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Black Lives In Music and Attitude is Everything's Unseen Unheard study reveals the barriers facing Black disabled people in music
By James Hanley on 21 Jun 2023
A new report has revealed the barriers to career progression facing Black disabled music creators and music professionals in the UK
Black Lives In Music (BLIM), which works for equal opportunities for Black people to work in the UK music industry without discrimination, and disabled music charity Attitude is Everything have unveiled the study, titled Unseen Unheard, which explores the experiences of Black British music creators and music professionals with disabilities or long-term health conditions.
Based on survey findings extrapolated from BLIM’s landmark October 2021 report Being Black in the UK Music Industry, the report presents responses and insights from 99 music creators and 50 industry professionals, complemented with new interviews carried out by the organisation in 2023.
The report, which can be downloaded here, highlights intersectional bias facing Black disabled people in music. It found that 74% of Black disabled music creators felt there are specific barriers to success in the industry because of their race or ethnicity, compared to 58% of Black non-disabled creators who felt the same way.
In addition, only 38% of the 149 respondents felt that diversity and inclusion is an industry priority, while a snapshot of 33 Black disabled music creators who had applied for funding found that only 42% had been successful, compared to 54% of Black non-disabled creators.
“The Unseen, Unheard report is another first of its kind report which will aid in reframing the music industry”
“The Unseen, Unheard report is another first of its kind report which will aid in reframing the music industry,” says BLIM chief executive Charisse Beaumont. “The report highlights the intersectional barriers Black Disabled music creators and professionals face daily and what we as members of the music ecosystem can do to address these barriers.
“The landscape feels like it is changing in some ways. We have seen a reversal by organisations and the government of the commitments they made in 2020. However, what is encouraging is that we are seeing bold individuals and organisations who are resolute in demonstrating to the world that inclusion and authenticity is the New Normal.”
Beaumont continues: “In this report, you will read first hand accounts of the lived experience of Black Disabled people who have smashed through every barrier and stereotype to become senior leaders in the music industry. Together with Attitude is Everything, Black Lives in Music are on a mission for Black Disabled music creators and professionals to no longer be unseen and unheard but instead celebrated, uplifted and granted the same opportunities as others.
“Eradicating discrimination and creating platforms and pathways to showcase their talent and skills so they can thrive and have the careers they truly deserve. Let’s work together to create the truly inclusive music industry we all long for.”
“The industry’s response must only be to ‘do better’”
Other findings in the report include that 81% of Black disabled creators do not feel there is a clear career trajectory or path for them. Only 8% said they had felt supported through each career stage, and 73% of Black disabled music creators and professionals said they had seen non-Black contemporaries promoted ahead of them despite being less qualified.
Elsewhere, 70% of Black disabled music creators and professionals said that they have experienced racism or racial bias towards them, 22% have accessed counselling as a result of these experiences, and 91% of Black disabled creators and professionals said they felt unsatisfied with how they are supported by the industry.
In conjunction with the study, today also sees the launch of the organisations’ new Unseen Unheard podcast series, hosted by Attitude is Everything’s Joy Addo. Broadcast on the Black Lives In Music YouTube channel and across all podcast platforms, the series features in-depth interviews with Black disabled creators and industry professionals about their experiences of navigating the music business. .
“The Unseen Unheard report and podcast series marks the first major intervention generated by our partnership with Black Lives in Music,” says Attitude is Everything founder Suzanne Bull MBE. “It’s a rallying cry to the industry to listen to Black disabled artists and professionals and to respond to their experiences of race and disability-related barriers. And the industry’s response must only be to ‘do better’.
“The report’s sobering findings highlight the many ways in which Black disabled talent is being held back”
“The report’s sobering findings highlight the many ways in which Black disabled talent is being held back. This needs to urgently change. We need to see the ‘diversity’ conversation take place on conference stages, industry forums and boardrooms, not just in the meetings and spaces marked for the ‘diversity discussion’, but as the integral part of all conversations.
“This is the way that Black disabled people will be enabled to speak truth to power, showcase their skills and talent, and pursue ambitions free of the barriers which are artificially created for the benefit of no one within the industry.”
Unseen Unheard concludes by making a series of calls to action to talent development organisations, funders, industry support services, education providers and all industry employers under the headings: Representation, Consultation and Commitment.
Organisations are also urged sign up to Black Lives in Music’s upcoming Anti-Racism Code of Conduct and download and implement Attitude is Everything’s Accessible Employment Guide.
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