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No more slogans. Just actions

Ammo Talwar MBE, CEO of Punch and chair of UK Music's diversity taskforce, discusses why Black Out Tuesday must be the catalyst for change across the music industry

08 Jun 2020

Black Out Tuesday: No more slogans. Just actions

Wow. Have so many music industry voices ever called this loudly for equality, for social justice and for long-term change? Not in my lifetime.

Black Out Tuesday, started by two US music execs, saw companies from across the global music industry – including AEG and Live Nation, the major international booking agencies, and ‘big three’ record labels – halt operations for the day in solidarity with the protests for social and racial justice which had been sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The events of Tuesday 2 June made the global music industry reflect, talk and share pain.

But right now – after the tweets, hashtags, slogans and corporate spin have disappeared from the industry’s collective timeline – is when the hard work begins. Real change will only come through actions with consequences, investment with responsibility, and, always, accountability.

My question to you is: what is your company doing right now?

Black Out Tuesday is society’s challenge for us all to make real progress on the elephants in the room; saying little and doing less is not an option

Diversity issues have been a box-ticking exercise for too many people for far too long. As we move on from both Black Out Tuesday and the coronavirus lockdown, we have a real opportunity to change our business models, policy, governance and recruitment for the better. In any large corporation, responsibilities will be shared and devolved across the team – but accountability has to sit with the top table. Every CEO, board member and chair is ultimately responsible for the diversity, social justice and fairness of their business.

As the CEO of Punch, a music agency that develops, tours and works predominantly with black artists, I’m answerable to our community as well as our board. Based in Birmingham, UK, we have a responsibility to visibly enable, develop and champion diversity in a city which is 43% black and minority ethnic (BAME).

This year I accepted the chairship of the UK Music equality and diversity taskforce. I took it on because I wanted to make real change, challenge every glass ceiling, share good practice and ensure the music industry reflects the society we live in: modern, collaborative and diverse.

UK Music’s diversity taskforce influences and lobbies government and trade bodies on diversity issues. We exist to improve equality of access and retention across the music industry workforce, with a sharp focus on gender and race. Of course, true diversity means getting into the granular of gender pay gaps, shared parental leave for the self-employed, and social mobility across the industry. But Black Out Tuesday is society’s challenge for us all to make real progress on the elephants in the room; saying little and doing less is not an option.

When we nurture difference, not only do we treat others with more empathy, but our bottom line also improves

I want the taskforce to provoke challenging conversations and transformative actions on all our blind spots – the ones that make us feel so awkward to admit. When we nurture difference, not only do we treat others with more empathy, but our bottom line also improves. Diversity fosters business resilience, good governance and problem solving. An effective response to Black Out Tuesday can initiate change across the UK music business and beyond.

As I write this, Warner Music Group has just announced a $100 million emergency fund to support social justice work in the US, with a particular focus on the music industry. The Monday before Black Out Tuesday, Live Nation said it had donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama-based nonprofit that provides legal support to prisoners, especially those of colour, who lack effective legal representation.

Are initiatives like these just the start?

UK Music’s diversity taskforce is ready to help. In the upcoming months, we’ll be working to develop five key workforce strands (which will be available at here), but right now we need to initiate some transformational tasks with accountability and speed.

On that note, we’re launching our major survey into diversity in the UK music industry in mid-June. It is a big part of helping bring about the change we all want to see.

So, if you care about who works in our industry, I urge you to take part.


Ammo Talwar MBE, is CEO of music and arts agency Punch and chair of the diversity taskforce at UK Music.