UK Music reports progress with diversity in industry
Representation of Black, Asian and ethnic minorities and women has increased at almost every level in the industry since 2016, according to a new report by UK Music.
The trade body revealed the findings of its 2020 Workforce Diversity Survey in its UK Music Diversity Report, as well as a ten-point plan to tackle racism and boost diversity in Britain’s music industry.
The survey’s most notable findings include an increase in minority ethic employees between 16-24, up from 25.9% in 2018 to a record 30.6%.
The number of people from minority ethnic professionals at entry-level has also risen from 23.2% in 2018 to new high of 34.6% in 2020, though representation is worse in senior positions at just 19.9% – one in five posts.
Elsewhere, the proportion of women has increased from 45.3% in 2016 to new high of 49.6% in 2020. However, the number of women in the 45–64 age group has dropped from 38.7% in 2018 to 35% in 2020.
“Against a backdrop of global change the diversity taskforce has been carefully listening, challenging and working behind the scenes to help shape a transformational and game-changing ten-point plan,” says UK Music diversity taskforce chair Ammo Talwar MBE.
“If our music industry is to tell the story of modern-day Britain, then it needs to look like modern-day Britain too”
“This plan is data driven and evidence based with metrics and lived experience. It’s the accumulation of nine months’ work across the whole music industry to support yet hold the industry to account. No tokenistic statements, no short-term wins but a truly collaborative long term plan that reboots the sector and ensures diversity is front and centre of all major decisions.”
UK Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: “As an industry, we are united in our determination to lead the way on improving diversity and inclusion in our sector and across society. This report consists of a frank and candid analysis of the current situation our industry faces, and a bold and ambitious ten-point plan for how to achieve the positive change we all want to see. It’s relevant not just to the music industry, but to organisations everywhere.
“If our music industry is to tell the story of modern-day Britain, then it needs to look like modern-day Britain too. This ground-breaking report is an important step towards achieving that.”
The trade body’s ten-point plan to improve diversity makes a number of commitments including maintaining a database of people responsible for promoting diversity across UK Music; removing the word “urban” to describe music of black origin, using genre-specific terms like R&B or soul instead; and ending the use of the “offensive and outdated” term BAME in official communications.
UK Music has conducted a diversity study every two years since 2016, which collates data from across the music business including studios, management agencies, music publishers, major and independent record labels, music licensing companies and the live music sector.
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LN to boost exec diversity by 2025
Live Nation has committed to spending $10 million over the next two years to increase the diversity of its workforce, with plans to have 30% of its directors representing underserved groups by 2025.
In an open letter, which was sent to employees around the world last week, Live Nation president and CEO Michael Rapino wrote that the company must “address inequality and injustice at every level”, committing to increasing representation at director and leadership level; putting diversity centre stage at its events; increasing spend with Black and minority-owned vendors; amplifying social justice causes; and holding itself accountable.
The company is investing $10m in launching new programmes to develop, promote and hire people from underrepresented groups, aiming to bring its overall employee population to parity across race and gender in every country.
Rapino also pledges to increase diversity “at the very top”, with plans to nominate more women and Black, indigenous and other candidates of colour for the board of directors so that at least 30% of its directors are “diverse” by 2025.
For leadership level (director and above), Live Nation is setting country-specific representation goals “in order to acknowledge local dynamics and best serve each region”. In the United States, the company plans to double its Black leadership representation in the next five years, as well as increasing the overall diversity of leadership to 30% .
The company is also aiming to increase the diversity of the vendors and suppliers it works with, actively looking to support minority-owned businesses “wherever possible”.
“We spend over $2 billion each year on staging and sourcing for shows, with a supply chain that spans the globe,” writes Rapino. “We can use this spending power to drive economic empowerment and help grow small and disadvantaged businesses.”
“Our ultimate goal is to be as representative as the communities and artists we serve”
On stage, Live Nation commits to developing and investing in more music ventures, as well as festivals, tours and programmes, that “empower Black, Latin, female and other underserved groups as they continue to shape the future of music and culture.”
Once the live business is back up and running, line-ups at Live Nation festivals can also be expected to include more artists from underrepresented races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders.
To ensure it meets its diversity goals, Live Nation is implementing anti-bias education training; tracking its diversity data globallying facilitating ongoing pay equity analysis; tying its goals to leadership compensation; and establishing an Equity Accountability Board with input from leaders from across the business.
