to people from across the industry.

Ultimately, according to Koopmans, “A company run by men and women is a way more successful company. Sometimes women are better promoters, they have advantages when a man [might not be able to] handle [a situation effectively] because his ego is too big and he’s not diplomatic. Women are also more loyal. We should look at [equality] from a business perspective and we all want to be [running] a successful business.”

Banks concluded: “When we look at the people that work [in our industry], do they look like the people that come to our shows, or those we bump into at the shops? If not, what can we do to get to that point? There will be more of certain types of people and less of others but if you’re missing entire types you’re not going to have the interaction with them that you need. We all want to be represented and see somebody that we can relate to.”