Walking The Walk: Taking Steps Toward A More Inclusive Concert Industry
By: Deborah Speer
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty ImagesFearless GirlMAKING CHANGE HAPPEN: The Fearless Girl stands resolute in front of the New York Stock Exchange builiding in NYC, a symbol for gender equity and a demand for more women to be appointed to corporate boards of directors. The concert industry has been responding to the call, with many companies making appointments, establishing committees and doing outreach not only to women but all underrepresented communities.
“The majority of women had experienced gender bias in the music industry.”
“Women of color felt less supported in the workplace than non-Hispanic white women.”
“Fifty-seven percent of women said compensation practices had a negative impact on their careers.”
“Women considered the effect on their career when they decided whether to have children.”
“Nearly half of respondents felt they should be further ahead in their careers.”
–Introduction to “Women In The U.S. Music Industry: Obstacles And Opportunities,” published March 12 by Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship
Live Nation kicked off Women’s History Month with the announcement that it had tapped concert promotion veteran Ali Harnell to head up its newly created Women Nation division, where she will “lead strategy and internal and external efforts to advance and support women in the live music business, as well as create and develop female-led and female-driven content.”
Less than two weeks later, Berklee School of Music’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship released a study entitled “Women in the U.S. Music Industry: Obstacles and Opportunities.”
The study is not only timely but revealing about challenges women in the music industry face, as well as the rewards, and shares strategies to overcoming barriers to inclusion and diversity.
The move by the world’s biggest live music conglomerate to establish a stand-alone division in support of women is the latest prominent effort in the concert industry to address issues of diversity and inclusion.
While some diversity measures have long been in place, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have put women’s issues back into sharp focus like no other since the 1970s women’s liberation movements.
Over the last two years, human resources departments throughout the industry have stepped up with seminars covering sexual harassment, discrimination and related topics and some have been in place long before that.
But in a historically male working environment and, in some segments, where casual to abusive sexual attitudes and behavior toward women – and in some cases, girls – were not only pervasive but legendary, merely recognizing the need to proactively reverse a patriarchal culture isn’t enough. Action must be taken.
Among the takeaways from the Berklee study: Some 78 percent of women in the music industry believe they’ve been treated differently because of their gender – including 86 percent in artist development and management; 85 percent in music production and recording; and 84 percent of those in live event production, management, and promotion.
The total average rate was lowered by the fields of music creation and songwriting (77 percent); education and teaching (76 percent) and in business and administration (72 percent). “Other” came in at 69 percent.
The industry has its work cut out.
But that daunting data – 35 pages worth – isn’t preventing companies from making meaningful efforts.
Live Nation, in announcing Harnell’s appointment, reports a 45 percent female workforce.
It has existing programs, including 21 chapters of We Nation, an employee-led group focused on empowering and connecting; gender-balanced career development program Future Nation, and the Women Nation Fund, an investment fund designed to provide capital to women entrepreneurs in the promotions and events industry.
Courtesy Live NationAli HarnellAli Harnell/Live NationHarnell is tasked with expanding many of those efforts, and likely many more as she settles in at her new desk and defines her role.
Live Nation joins other entertainment industry leaders including Creative Artists Agency, ICM Partners and Paradigm Talent Agency taking major steps toward higher levels of diversity and inclusion.
CAA, for example, has long focused on diversity. The agency has recruited at historically black colleges and universities – HBCUs – since 2005, as well as women’s colleges and colleges with significant Latinx populations.
A CAA spokeswoman tells Pollstar that the effort has resulted “in a significant change to the pipeline of young staff hired by CAA, as well as those whose internships translate into jobs across the industry.”
Once interns and assistants come on board, they can expect to learn the business of booking tours from the ground up.
“From my perspective as an agent, there are two ways to help someone: sharing and doing the actual work,” CAA Music’s Co-Head of International Touring, Marlene Tsuchii, tells Pollstar.
Tsuchii says she is a big advocate of a hands-on approach whereby assistants can learn the nuts and bolts of the business by actually helping put tours together.
ICM Partners has made similar outreach – not only to colleges and universities but into communities as well. It stepped up its community involvement with groups like Kids in the Spotlight and others including launching a corporate partnership with Los Angeles Big Brothers, Big Sisters where it currently has 35 mentor/agents in the program.
The results of these changes has been an increase in diversity as well as gender equality at the agency, a spokesman said via email.
Paradigm Talent Agency’s Corrie Christopher Martin tells Pollstar that the company’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative is but one part of the company’s efforts to create a more inclusive workplace.
“We have a long-term commitment to diversity in recruitment, internship, promotion, and mentorship, and have tailored our strategies and programs to support these efforts,” she says. “As a training ground for top talent, our internship program is a good example of that.
“Led by DAII [the diversity and inclusion initiative], Paradigm has partnered with a number of community programs across the country, including Step Up (LA), PENCIL (NY), the Atlanta Consortium, and other organizations that focus on expanding internship opportunities to college students who would not typically be exposed to entertainment industry opportunities and resources.”