“With ongoing accountability, we believe we can become a more actively anti-racist organisation,” states Rapino.
“Our ultimate goal is to be as representative as the communities and artists we serve. The core of our business is promoting, and we are committed to improving our promotion of diversity within our company and the world at large.
“I am confident that this will make us an even stronger team.”
Rapino concludes by urging employees to “please continue to make your voices heard.”
Last month, a group of US industry executives formed advocacy group the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), addressing the heads of companies including Live Nation to “put a plan for change in place” to tackle systemic racism in the music business, following similar calls from Black music executives in the UK.
The letter is available to read in full here.
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Beyond Rhetoric: BAME execs on boosting diversity in live
The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, looked at the lack of racial diversity in the live music business, as well as practical steps the industry can take to begin turning the tide.
Hosted by Live Nation International diversity lead David Carrigan, the session welcomed UK Music’s Ammo Talwar, Metropolis Music promoter Kiarn Eslami, ICM agent Yves Pierre, ATC Management’s Sumit Bothra and Earth Agency’s Lucy Atkinson to discuss the overwhelming whiteness of the concert industry, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter and #TheShowMustBePaused campaigns for racial equality.
Talwar, who leads UK Music’s diversity and equality taskforce, said that while the industry’s front-facing components are hugely diverse, its workforce is not.
In London, for example, over 40% of the population are non-white, he said, compared to around 18% in the UK music industry. At the executive level, he added, companies are still overwhelmingly staffed by “middle-aged, white heterosexual males”.
Comparing her own path into the business, Atkinson said she speaks to a lot of white men “who say they just kind of fell into this job, and that hasn’t been my experience at all. Even now, I still feel like I have to fight to get taken seriously as an agent.”
“A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”
On the artist side, Pierre pointed out that lot of artists aren’t allowed to “live” in traditionally white spaces – they have to start in a black/“urban” genre and then go pop or rock when they are already established. “We have to acknowledge that these artists exist and that there’s space for them,” she said.
Looking at practical measures to promote a more representative industry, Atkinson said: “A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”: for example, the ‘Rooney rule’ in the NFL that requires at least one ethnic-minority candidate be interviewed for a job.
Speaking from a promoter’s point of view, Eslami described another simple change he has made on his shows – which, while not costing his employer any more, allows for greater investment in ethnic minority run businesses. “Every show we have has a budget, and one of those costs is catering,” he explained. “[I asked] why do we spend all our budget in supermarkets, when there are so many other caterers our there?
“It’s about looking at how we change the cash flow for these shows, whether it’s in catering, marketing or elsewhere.”
Pierre said it’s up to everyone in the industry to hold their own employers accountable when it comes to employing a diverse workforce.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation. We have to make sure that the companies we’re working for live up to those standards when it comes to racial diversity and gender equality,” she explained. “A lot of the time nothing gets done because you think someone else is doing it.
“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation”
“If I want to see the change, I have to be part of that change. I have to hold my colleagues, and my bosses and partners, accountable.”
“It’s time to do things differently,” agreed Eslami. “People often think, ‘If something’s not broken, why fix it?’, but we’ve all had a three-month time out and realised that now is the time to think about how we can do things differently in future.”
Bothra said ATC is looking at changes it can make to hiring processes to promote greater diversity. “For us as a management company, for example, we have to be aware that it’s incumbent on us to look in new places to find people,” he explained. “We can’t just go to the same recruitment agency, the same school, and do the usual thing, because that’s not going to make any difference at all.”
“The professionals are out there,” added Talwar. “We’re just not looking in the right places.”
“There are tons of kids who don’t know that an agent exists, or that there’s a management position, or a social media aspect of this,” said Pierre, emphasising the importance of getting the word out about the live industry to underrepresented groups.
“I think we have to expose people to these things, so they can understand there’s a whole workforce behind these artists and something for them to do beyond just being an artist or a producer or writer.”
“The professionals are out there. We’re just not looking in the right places”
“Before I started at Metropolis I didn’t even know a promoter was a job,” added Eslami. His advice, he said, is that “it doesn’t take long” to offer advice and mentorship to young people from disadvantaged groups. “There are 365 days in a year, and if you spare one or two” of them you can really make a difference, he said.
