Women In Music Awards 2021 winners revealed as ceremony returns to celebrate exec talent and artists

Women In Music Awards 2021 winners revealed as ceremony returns to celebrate exec talent and artists

The Music Week Women In Music Awards has returned with an in-person event at the London Hilton on Park Lane. It was the first edition of the ceremony for two years because of the pandemic.

Top execs, artists and songwriters gathered to honour outstanding women in the music industry across live, recorded music, management, trade bodies, music publishing and digital platforms.

Industry figures in attendance included Universal Music UK CEO/chairman David Joseph, EMI president Rebecca Allen, Sony Music CEO/chairman Jason Iley, Ministry Of Sound GM Negla Abdela, RCA president David Dollimore, Warner Music UK CEO Tony Harlow, Warner Music's Darcus Beese, Warner Records president Joe Kentish, Atlantic co-president Briony Turner, Sony Music Publishing CEO/chairman Jon Platt and the company’s UK bosses David Ventura and Tim Major. 

Music Week Awards Strat winner Kanya King also attended, as well as artists and songwriters included Nao, Enny, Lethal Bizzle and Fiona Bevan.

Staged in partnership with UK Music and AIM, the headline sponsor for this year’s event was YouTube Music. Broadcaster Alice Levine returned for the seventh time to host the awards, a hugely popular event in the industry calendar since its launch in 2014.

As well as 14 new inductees (see below) to the Roll Of Honour (read about them all here) sponsored by TikTok (Levine joked that ROH inductees should perform a "small, synchronised routine"), there were 12 inspirational winners across the Women In Music Awards categories.

The event’s co-founders Alison Wenham and Lara Baker opened this year’s ceremony.

The category winners started with Kelly Chappel, SVP touring international at Live Nation, who collected the Live Music Inspiration trophy. Video tributes included execs from the live sector, with a rendition of Simply The Best by Natasha Bent.

"I work in live music, so it's absolutely brilliant to see so many people in a room together," said Chappel, who credited the support of the "warrior women" at Live Nation.

Breakthrough star Rina Sawayama picked up the New Artist award, supported by PRS For Music and PRS Foundation. The UK artist, who’s signed to Dirty Hit, has made an impact with her 2020 debut Sawayama released as the pandemic hit.

Japan-born Sawayama forced a change in awards eligibility for the BRITs and Mercury Prize based on residency after she was ruled ineligble for the album award.

"This is my first awards and I'm loving it, especially because I'm eligible," joked Sawayama, who described Dirty Hit's Jamie Oborne as a "top girl boss".

This is my first awards and I'm loving it, especially because I'm eligible

Rina Sawayama

Tony Harlow and Erica Bone, VP people/head of people, collected The Company Award: Diversity in the Workplace supported by Spotify. The major has made a series of initiatives to address equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen presented the Rising Star trophy to Sheniece Charway, YouTube Music’s artist relations manager. The category was supported by Arts and Media Ltd/ The Music Market. 

Paying tribute to Charway, Cohen described her approach on video meetings: "She leads with her smile and enthusiasm and finishes with her wisdom and intellect."

"I've just had an amazing time in my career," said Charway, who acknowledged the support of colleagues at YouTube.

Video tributes for Charway came from execs and artists including YouTube's Tuma Basa, Roz Mansfield and Dan Chalmers, Columbia's Ferdy Unger-Hamilton, Aitch, NQ's Michael Adex and Colin Batsa.

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Star songwriter Carla Marie Williams triumphed in the Campaigner category for her game-changing work with Girls I Rate. You can read more about the work of Girls I Rate in Music Week every month for our regular feature. She was presented with the trophy by RCA artist and former Mercury Prize nominee Nao, along with DJ, presenter and producer Manny Norté. 

"I'm officially off Twitter today," joked Carla Marie Williams, who gave an impassioned speech on the issues of equality and diversity in the music industry.

"They ain't people like me," she said of those in power across the business. 

But the songwriter and Girls I Rate founder also struck an optimistic note. "I feel like the dial has really moved," she told the audience at the ceremony.

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Olivia Hobbs, director/founder of the Blackstar agency, won the award for Entrepreneur, while songwriter Karen Poole was named Music Creative. UMPG's Mike McCormack presented Poole with the trophy in recognition of a career writing hits for acts including Kylie Minogue, The Shapeshifters, Becky Hill and Will Young, whose video message ("Call me!") prompted laughter at the ceremony.

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Women In Music’s International Woman of the Year,  Motown CEO and chairwoman Ethiopia Habtemariam, jetted in from LA for the ceremony. UMG CEO & chairman Sir Lucian Grainge was among those paying tribute on video, along with David Jospeh, Rebecca Allen, Motown UK's Rob Pascoe, Lil Baby, Vince Staples and Quavo.

Habtemariam and UMG’s Jeff Harleston oversee the major’s $25m change fund to support meaningful social change.

"I am personally thrilled and delighted to see you receive this accolade," said Sir Lucian.

"You've got a natural gift for understanding artists and being a leader," added David Joseph.

"It's a real privilege and honour to be here," said Habtemarian, who received the award from Tiana Major9. 

"Your support means the world to me," Habtemarian told her UMG colleagues. "Becky, let's kill this shit together!"

The Motown boss also described her career development from being an intern. "For every young women in the room, this shit is limitless," she said. "I found my passion and purpose."

Habtemarian also saluted the "amazing Black executives" and "incredible talent" in the UK.

I'm inspired every day by the breadth of talent I listen to in my headphones

Sulinna Ong

Newly promoted to global head of editorial, Spotify’s Sulinna Ong was honoured as Music Champion at the ceremony. Spotify’s UK MD Tom Connaughton presented her with the award.

