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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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Impala hires diversity trainers Vick Bain and Arit Eminue

Impala, the umbrella body which represents music companies and associations across Europe, has appointed UK-based equality campaigner Vick Bain and Arit Eminue to provide diversity and inclusion training to its members.

Bain, who has been confirmed for ILMC session Gender Equality: The Next Level, is a diversity trainer, campaigner and PhD researcher, as well as a qualified equality, diversity and inclusion consultant.

Last year, she officially launched the F-List, a directory of UK female and non-binary musicians to be used by promoters, festival bookers, commissioners, music supervisors.

Arit Eminue of Diva Apprenticeships has also been appointed, alongside Bain, to provide diversity training for Impala’s 5,000+ members on a three-year contract.

“This is an exciting opportunity to spread awareness and knowledge on the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the music industry”

The pair have already held two training sessions for Impala’s diversity task force. The first training session for members is set for 27 January.

The appointments follow Impala’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter, published last October, which lays out 12 commitments towards promoting diversity and inclusion among independent music companies. This includes making diversity and conscious inclusion training available twice a year to all members.

“Working with Impala and its membership across Europe is an exciting opportunity to spread awareness and knowledge on the benefits of diversity and inclusion in the music industry,” says Bain.

Arit Eminue added: “I look forward to helping Imapala’s members achieve their diversity and inclusion goals and providing practical tips on how they can drive change. So much can be done by making simple changes to start with.”

 


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UTA commits $1m to social justice causes

United Talent Agency (UTA) has announced a series of internal initiatives aimed at further increasing diversity and inclusion across the agency globally.

The actions – which are accompanied by a donation of US$1 million to organisations fighting for social justice – are the result of “efforts in recent weeks, led by leaders, colleagues of colour and allies across UTA, to have candid and thoughtful dialogue about the internal steps necessary to make meaningful and sustainable progress toward a more equitable community”, according to the agency, which has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Nashville and Miami.

Referencing the recent movement towards greater ethnic diversity in the music industry, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer explains: “The past few weeks have shown that we must address the pace in which we’ve approached our diversity and inclusion efforts. It’s our responsibility to move forward with immediacy to ensure change happens, as a company and as individuals.

“I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues who stepped up and spoke truth to power. They are making UTA an even better place to work and helping drive true and meaningful progress well beyond our four walls.”

The $1m financial commitment will be provided over four years, and overseen by the nonprofit UTA Foundation.

“We are putting our stake in the ground publicly to hold ourselves accountable”

The new internal initiatives, meanwhile, include:

Additionally, Project Impact, which sees the agency close for a ‘day of action’ on community projects, will this year focus solely on issues of social justice and racial inequality.

UTA’s executive director of inclusion, Shanique Bonelli-Moore, says: “We believe diverse backgrounds and life experiences influence positive perspectives and great storytelling, yielding broader opportunities for our clients. Much of this work is already underway.

“It won’t all happen overnight. But we are putting our stake in the ground publicly to hold ourselves accountable and are implementing systems to sustain urgency as we pursue lasting change.”

 


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