They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks, Sarah Stennett, Rebecca Allen to Kanya King, Stacey Tang, Charisse Beaumont and Mary Anne Hobbs, who have been selected since the awards began in 2014. The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are trailblazers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity.
Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.
Having spent her early years in bands with her brother, dreaming of working in music, it is a surprise to those around her that Ele Hill began her career in the political world, working for Tony Blair.
After six years in his office, she took a leap of faith and switched paths to bring her closer to the music industry, and landed a role at UK Music, working for then CEO Jo Dipple as the industry body’s director of operations. There, Hill combined her passion for music with her background in politics when setting up the UK Music Diversity Taskforce with Keith Harris and Paulette Long, and the UK Music Futures Group with Andy Edwards.
In 2018, she moved to Live Nation to her current role as VP, corporate affairs, UK & International. Working closely with Denis Desmond, chairman of Live Nation UK & Ireland, and John Reid, president, Live Nation EMEA, Hill now works across Live Nation businesses, comms teams, legal, risk and government affairs to craft and align messaging for their EMEA markets.
Hill centres equity and diversity in her work and is a member of WE Nation, Live Nation’s employee resource group focused on issues pertinent to women and those who identify as women in the company. She has also worked to create The Innovators Group, a youth board for Live Nation UK, which invests in the leaders of tomorrow giving them exposure to opportunities they would not otherwise have.
Here, Ele Hill speaks to Music Week about her industry achievements so far...
How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?
“I feel incredibly chuffed to be joining the brilliant women on the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour. If you look at the list of women who have been inducted since the awards began in 2014, it’s a ‘who’s who’ of amazing talent and expertise, I feel very humbled.”
How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?
“I was really lucky to start my career in the industry at UK Music – not only are the team there hard-working, clever and fun, the members are too. I couldn’t think of a better place to learn about every part of the industry. It’s easy to work in silos in the music sector so having an overview of the worlds of recorded, live, publishing, songwriting, management and production was an amazing start for me. I was exposed to people at the top of their game and it confirmed to me that I’d made the right decision to move from politics to the music industry as well as inspiring me to throw myself into the live sector.”
Did you have a mentor at that stage?
“I’m not sure about one mentor. All the amazing people I’ve met along the way have all taught me something valuable. That’s why the industry is so great, [it’s] the people! I do have a champion though, Jo Dipple, who saw that my experience could be put to use at UK Music and created a role and a place for me there where I could learn, create and be successful. If we’re talking about opportunity and levelling the playing field, that’s exactly the kind of support young women coming into the industry need.”
Before your current role, you were director of operations and head of diversity at UK music, playing a crucial part in the Diversity Task Force and in launching the Diversity Report. How do you reflect on that time, specifically how far do you think the music business has come since that report?
“Getting the taskforce together and the industry pulling in one direction was so important. When we launched the diversity survey and published the subsequent report, the taskforce wanted to make sure that it collected not only the most useful data, but also brought the different parts of the industry on the journey – it was as much about getting and keeping diversity on the agenda as it was about publishing results. I’m really proud of that work. While the bi-annual reports show that change is happening, which is positive, you’d always like it to happen faster, and systemic and long-lasting change takes time. When we’d received the results of the second report and it showed progress in some areas, Paulette Long told me that diversity work is cyclical. All it takes for things to go backwards is for people to take their feet off the gas. I think about that quite a lot. So yes, the sector is going in the right direction, and we all need to keep it moving in that direction.”
The areas of retention and progression are key to creating a more even playing field at the senior levels of the industry
You’re also a member of the LIVE Workforce working group where you have been focused on discussing not only routes into the industry for women, non-binary and minority working groups but also the topic of retention and progression. What practical initiatives could be implemented that would make a huge difference, in your mind, to these challenges?
“It’s great to be involved in working groups like LIVE Workforce where people from across the sector come together to share and create new initiatives, they can be a real force for change. The areas of retention and progression are key to creating a more even playing field at the senior levels of the industry, and identifying opportunities and making commitments to improve representation helps drive that progress. It also sends a message to your teams and employees that diversity is firmly on the agenda, [that’s why] I'm proud to be working at a company like Live Nation that is showing its commitment to diversity through its initiatives and investments in the next generation of artists and professionals. I also think networking and building a community is key to creating and maintaining change. There are many organisations who do this really well, including The Music Week Women In Music Awards, but the more the better!”
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome? One of them surely must have been handling the messaging on rescheduling notices during the pandemic? What were the big lessons of that period?
“I think for a lot of people in our industry, the 2020 to 2021 years will have thrown up the biggest challenges. Working on messaging during that time, for a live business forced to close across all markets, was a testing but also remarkable and educational experience, and the way the entire sector came together really shone a light on the interconnectedness of the industry and the importance of live music and the live experience. The resilience and entrepreneurial nature of the live sector and the people who work in it is one of the reasons I love working there.”
What’s your biggest achievement so far?
“Setting up the UK Music Diversity Taskforce with Keith Harris OBE and Paulette Long OBE, as well as the UK Music Futures Group, with Andy Edwards, I’m extremely proud of these two projects and collaborating with driven people has to be the best part of any job. Working with all parts of the industry to get the diversity survey, and report, off the ground was incredibly rewarding – a real career highlight.”
What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music?
“Say yes to opportunities, even when you’re not sure you can do what’s being asked of you. You probably can, and if you can’t, you’ll learn how to pretty quickly!”
What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?
“Always maintain a sense of humour. It might sound trivial but spending time with people you can laugh with even when things are tough definitely keeps you sane.”
Is there a young woman you'd like to shout out who you think is a rising star in the industry?
“I helped set up a youth board for Live Nation UK called The Innovators Group, where our future leaders could present ideas and work together with the aim of pitching business innovations to our business heads. One of the ideas the group chose to run with was by Kim O’Brien, who is head of operations at The Warehouse Project in Manchester and head of F&B and sponsorship at Parklife Festival. She’s a real star, clever, keen to succeed, hard-working and a joy to spend time with. It’s good to know that the future of the industry is in safe hands like hers.”
Similarly, is there a young woman artist whose music you're enjoying right now/excited about?
“I absolutely love Raye! I saw her live recently and she blew me away. I thought she’d be good, but she was incredible, a real performer and also a real leader. Her story is inspirational and she definitely does not shy away from talking about hard times and subjects, yet she still leaves you on a real high.”
Finally, what’s your biggest lesson from 2023 so far?
“I’ve been on maternity leave this year, so I feel like I’ve learnt a million lessons in 2023, most of them probably centre around the common theme of how tough and amazing women are. We are warriors.”