Christopher Martin and fellow agent Jackie Nalpant are part of Paradigm’s Music Executive Leadership Group.
Alex BerlinerCorrie Christopher MartinCorrie Christopher Martin/Paradigm
They are also founders, along with Paradigm’s Human Resources Director Jennifer Mullen and Social Impact Director Denise Melanson, of the DAII, which was launched
to engage the talent agency’s staff in a range of programs and activities that promote cultural diversity, inclusivity and positive social change.
“This ranges from spearheading focus groups and training programs that foster and promote diversity in our company culture to hosting speaking engagements with industry thought leaders, and throwing support behind organizations like She Is The Music, Time’s Up, Every Mother Counts, the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, UN Women HeForShe campaign, and other likeminded organizations,” Christopher Martin says.
Seeking out and supporting a robust pool of potential employees is great but, once hired, how do the companies continue to support and retain them?
CAA says it has implemented short- and long-term strategies to ensure “a more equitable and robust workplace and create sustainable change, within the agency and beyond.”
Michelle Kydd Lee, founder of the CAA Foundation now serving as Chief Innovation Officer; and Christy Haubegger, CAA’s Head of Multicultural Business Development, spearhead the company’s efforts.
In 2017, the agency launched CAA Amplify, a two-day, invitation-only summit bringing together multicultural artists and leaders from entertainment, sports, media, corporate brand marketing and technology to accelerate the growth, value and visibility of diversity in business.
CAA Amplify was conceived to inform, inspire, and connect multicultural artists, and provide a dynamic platform to share business insights, explore industry trends, and discuss social issues.
The summit will take place for a third time this summer, at a place and time to be announced to invitees, a spokeswoman told Pollstar.
Over at ICM, similar programs have been developed to tackle the issues of workplace diversity and inclusion. The company has also demonstrated a commitment to diversity on ICM Presents’ board of directors.
“At the very beginning of the #MeToo movement, in December of 2017, we decided to take a strong leadership position within the entertainment industry and make the pledge to be 5050BY2020, a commitment to diversity and inclusion that we firmly believed was the right thing to do,” Rob Prinz, ICM Partners’ Worldwide Co-Head Of Concerts, tells Pollstar.
“As in any program, it starts at the top with the commitment being initiated by our managing director Chris Silbermann.
Courtesy ICM PartnersRob PrinzeRob Prinz/ICM Partners
“It continues with the full buy-in and ongoing support from our board of directors, partner/owners and our chief human resources officer, Cindy Ballard,” Prinz says.
“We were inspired by the already substantial diverse and inclusive agents and executives we have leading our agency to be even more representative of the world we live in,” Prinz continues.
“We made a commitment and updated our approach to recruitment and engagement in community outreach and relations as well as our college recruiting program to include a wider range and more diverse group of colleges and universities.”
The Berklee study revealed some bright spots for women in the music industry.
Seventy-two percent reported they were “extremely” or “somewhat” satisfied with their primary job (55 percent of respondents said they worked two or more jobs).
While a large majority reported experiencing gender bias, 77 percent also said they felt “comfortable in their work environment” and 64 percent of respondents felt “supported.”
Respondents made recommendations for increasing diversity and inclusion through providing equal opportunities, and large majorities cited mentoring, networking opportunities and internships as experiences that have contributed to their careers.
ICM Partners reports that those support systems have proven effective and shown real results, with 10 women agents promoted in the last year and 50 percent of the agency’s departments run or co-run by women.
Lorrie Bartlett was appointed to ICM Partners’ board of directors last year, the fourth woman to serve on the board and the first African American board member of a major Hollywood agency, Prinz says.
Paradigm’s Christopher Martin says her work with the company’s Music Executive Leadership Group, as well as with the Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, has been “completely eye-opening.”
“Diverse perspectives and involvement make everyone better, from countries to companies,” she says.
“From a business standpoint, when companies increase the number of diverse members in their senior leadership, they increase their profit margins, innovation, adaptability, and resiliency. From a simple human standpoint, I believe we should all be focused on creating a more balanced environment for every identification.”
Courtesy CAAMarlene TsuchiiMarlene Tsuchii/CAA
CAA’s Tsuchii stresses the importance of hands-on learning as a means to permanent and positive change.
“We all spend years studying and being taught in schools. Why should the process of being taught and studying end with a job?” Tsuchii asks.
“Learning is a lifelong process and it is incumbent on those of us in the industry to pay it forward and share that experience,” she explains.
“The best part of our current climate is that the doors have opened for so much diversity and inclusion here [at CAA].
“This is a company credo and it is amazing to see the diversity in our hallways.”
Upon Live Nation’s announcement of its new President and Chief Strategy Officer of Women Nation, Harnell said, “I am truly excited to dive into this new venture where I can combine my experience and relationships with my passion to help drive this historical and aspirational time of change for women.
“It feels especially apropos to announce this on the first day of Women’s History Month.”
The position may be a first, but she won’t be alone.