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Beyond solidarity

Joe Frankland, CEO of PRS Foundation, highlights some of the possible pathways to a stronger, connected music community

20 Nov 2020

Joe Frankland, PRS Foundation

The Black Lives Matter movement and Black Out Tuesday galvanised many teams to reflect, connect with Black communities, and come together as a global music industry in solidarity against anti-Black racism, bigotry and prejudice. And the momentum for change kept up in the UK through Black History Month celebrations.

It is also great to hear a groundswell of ‘building back better’ discussions to ensure that the industry’s Covid-19 recovery allows the music community to act on systemic injustice, inequitable financial benefit and the many barriers that prevent underrepresented creators and professionals from fulfilling potential and forging long-term successful careers.

We know the pandemic disproportionately impacts underrepresented groups and we must counteract that with a greater sense of urgency. At PRS Foundation, we know we will play a vital role in recovery and in shaping the future of music to build a stronger, connected and sustainable music community.

We have made much progress to address gender inequality, launching Women Make Music in 2011, achieving gender balance across our grants programmes in 2018, and co-founding the global Keychange movement, which has over 370 music companies working together towards achieving gender balance by 2022.

“Goodwill amounts to little more than window-dressing if not followed up by commitments, action and accountability”

And we are building on our strong track-record for inclusivity and industry collaboration to develop a long-term ambitious programme to power-up Black creative and executive talent.

To bring about meaningful and lasting change, public solidarity is not enough. Goodwill amounts to little more than window-dressing if not followed up by commitments, action and accountability.

So, what does action and change look like? And to paraphrase the ever-inspiring Keith Harris, OBE, how do we seize the momentum to avoid this becoming “another false dawn in terms of equality in the industry”?

If you don’t know where to begin, you are not alone. Perhaps you feel that personal action may not be enough. Or that the pandemic means you or your company cannot contribute financially.

Or perhaps you’re one of the hundreds of first-time organisation grantees receiving lifeline support from the Culture Recovery Fund or similar Arts Council funds across the UK. You might not know where to start when it comes to the crucial commitment you have made to increase organisational diversity and the diversity of audiences, visitors and/or participants.

I want to stress that there are already very clear pathways to meaningful change. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can connect with the many who have worked tirelessly for decades on diversity and inclusion, or to brand new collectives and initiatives launched this year. And there has never been a bigger opportunity (and responsibility) to come together to address social injustice.

“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Connect with the many who have worked tirelessly for decades on diversity and inclusion”

Below are some individuals, initiatives and organisations whose work might inspire you:

Black Music Coalition (BMC) – launched by senior music execs following Black Out Tuesday, the BMC set out five priorities to tackle discrimination in the UK music industry, followed by a must-read manifesto that includes the creation of a resource pack available to music companies.

Nadia Khan – the Women in CTRL network has 800 members and its Seat at the Table report sparked considerable commitments to improve board representation at UK trade bodies.

Ammo Talwar – through the UK Music Diversity Task Force, Ammo has been working tirelessly with colleagues on the 2020 Diversity Report.

Michael Rapino – the Live Nation CEO set global commitments and ambitious targets to build diversity by 2025. Crucially, he is committed to holding himself accountable – something our Keychange pledge has been encouraging for years.

Oslo World – have adapted to the pandemic with an innovative 3D virtual festival and, acting on their ‘Solidarity’ theme, have made all tickets free, with optional donations going to the Beirut music scene.

Creative responses – Native Instruments’ Covid-19 response saw them collaborate with artists to launch a donation-based charity sound pack, benefitting initiatives including Keychange and Heart n Soul. And we’ve had two indie companies donating in-kind support (e.g. residencies/marketing campaigns) to grantees of our Sustaining Creativity Fund.

Personal commitment – countless thousands have been donating to vital causes to support the music ecosystem during the pandemic. Beggars CEO, Paul Redding, swam for 16 hours across the English Channel to raise over £120,000 for a new racial inclusivity programme and for Sweet Relief’s Covid-19 fund in the US.


Joe Frankland is CEO of PRS Foundation.