An audit conducted by BMG found “significant disparities” between royalty payments to Black and non-Black artists at four of its labels, according to Pitchfork. BMG commissioned the audit in June following Black Lives Matter protests across the U.S. and the world.
BMG didn’t name the four labels in the report, which was released Dec. 18, citing data protection and compliance regulations. The royalty payments were at times 3.4 percent lower for Black artists compared to non-Black artists.
“While difference is not necessarily evidence of bias, there were instances of differences that are significant enough that they warrant closer attention,” BMG COO Ben Katovsky, who led the investigation, told Pitchfork. “We will follow this through to its conclusion.”
BMG has been the first major music company to conduct such an audit and its CEO, Hartwig Masuch, has urged other companies to follow in its lead. The company planned for the audit to be completed in 30 days, but found it harder to conduct than expected, Katovsky told Rolling Stone.
“While these legacy contracts may have been entered into willingly, are fully legally enforceable and we paid the previous owners full market value for them, we feel we can do better. We will shortly bring forward proposals designed to do just that,” Katovsky said.
BMG’s catalogue includes work by Quincy Jones, Cypress Hill, Lenny Kravitz, Gucci Man, Run the Jewels, Chief Keef, E-40, EPMD and Tech N9ne. The company had formerly been a subset of Sony before their 2008 split.
BMG said in June it would review all of its historic record contracts to check for racial inequalities. Masuch said at the time that if they found any inequalities or anomalies, the company would create a plan to address them within 30 days. A company rep told Variety they plan to come forward with proposals in the new year. Masuch also said the company would take steps toward being more diverse and ensuring that racial injustice and inequality doesn’t occur in their offices. He promised the company would speak up against racism in all 12 countries it operates in.
The audit came shortly after Black Lives Matter protests began taking place in the U.S. and across the world following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Other music companies also began taking steps to fight racial inequality, including Warner Music Group donating $100 million to social justice organizations and Sony Music creating its own $100 million fund to support social causes. Universal Music Group also created a $25 million “Change Fund.”