Ex-Capitol Chief Michelle Jubelirer Calls for More Top Female Execs, Laments Layoffs at Billboard Women in Music Event

Billboard’s annual Women in Music event is one of the industry’s classiest galas, and this year’s was no exception: honorees and presenters included Karol G, Kylie Minogue, Ice Spice, Pinkpantheress, Katy Perry, Maren Morris, and many others, and Charli XCX debuted a song from her forthcoming “Brat” dedicated to her late friend and collaborator Sophie.

Yet one of the more unexpected honorees was former Capitol Music Group chairman-CEO Michelle Jubelirer, who was named executive of the year just days after stepping down from her post in a preliminary move to the hundreds of layoffs that struck parent company Universal Music Group last week — which followed layoffs at Warner Music Group and many other music-related divisions of major companies over the past year, including YouTube Music, Spotify, Pitchfork, the Los Angeles Times and others.

More from Variety

Prior to her acceptance speech, Jubelirer spoke on the event’s red carpet about the need for more women in C-level roles in the music industry — she herself was one of just three C-suite execs at major labels. “There are not enough women in positions of power, and it’s not changing fast enough,” she replied. Asked why she thought the situation is not improving, she replied with a laugh, “We would be here all night! But I’m hopeful — not for my generation, but the next generation that it will improve.”

She addressed the many layoffs across the industry in her acceptance speech. After giving thanks, she said, “On a more serious note, this has been a very tough period in the music business — countless people have suddenly lost their livelihoods. These are human beings for whom music is more than just their job: It’s the passion and their mission. And this means that dozens of artists have lost their champions.

“Relationships are everything,” she continued. “It takes tremendous faith for artists to entrust their music to others. To have built those relationships only to see them abruptly end is more than disconcerting for an artist — it’s heartbreaking. The women in this room are among the most powerful in our industry. And I know you will utilize your diamond hearts to help steer us through yet another seismic shift in our industry.

She concluded, “Even though I am no longer peering out of the top floor window of the Capitol tower, my diamond heart leads my mission I will always be a fierce advocate for artists and promise to be to put real and meaningful action behind the words I’ve spoken to tonight. And oh yes, I will always be a proud woman in music. Thank you!”

These layoffs come in an atmosphere of significant change in the music, media and tech industries. While streaming essentially saved the music business, returning it to profitability after 15 years of freefall due to illegal downloading, the double-digit growth has leveled off and companies are having to update their business models away from more-traditional platforms like radio and toward social media and other digital platforms. Tech companies have scaled back staffing as their growth has slowed as well — many hired hundreds or thousands of people as internet use and streaming boomed during the pandemic but slowed as life has gradually returned to normal. And media companies are seeing their business models change as well, as years of decline have continued following the internet’s free content replacing print magazines and newspapers.

Exactly what these new models will look like is a developing situation, but all of the above companies are in the process of building them as we speak.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.