While the current zeitgeist feels like a “watershed moment” for diversity, real change needs to be about more than words – it’s got to be a “root-and-branch approach” that tackles “systemic” issues, said Talwar.
He added that he’s “just as interested in the block in the middle” – the one that stops industry professionals of colour attaining leadership positions – as the one that stops ethnic minorities getting into live music in the first place. “Where are the next CEOs, the next chairmen?” he asked.
Carrigan concluded by saying the conversation had been “a long time coming” and expressed his wish that debate will go on in future. “These conversations about race in the live music industry are not common, which illustrates the need to continue the conversation,” he explained.
Given the importance of the conversation continuing, future IQ Focus panels will revisit the topic in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can watch back yesterday’s session on YouTube or Facebook now.
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Thank you, Black Out Tuesday
Black Out Tuesday was created by Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang, the senior artist campaign manager at Platoon. Tuesday 2 June 2020 saw business as usual halt in solidarity for black lives.
The entire world was shaken by the inhumane loss of George Floyd. Sadly he is not the only one whose life has been stolen at the hands of police brutality and racism – there are hundreds more, including recent cases Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. This had an effect on the black community I personally have never seen in my lifetime. Over the last week or so, I have seen and felt a sense of togetherness and support for black people, which we deserve… it is about time.
For me, Black Out Tuesday was a day of reflection and homage, and an opportunity to encourage a profound, uninterrupted level of education within our respective organisations. We used the opportunity to have an open dialogue, amplify black voices, address imperfections in our own policies, and discuss next steps towards tackling prejudice, discrimination and the outright racism black people are forced to endure.
Without this day, a lot of us wouldn’t have been able to gain the attention of our non-black counterparts; we wouldn’t have been able to open the dialogue with the same altitude of poise and tenacity.
Failure to address these key issues makes you complicit
So, what are the next steps?
The issues have been identified – now it’s time to present the facts. Where are your ethnicity pay gap and employee satisfaction reports? If they don’t exist, now is a good time to populate that data and work towards a safer space for black employees. Data is an extremely important tool and necessary for change.
If you have the capacity to roll out anti-racism training, do so. Educate where possible, and call out racist behaviour, because failure to address these key issues makes you complicit.
If you’re reading this and you’re an executive, a business owner, a manager, a CEO, a founder or anything in between, please ask yourself, “What can I do to spark change? What can I do to make sure my company policies reflect the black square I posted on Tuesday?”
This isn’t a gimmick: systemic and institutionalised racism affects people’s lives, and you have a duty of care.
This is a battle we have been fighting since the beginning of time and will continue to fight until there is real change. If Black Out Tuesday taught me anything, it’s that there is strength in numbers.
Jane Elliot: Blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiment
Jane Elliot, an anti-racist activist and educator, devised this experiment following the assassination of Martin Luther King.
BFI collection: Black Lives
Portraits of public and private lives against the shifting social climate of 20th-century Britain.
BBC documentary: Will Britain Ever Have a Black Prime Minister?
Unfiltered with James O’Brien: Akala deconstructs race and class
BBC documentary: The Secret Windrush Files
Afua Hirsh: Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging
Ibram X. Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist
Ijeoma Oluo: So You Want to Talk About Race
Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
A collective creating safer, all-inclusive spaces, good fortune and equal opportunities for women and non-binary folks in the creative industry.
Black Ticket Project
Award-winning initiative creating cultural access points for black young people.
This article originally appeared in issue 90 of IQ Magazine (July 2020). Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.
Tales from Covid: Yves Pierre, ICM Partners
As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert its impact on the live industry, IQ builds on its Tales from Covid series to discuss the opportunities for change that have started to emerge from lockdown life.
Ahead of this week’s IQ Focus session, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, IQ catches up with panellist and ICM Partners agent Yves Pierre (Migos, Lil Yachty, Baby Rose, City Girls), to talk about the urgent steps the industry needs to take to tackle systemic racism and the new revenue models and opportunities that have emerged from the coronavirus shutdown.
IQ:It’s been a really tough few months for the live business. What has changed from a business point of view over the past few months?
YP:My role, in its essence, hasn’t really changed. I still offer the same service – looking for new business opportunities and getting creative. It requires the same mindset. Although the format is different, we are still tasked with presenting our clients with the best information possible.
