Calling for change #1: How the 2020 Roll Of Honour would transform the music industry

Calling for change #1: How the 2020 Roll Of Honour would transform the music industry

Over this week and next, Music Week is dedicated to celebrating the achievements of the star executives on the Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2020.

In light of the sad fact that the pandemic has made it impossible to hold the Music Week Women In Music Awards in its full glory this year, we welcomed 24 names to the Roll Of Honour. And, over two issues, we’re interviewing this year’s inductees to find out all about their careers so far.

Catch up on what’s inside this week’s magazine here, and find the full interviews (for subscribers only) on our features page. Alongside the magazine content, we’re running extras from the class of 2020 on, and we kick off by asking 12 honourees what one thing they would change about the music business.

Read on for the first installment of their answers and look out for more later this week…

Jackie Alway, EVP, international legal & industry affairs, Universal Music Publishing Group

“Since March, we have been deprived of our ability to sit together and listen properly to each other. Zoom is OK up to a point, and we can all adapt to working as hard as ever from our homes, if not harder. But we are missing the human interaction that is the glue of our community. I can't wait until we are able to get back to doing what we do best – enjoying life together and, whenever possible, throwing a really good party. We shouldn't for a second allow the progress of AI and other technologies to distract us from the fact that this is an industry based on people and the extraordinary originality of human creativity. Getting together to celebrate the song, songwriters and our amazing community is an important part of maintaining our culture. Having said that, I still deeply regret that – despite the best efforts of the publishers at the table – the global repertoire database (GRD) project failed at the last hurdle. Thankfully, various industry initiatives are progressing to enable us to get to the point we would have been at some time ago, if the GRD had succeeded. But the lost time demonstrates the cost to our community when priorities get confused. So, if I could ask for one thing to be changed, it would be for those involved in the collective collection and distribution infrastructure to focus on the best interests of the repertoire, ahead of any separate competitive considerations.”

Vanessa Bakewell, global client partner, Facebook

“The industry needs to be accessible. I am concerned this is more of an issue than ever. Especially due to my challenges financially in my early career, this resonates. To quote Remi Harris, a previous Roll Of Honour inductee, ‘You should not be prevented from entering the music industry because of your cultural or financial background’. The work that Remi is doing with the Brighter Sound team on their Leaders Network is so important. The network is part of an ongoing programme of activity that Brighter Sound run to support the development of emerging female artists and industry professionals from the North. The free leadership development programme takes place online over eight months to help people to build a vision of what their career in music can be. Projects like this are essential and the lifeblood to accessibility and talent in this industry.”


The industry needs to be accessible

Vanessa Bakewell, Facebook


Lynne Best, head of communications, PPL

“The UK music industry can be its own worst enemy at times. Changes down through the years have led to internal divisions and entrenched attitudes, creating disunity when we come together to discuss challenges and respond to opportunities. I believe that this attachment to the old and skepticism of the new sometimes fragments the voice of the industry and creates an incoherent schism in how we present ourselves to both policymakers and the wider society. We need to be able to speak with a united voice to ensure we stand together as a sector when it matters most. UK Music is such an important organisation in this regard and has made great progress on behalf of the industry in the last 10+ years. It has a continuing role to play here in ensuring that music is truly promoted and considered a national asset and I’m excited to see what Jamie Njoku-Goodwin and his team will do in the months ahead.”

Lesley Bleakley, director of catalogue & archive, Beggars Group 

“Sexism is still an issue. There has been great progress, of course, but it is still there just not in as obvious a way. I can’t help remembering after I graduated  from university I wanted to become a booking agent (I had been social secretary at Kingston University, booking all the bands there). I went for an interview and was told I was great but that hiring a woman wouldn’t sit well with the other agents in the company so they couldn’t give me the job. Hey, I guess at least they were honest and in the end it all turned out for the best, but I still find it hard knowing that that happened. I do wish women of my generation had supported each other more, though, and I hope the younger generation do. It is important, actually, it’s essential, but ultimately it’s hard, especially with all the societal pressure on women to compete against each other.” 

