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CEO Desiree Perez Stands Out As Report Raises Inequities in Music Business 

chief executive officer of Roc Nation

Desiree Perez is once again playing a trailblazing role in the music industry, despite a new report that shows a profound lack of diversity in the field.

Perez, the chief executive officer of Roc Nation, is one of the leading voices for diversity and inclusion in an industry that has long been dominated by white men.

The report, issued by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California, shows that among industry executives, the numbers of women and underrepresented minorities are still small. And it comes just a year after the industry pledged to change in response to the global groundswell for social justice that was fueled by the murder of George Floyd.

The report looked at the composition of more than 4,000 executives at the vice presidential level or above in the music business. The report examined leadership at 119 companies across different types: record labels, music publishers, corporate music groups, streaming services, live music companies, and radio broadcasters.

The results show a significant gap.

Among the executives at the studied companies, 19.8 percent were from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups. Just 7.5 percent were Black. Women represented 35.3 percent.

Of the 4,060 people studied in the survey, there were 17.7 white male executives for every Black female leader.

Among the company types surveyed, Black executives are most represented at record labels, comprising 14.4 percent of all leadership positions and 21 percent of artist-and-repertoire (A&R) positions. In radio, Black leadership comprises just 4 percent, and in live music, just 3.3 percent.

Women have a strong presence among companies focused on live music, representing 39.1 percent of leadership positions. However, most of them are white. At record labels, where Black executives are best represented, just 5.3 executive-level jobs are held by Black women.

It’s a stark indication of the disparity in an industry that relies heavily upon and profits deeply from Black artists.

By contrast, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative since 2018 has looked at the artists, songwriters, and producers behind the most popular hits of our time. Men far outnumber women but people of color represent 47 percent of the credited artists among the top pop songs from 2012 to today.

A Closer Look Reveals a Deeper Divide

As researchers explored the senior levels of leadership, they found even sharper contrast in the makeup of C-level suites.

In looking at chief executives, chairmen, and presidents among a subset of 70 major and independent companies, they found that 86.1 percent of leadership were white men. The 10 people of color found in those positions were all at independent companies.

Desiree Perez was one of just two women of color among those top executives.

About Desiree Perez

Desiree Perez has been breaking down barriers her entire career. In 2019, she was named CEO of Roc Nation, the multifaceted entertainment company, after serving as Chief Operating Officer for the company for 12 years.

Roc Nation, founded by Jay-Z, is engaged in many aspects of entertainment, including artist representation, record labels, live music, and tour management. For more than two decades, Perez has been at the top of the organization.

The daughter of Cuban immigrants, Desiree Perez got her start in the music industry as a part-time nightclub manager. It was through that work she met Jay-Z, and the two have been business partners in multiple ventures.

Earlier this year, Perez was named a Billboard Change Agent in recognition of work to promote social justice initiatives. For years, she has used Roc Nation’s philanthropic and community outreach arms to raise awareness for people and issues related to racial equality and social justice awareness.

In 2019, she was named Executive of the Year at the Billboard Women in Music awards.

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