The difference is, obviously, that we are going from live models to the various virtual platforms that are coming out now. We are having to explore different pieces of technology and need to be really well versed in everything to understand what we stand to make and all the different revenue avenues, such as merch packages and other bundles.
What we need is to develop an accurate strategy with those livestreaming companies and work with different promoters on that side of things to work out what we consider the business model to be.
“We need to factor in these [virtual] opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed”
Do you foresee virtual shows becoming a revenue-driver for acts in the long term?
I think there will always be a place for virtual events after this but maybe in not quite so prevalent a way as now. There’s no denying, though, that we need to factor in these opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed.
There’s no perfect model for online events yet. YouTube and Fortnite have been an early frontrunners, but we are going to see everything level up.
I am still figuring out the basics to judge how much people are willing to pay for various online events, how many people certain platforms can withstand, which kinds of formats require large overheads. It’s all still being tweaked and we are certainly not in a position yet to say which is best.
An interesting format I have tried with one of my artists, Lil Yachty, was an online paint and chat with a group at a university. This took him out of his comfort zone and allowed one on one engagement with fans – and it proved really interactive.
When live shows do return, what do you foresee as the main challenges?
I think it is going to be the mental aspect we’re going to have to work around. As an agent, I need to try and think as a consumer and think how comfortable I’d be in enclosed spaces with lots of people.
Mentally, this situation is taking a toll and the fear of there being another wave, and what that will mean, is massive. We are really going to have to step outside of this and look at the perspective of the consumer to figure out whether they’re ready.
There’s also the economic aspect – how much are people going to be able to pay for a show? A lot of people have lost their jobs, or been laid off and furloughed. There is a big economic element to think about, but we will have to deal with the emotional side first.
“Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case”
How do you foresee the industry recovering from this?
Sadly, it’s just going to take time. You could implement all the safeguarding measures you want, but time is what we need. I believe we can look this as a chance to reset, rather than view it as a loss. We have to be willing to pivot and try and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The business absolutely will change after this. We’ve already seen the beginning of Live Nation’s plans for the future, of course. Everyone is going to have to take a step back and reevaluate what things will look like.
We have realised content is king now. More than ever, we have to focus on what the artists are going to go for.
The key will be finding a way to engage with fans that aren’t in a venue. Being there in real life is not the be all and end. There is a world of opportunity online, we’ve realised that you have to look at all possible options.
I’ve certainly found this to be a great opportunity to look at different ways of doing things. Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case.
One push for change in the industry has been highlighted in particular in recent weeks, what now needs to be done to tackle racism and increase diversity in the live business?
There is a myriad of things on several levels that must be done. Heads of departments and those with the power in this industry need to partake in actual engagement with community. There is no value in giving money when people have no clue what money is used for. There needs to be real conversations with communities or advocates for those communities to obtain real information on where to donate.
Partnering with local communities will also help people gain the understanding of what it is like to live with discrimination.
“We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable”
Within the industry there are so many examples of discrimation towards Afro-American clients and workers. For example, the security measures that are taken against hip hop artists would not be implemented for other acts. This is unconscious bias. Some venues ban hip-hop completely – it’s a bias, and allowing that to happen is a bias. There is no sensitivity to what that feels like as an agent and as a client. All these things play a part in the problem.
As well as community engagement, representation of Black people at executive level is needed. Having one Black person on an executive board isn’t enough. It feels like an exception, and that’s not parity. We constantly have to raise ourselves to a diff standard to our non African-American colleagues. We have to commit to making sure there are more of us in a role and that goes for all people of colour in business in general.
We need equity in more than name and, until we get there, then there’s a problem. We are in a position where this is something that has to be led by African-Americans in these spaces, but our colleagues have to work with us. We can demand these things but, at end of the day, they are implemented by someone else. So we need a concrete commitment by these leading companies.
Are you hopeful that now is the time for long-lasting positive change?
I really hope so, but we also have to see more evidence. People have to be putting themselves on the line. This isn’t for us – in the long run, it’s not about us. It’s about the people around us and those coming after us.
We need these things to be implemented now. We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable. Not wanting to feel guilty is not enough, and we have to be clear that words and stated intentions are not enough.