Whitney Boateng, booker, Metropolis/Live Nation/co-founder, #TheShowMustBePausedUK

“The lack of diversity. There are people of colour getting through the doors at entry level, but at current there aren’t many at a senior level. It would be great to see more diverse faces higher up the ladder because it would also provide comfort to the people at entry level. It would provide hope that it is possible to climb all the way to the top of the ladder.”


It would be great to see more diverse faces higher up the ladder

Whitney Boateng, Metropolis/Live Nation


Lisa Cullington, vice president, creative (publishing) BMG UK

“To have no issues of equality and inclusion. It’s obviously still a huge problem, which I find astounding in 2020. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

Afryea Henry-Fontaine, marketing director, Motown UK/EMI Records, co-founder of The Black Music Coalition and The DeBrief 

“Definitely equality and equity for black executives. We’ve seen more acutely this year the necessity for progression and lasting change. As a community, our culture is the lifeblood that flows throughout the music industry and I’m encouraged that the industry is declaring its commitment to ensuring that it will amplify black voices and eradicate the barriers that we face.”

Safiya Lambie-Knight, lead, artist & label partnerships (genre & culture specialist), Spotify

“The fact that there are still predominantly white men in senior leadership and decision making positions. Everyone benefits from diversity and we really need some forward-thinking leaders to make some much needed sustainable and positive change in this area.” 

Sara Lord, SVP international sync & project development, Concord 

"Normally, I would say better pay out from the streaming platforms for songwriters. But at the moment, banish Covid please so we can all get back to going to gigs! Life just isn’t the same without them."  


Everyone benefits from diversity

Safiya Lambie-Knight, Spotify


Naomi Pohl, deputy general secretary, Musicians' Union

"One thing is pretty tough. I would like to say all of the following: end sexual harassment, improve diversity and inclusion, resolve the streaming royalty distribution issue and end unpaid work. Right now, the priority is getting through the Covid-19 crisis. We are all working to save the industry and get musicians back to work. But this doesn’t mean we stop our work on diversity and inclusion, we must ensure that any plan for recovery acknowledges and addresses the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on disabled people, women and black and ethnically diverse communities. And, beyond Covid, this work must remain our top priority. Paulette Long, co-chair of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce, has said that we can’t wait another ten years for board representation in the industry to improve and she’s absolutely right. We need to mainstream and fast track diversity and inclusion work as it’s so long overdue. It feels like things are finally changing but we can’t take that for granted, we all have to play our part."

Helen Thomas, head of station, BBC Radio 2

"I would like to see more brilliant women in positions of power and influence across the radio industry. Lorna Clarke has revolutionised BBC pop in just under a year in her role as controller and already all the BBC pop networks are collaborating and communicating more than ever before. There are many incredible women at Radio 2 – Philippa Aylott is a multi-talented head of production for BBC Audio and Laura Busson who has just joined Radio 2 as commissioning exec has already had an immediate impact."


The business needs to be more open-minded, transparent and less cliquey

Natalie Wade, Small Green Shoots/Cats Mother


Natalie Wade, founder/CEO, Small Green Shoots & co-founder/CEO, Cats Mother

“You shouldn't have to be a member of Soho House to be able to develop your career. The business needs to be more open-minded, transparent and less cliquey to be a fair place where hard working people are encouraged and move up in their careers. I'd like to change the ‘No, I'm too busy...’ default position of our culture. It just takes one person to say, ‘Yes’ to transform a young person’s week, month, career. We definitely need more people willing to take a few chances on people and think, ‘If I can, I should and I will...’ We are so lucky to work in a business we are passionate about, surely it's a duty to pay it forward. I don't know about everyone else, but I generally regret the things I didn't do, rather than people I did invest in...”

Pictured above (L-R): Vanessa Bakewell, Whitney Boateng, Lynne Best, Afryea Henry-Fontaine, Sara Lord and Natalie Wade

PHOTO: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

* For more on the 2020 Roll Of Honour, see the new issue of Music Week magazine, available now. To order your copy, please email To subscribe to Music Week and never miss a vital music biz story, click here

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