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Top agents call for action on diversity

Top agents called for a more diverse, inclusive and equitable industry during last week’s ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag).

Hannah Shogbola (UTA), Natasha Gregory (Mother Artists), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent International) and Whitney Boateng (WME) came together for the all-female Agents Panel – hailed as “a long-overdue milestone” by moderator Maria May (CAA).

“We are representing the change we want to see,” said May during her opening gambit for the digital session. “I believe the music industry has a duty to continue to strive forward post-pandemic be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in.”

However, WME’s Boateng says there’s a “lot more work that needs to be done in the industry”. “It is still predominantly old white male and it has been for years,” she added. “Change has to come from the top-down and it has to be more than black squares.”

UTA’s Shogbola agreed: “If you are looking around your office and it does not reflect the society that you live in and the roster that you look after, then there is something categorically wrong.”

Black squares were posted on social media as part of the music industry’s Blackout Tuesday movement, a protest against racism and police brutality in response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

“As a black woman within this industry, it’s frustrating that even 15-20 years into my career, it takes the death of somebody like George Floyd for our industry to finally open its eyes,” said Shogbola.

“The industry has a duty to be even more progressive, more inclusive, and representative of the world that we live in”

Boateng pointed out that it’s not just racial inequalities that the industry needs to fix but also disparities around sexuality and gender, with the panel unanimously agreeing that diversity on line-ups is still “not good enough”.

“It’s so important that when anybody is going to a show, they feel like it’s a safe and inclusive space for them,” said Dunstone.

Elsewhere during the panel, Mother Artists’ Gregory says that flexibility towards employees’ work hours will also be a key feature in a more equitable post-pandemic industry.

“Working 9–5 is not equality because everybody has a different situation, a different experience and different needs,” argued Gregory. “Being an agent is not a 9–5 anyway so just put trust in your team – working hard is a given in this industry.”

Dunstone agreed: “Adaptability and flexibility are massive takeaways from the last two years. Hopefully, we’ll pick and choose the bits of [pandemic life] that worked for us.”

The 36th edition of ESNS took place under the banner ‘Building Back Better, Together’ and focussed on getting the industry back on its feet after two years of the pandemic.

The hybrid conference and festival wrapped on Friday (21 January) and Dago Houben, director of ESNS said that “despite the fact that there is definitely screen fatigue, we were able to perform our platform function for the national and international music industry.

 


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ESNS: ‘The digital edition will still fulfil our mission’

ESNS (Eurosonic Noorderslag) organisers have promised that the upcoming digital-only edition will still “fulfil our mission to network, connect, inspire and promote”.

For the second consecutive year, the European festival and conference in Groningen, Netherlands, has moved entirely online from 19–22 January 2022 in response to the government’s latest Covid-19 measures.

Conference director Ruud Berends says that, while the biggest challenge was accepting that they could not hold an in-person event again, the team has worked to make this year’s event “the best online edition ever”.

“We learned a lot from our first online conference and festival. It was beyond our expectations – the standard is high,” added head of programme Robert Meijerink. “We would like to service both our audience, artists and delegates even better than last year.”

Confirmed speakers for the conference include Claire O’Neill (A Greener Festival), Fruzsina Szép (Goodlive), Hannah Shogbola (UTA), Henk Schuit (CTS Eventim NL), Lotje Horvers (Backstage Pass), Mia Ternström (Keychange/Musikcentrum Öst), Mikko Niemelä (Ruisrock), Morten Therkildsen (Roskilde Festival/RF Experience),

Natasha Gregory (Mother Artists), Ruben Brouwer (Mojo Concerts), Sally Dunstone (Primary Talent International) and Stuart Galbraith (Kilimanjaro Live) will also be making appearances during the conference.

“I really think the programme is very relevant and diverse and really captures the whole music sector”

The conference last week announced an opening keynote speech from executive VP of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, who is responsible for the Green Deal – aligning with the conference’s ‘Building Back Better Together’ theme.

Also confirmed last week was blockbuster panel ‘Festival Season 2022’ with Marta Pallares (Primavera), Codruta Vulcu (ARTmania), Paul Reed (AIF), Christof Huber (Yourope) and Stephan Thanscheidt (FKP Scorpio).

Delegates can expect a conference programme that spans the metaverse, ticket scalping, cancel culture, mental health, diversity, equity and inclusion, streaming, Brexit, Covid, gender equality, the agency business and more.

“I really think the programme is very relevant and diverse and really captures the whole music sector – focussing on solutions, information and answers we all need to hear so we can move on in the most beautiful industry in the world,” says Berends.

Alongside the conference programme, the digital edition of ESNS 2022 will feature the usual festival programme of Noorderslag, Eurosonic, as well as the Music Moves Europe Awards award ceremony.

Tickets for the digital conference cost €99, and are available via www.esns.nl. The festival will be available – free of charge – with sessions recorded by Dutch broadcaster NTR in collaboration with NPO 3FM, to be broadcast by NPO 3FM, NPO 3 and the digital festival platform, hosted by VPRO 3VOOR12.

 


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