"She deserves this so much, she's built the most incredibly talented and diverse team," said Tom Connaughton, whose speech was followed by video tributes from artists and execs including Ed Sheeran, Griff, Island president Louis Bloom, Dirty Hit's Jamie Oborne, Polydor's Tom March, Spotify's Safiya Lambie-Knight, Sony Music's Jason Iley and Warner Music's Tony Harlow.

"This award wouldn't exist without the talented artists making music," said Ong, who dedicated the award to her Spotify colleagues. "I'm inspired every day by the breadth of talent I listen to in my headphones."

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All Saints member and songwriter Shaznay Lewis received the Inspirational Artist award, which was presented by her publisher, Warner Chappell UK MD Shani Gonzales. Video tributes were supplied by each member of All Saints, Shola Ama and execs including Darcus Beese.

In an emotional acceptance speech, Lewis said: "It really fills me with joy to know that people still enjoy what I do."

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Sony Music UK CEO & chairman Jason Iley presented Cassandra Gracey, president, 4th Floor Creative, with the Businesswoman Of The Year trophy (supported by Marie Claire). Iley described her as the "life and soul of every party and event".

"She's not afraid to go in and bat for her artists or her team and tell it exactly like it is," said Iley, who also noted her taste in interior decoration for the office.

A phenomenal roll-call of artists saluted Gracey's energy, abilities and support, including Jade Thirlwall, Joy Crookes, Robbie Williams ("Well done babe, about time too"), Pink ("You're badass and you know it"), Hugh Jackman, Tom Grennan and Ellie Goulding, as well as Ferdy Unger-Hamilton ("You make us all look bad"), broadcaster Robert Peston, David Dollimore, Darcus Beese, Since 93's Glyn Aikins and 4th Floor's Dorothy Hui. There was even an appearance by Sony finance chief William Rowe.

 "I can't actually believe that VT, I'm almost speechless - almost," said Gracey. "It feels like that video could be my greatest hits and I'm about to announce my retirement. I'm not, I still have a lot of work to do."

Gracey acknowledged the tribute from Jason Iley. "I also know I frustrate you greatly - and the feeling is mutual," she joked. The 4th Floor boss also thanked Rowe for "truly attempting to teach me the corporate way" and acknowledged the artists-first ethos of Sony Music Group chairman Rob Stringer.

"I do look forward to the day that we no longer need to celebrate women only," said Gracey. "We need to keep the change going."

Gracey called for more support to elevate women into A&R and label president roles, as well as more backing for female artists.

"Any person who doesn't celebrate diversity and equality has no place in our industry," she said.

The Outstanding Contribution award went to Nadia Khan, founder of CTRL Music/Women in CTRL and AIM chair, in recognition of her crucial contribution to advancing equality and inclusion across the industry. It was presented by Ammo Talwar.

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Video tributes were provided by Lethal Bizzle, Skepta, Giggs, JME, Atlantic's Austin Daboh, AIM's Paul Pacifico, Songtrust's Lara Baker, PRS For Music's Michelle Escoffery and Jackie Davidson.

"I've been blessed to have had an incredible career," said Khan. "But for the majority of my career, I've been the only woman in the room. I wanted to empower women to speak out on their experiences."

Khan concluded the ceremony with a message for men who are in positions of power in the music business.

"Listen to women, give credit to women and if you have the power, make sure they're being paid fairly," she said.

Kiss sponsored the after party, featuring DJ sets from Henrie Kwushue and Ellie Prohan.


PHOTOS: Paul Harries 



Live Music Inspiration - Kelly Chappel, Live Nation

New Artist supported by PRS For Music and PRS Foundation - Rina Sawayama

The Company Award: Diversity in the Workplace supported by Spotify - Warner Music UK

Rising Star supported by Arts and Media Ltd/ The Music Market - Sheniece Charway,  YouTube Music

Entrepreneur - Olivia Hobbs, Blackstar

Campaigner - Carla Marie Williams, Girls I Rate

Music Creative - Karen Poole

International Woman of the Year - Ethiopia Habtemariam, Motown Records

Music Champion - Sulinna Ong, Spotify UK and Ireland

Inspirational Artist - Shaznay Lewis

Businesswoman of the Year supported by Marie Claire - Cassandra Gracey, 4th Floor Creative, Sony Music UK

Outstanding Contribution - Nadia Khan, CTRL Music / Women in CTRL


Roll Of Honour sponsored by TikTok 2021 inductees:

Rachel Bolland, director of operations and head of diversity, UK Music

Shauni Caballero, founder of The Go 2 Agency/co-founder of G293 Publishing

Ashley Forbes, head of A&R admin, EMI (posthumously awarded)

Silvia Gargiulo, founder, BIY People & Talent/podcast creator

Maxie Gedge, European Project Manager, Secretly Group

Sara John Nevrkla, specialist adviser to the DCMS Committee/head of policy at Creative Industries Federation/strategist at Best For Britain campaign/consultant for Hipgnosis Songs (posthumously awarded)

Berrin Latif, vice president, legal and business affairs, BMG UK

Anna Neville, global co-president, TAP Music

MJ Olaore, chief operating officer, BPI

Camilla Pia, assistant commissioner, BBC Radio 6 Music

Maria Panayi, music marketing lead (EMEA), TikTok 

Hannah Shogbola, agent at UTA & founder of DAJU, UTA

Indy Vidyalankara, founder and CEO, Indypendent PR

Beverley Whitrick, strategic director, Music Venue Trust


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