We need change and we need to be part of the process we are to achieve this.
Leading music execs launch Black Music Action Coalition
Over 30 top artist managers, agents and other US industry executives have formed a new advocacy group, the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), to address systemic racism within the music industry and in society at large.
The coalition was inspired by and formed in alliance with #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which was started by Atlantic Record’s Jamila Thomas and Platoon’s Brianna Agyeman, and which prompted the Black Out Tuesday initiative.
BMAC is currently run by an executive committee that includes founding members Ashaunna Ayars (founder of the Ayars Agency), Binta Brown (founder and CEO of Fermata Entertainment), Jamil Davis (co-CEO of the Revels Group), Shawn Holiday (co-head of Urban Music at Columbia Records), Courtney Stewart (CEO, Right Hand Music Group) and Prophet (CEO of 50/50 Music Group Management).
The coalition is also guided by an advisory board consisting of industry veterans Clarence Avant, Quincy Jones, Irving Azoff and Ron Sweeney.
In a similar vein to the Black Music Coalition in the UK, which consists of leading Black promoters, managers and label executives, BMAC has sent an open letter to the heads of music companies, setting out a plan for change.
“We created BMAC to address long standing racial inequities in the business, the financial impact of those inequities for both Black artists and executives, and ways we can work with you urgently to solve these problems,” reads the letter.
“We created BMAC to address long standing racial inequities in the business”
“We are encouraged by recent efforts by Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music, Apple, YouTube, BMG and other industry participants. However, we know that more needs to be done and we must do it together.”
The coalition states its highest priority is to meet with company CEOs “to mutually develop a plan to address the deeply rooted systemic racism in our industry”.
Another key issue is ensuring the coalition has “a voice in determining how funds designated to fight racism are allocated”, given that “so few companies in the music industry are run by Black people”.
“We must work together to put a plan for change in place with you within the next 30 days. BMAC intends to hold you accountable, and will keep track of the music industry’s efforts to clean up its own house. There is a lot of work for us to do, and we look forward to doing it together.”
Artists including Roddy Ricch, Lil Nas X, Mary J Blige, Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Pharell Williams, Travis Scott and Post Malone have shown their support for the letter.
This week’s IQ Focus panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, will look at the problems of systemic racism within the live business and discuss what needs to be done to make the industry a more diverse place. To set a reminder for the session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.
Photo: Frank Schwichtenberg/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)
Live professionals talk diversity in next IQ Focus
Continuing the weekly series of IQ Focus virtual panels, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music will look at the problems of systemic racism within the live business and discuss what needs to be done to make the industry a more diverse place.
The session, the eighth in the IQ Focus series, will be streamed live on Facebook and YouTube on Thursday 25 June at 4 p.m. BST/5 p.m. CET.
Earlier this month, Blackout Tuesday brought the industry to a standstill and thrust the topic of diversity in the music business back into view.
So just what challenges do black promoters, agents and managers face, and what’s needed to counter systemic racism both within the business, in performance spaces and touring markets?
Live Nation’s David Carrigan will lead this timely discussion to ask how changes can be made, and the current momentum can be maintained over the months and years ahead.
Joining Carrigan on the panel are Ammo Talwar MBE, CEO of music and arts agency Punch and chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce; Kiarn Eslami, a promoter at Metropolis Music;
Lucy Atkinson from Earth Agency; Sumit Bothra of ATC Management; and ICM Partners’ Yves Pierre.
All previous IQ Focus sessions, which have looked at topics including management under lockdown, the agency business, the festival summer, grassroots music venues and innovation in live music, can be watched back here.
Black music executives set out standards for industry
A collective of Black music executives in the UK has sent a letter to heads of companies including Live Nation, Universal Music Group and Spotify, laying out five “immediate calls to action” to tackle structural and systematic racism within the music industry.
The letter builds on Black Out Tuesday last week, which saw the global music business down tools in solidarity with anti-racism protestors in the US and in order to reflect on what steps need to be taken to address racism in the industry and wider society.
Following on from the demonstration, which was promoted through the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, executives from Metropolis Music, the Music Managers Forum (MMF), Ministry of Sound, Sony Music, UMG, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, and more, have come together under the #TheShowMustBePausedUK initiative and newly formed Black Music Coalition to call for immediate changes at the UK’s biggest live and recorded music companies.
“The music industry has long been a microcosm for [racial] injustices and they continue to play out within the companies you lead”
Directed to “chairman, CEOs presidents and music industry leaders”, the letter calls on companies to implement mandatory anti-racism/unconscious bias training; commit money each year to Black organisations, educational projects and charities in the UK; implement career development for Black staff to ensure greater representation at senior management level; replace the term “urban music” with “Black music”; and establish a dedicated equality and diversity task force.
“It is a widely shared belief that the music industry has long been a microcosm for these injustices and they continue to play out within the companies you lead, companies which we are a part of,” reads the letter.
“Your public statements of support throughout the recent times were impassioned and we appreciated them, but we now want to drive forward tangible changes, giving power to that show of support.
“We expect that these long overdue steps will be implemented in a comprehensive manner to translate your empathy into a legacy of lasting change and we look forward to working with you to ensure that this happens.”
The letter can be read in full below, along with a list of signatories:
Dear Chairmen, CEOs, Presidents and Music Industry Leaders,
The past few weeks and months have been filled with visceral and overwhelming emotions of frustration, grief and sadness following the violent and untimely deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in America and what the circumstances of their deaths repeated to us about the position of Black people, the value of Black lives and livelihood and of the pervasive stain of racism in our society.
As the Black community mourned, many of us working in this and other industries tried to adopt our usual coping mechanism of suppressing our trauma caused from witnessing the disregard for Black life, but this time was different, we found and find ourselves unable to do so.
For far too long, the global Black community have faced racial injustice, inequality and disenfranchisement across all aspects of society and here in the UK, is no different.
As Black British people, we know of and have seen members of our community overpoliced, brutally treated and die at the hands of institutionally racist police forces and recount for example the deaths of Sarah Reed, Rashan Charles, Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg and many more. Simply put, the UK is not innocent.
Further, we are all facing an unprecedented global pandemic caused by the Coronavirus yet still, it is Black and Brown members of society who are being disproportionately affected e.g. Public Health England COVID19: Review of Disparities in risks and outcomes study shows that Black males in the UK are 4.2 times more likely to die from a Covid- 19 related death than white males. Throughout this public health crisis, racism also continues to rear its head; we witnessed a blatant indifference to Black lives most recently, in the case of Black front-line key worker Belly Mujinga, who was made to work in a public facing position despite her bosses being aware she had underlying health conditions, consequently died from Coronavirus having been assaulted by a white male. The investigation into her case was swiftly closed by the police and only reopened following immense public pressure and a peaceful protest in London.
The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of Black people
These situations illustrate the ways structural and systemic racism creates poor outcomes for Black people and the Black community at large.
The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of Black people for many generations but overall, we feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same Black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues. We feel that as an industry, we cannot continue to benefit and profit, whilst continuing to ignore the issues of the community we benefit and profit so much from, issues which affect far too many of our artists in one way or another.
In the US, Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas launched #TheShowMustBePaused initiative and their mission was clear – to give us all a moment; a moment to pause, to exhale and find some solace. Here in the UK, the message resonated with many of us Black executives and as a result we launched #TheShowMustBePausedUK, coming together to discuss what permanent change we needed to bring about within our beloved industry.
Coming together and talking about the events outlined herein and our shared experiences, caused us to relive the many instances of injustice, racist comments and marginalisation across our lives including in our experiences within this industry. It is a widely shared belief that the music industry has long been a microcosm for these injustices and they continue to play out within the companies you lead, companies which we are a part of. As a result of the passionate and thought-provoking conversations over the last week; the consensus is clear – the time for change is NOW.
The consensus is clear – the time for change is NOW
As the leaders across the UK industry, who stood in solidarity with us for #BlackOutTuesday, publicly declaring your support and commitment to change, here are our immediate calls to action:
- Mandatory Anti-Racism/Unconscious Bias training across each respective company for all non-Black members of staff, led by Black Educators in the field and complimentary counselling and holistic services made available for Black members of staff with immediate effect.
- For each company to commit a specified annual budget to financially support Black organisations, educational projects and charities across the UK e.g. The Black Curriculum.
- Career development implemented for Black staff across all business areas including long standing consultants in order to develop the next generation of leaders. To address, challenge and change the lack of Black staff at Senior Management level and no Black female President/Chairwomen across the industry.
- Following statements from major labels and management companies, the term “Urban music” is to be removed from your company verbiage and replaced with “Black Music”.
- Establish a dedicated internal task force to review, and with the remit to drive and challenge both the Equality and Diversity aims within your business structure, and the advancement of Black executives across your business including equal pay, mentorship and career progression.
Your public statements of support throughout the recent times were impassioned and we appreciated them, but we now want to drive forward tangible changes, giving power to that show of support.
We expect that these long overdue steps will be implemented in a comprehensive manner to translate your empathy into a legacy of lasting change and we look forward to working with you to ensure that this happens.
The Black Music Coalition, The Show Must Be Paused UK, and on behalf of Black executives from Warner Music Group, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, BMG, Live Nation UK, Spotify and MMF.
US music festival drops ethnicity-based pricing
AfroFuture Fest, a Detroit-based music festival that charged white people twice the price for tickets than people of colour, has standardised its ticket pricing.
AfroFuture Fest initially offered two strands of tickets, one “POC” set priced at US$20 and one “non-POC” option priced at $40.
“Our ticket structure was built to ensure that the most marginalised communities (people of colour) are provided with an equitable chance at enjoying events in their own community (black Detroit),” reads an explanation of the event’s initial ticketing structure.
“Affording joy and pleasure is unfortunately still a privilege in our society for POC and we believe everyone should have access to receiving such.”
The festival’s ticketing partner, Eventbrite, threatened to remove the event from its listings unless amendments were made to the pricing structure.
“We do not permit events that require attendees to pay different prices based on their protected characteristics such as race or ethnicity,” said an Eventbrite spokesperson.
“Our ticket structure was built to ensure that the most marginalised communities (people of colour) are provided with an equitable chance at enjoying events in their own community”
“In this case, we have notified the creator of the event about this violation and requested that they alter their event accordingly. We have offered them the opportunity to do this on their own accord; should they not wish to comply we will unpublish the event completely from our site.”
Detroit-based rapper Tiny Jag pulled out of the event after learning of the ticketing policy and apologised to “anyone who may have been triggered or offended”.
Afrofuture Youth, the community-based programme behind the festival, has now set all tickets at $20, with a “suggested donation for non-people of colour”.
The group’s founder and co-director, Adrienne Ayers, says the ticket structure was changed “for safety, not anything else but that”, following “threats from white supremacists” and “racist comments” on social media.
Half of the profits from the festival, which takes place on Saturday 3 August at Detroit’s Feedom Freedom farm, will go towards Afrofuture Youth.
Snowbombing “deeply saddened” after Stormzy cancellation
The organisers of Snowbombing have apologised to Stormzy after the UK grime star cancelled his much-anticipated appearance at the Austrian festival, citing “racial profiling”.
The Brit Award-winning rapper had been due to headline and curate a ‘#Merky Takeover’ at the Broadwick Live-promoted event, but pulled out at the last minute yesterday (11 April) after alleging on his Instagram story that he and his entourage had been “racially profiled” and “aggressively handled” by security personnel searching for weapons.
In a statement, released shortly after Stormzy’s announcement, the festival apologised to the artist and his team for its handling of the situation.
It reads: “Snowbombing regrets to inform you that Stormzy will no longer be performing at the festival this evening. Last night (Wednesday 10th) Snowbombing’s security were alerted to the possibility that an individual at the festival was allegedly carrying a weapon. In accordance with protocol, a small number of attendees, including Stormzy’s manager, were escorted to the nearest exit, searched and no weapon was found.
“We are deeply saddened that any individual would feel uncomfortable at Snowbombing”
“Stormzy’s management were unhappy with the manner by which this took place and, as a result, Stormzy will no longer be performing tonight. […]
“We are deeply saddened that any individual would feel uncomfortable at Snowbombing.
“Snowbombing would like to wholeheartedly apologise to Stormzy’s team. We are doing everything we can to understand the full situation and are treating this with the utmost seriousness to ensure this does not happen again.”
Snowbombing 2019, the 20th, runs until Saturday 13 April at the Mayrhofen ski resort in the Austrian Alps. Other performers include Fatboy Slim, Andy C and Chase & Status, who host a tribute to the late Keith Flint tonight.