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Diversity: Change is coming

Wow – what an incredible year it’s been. I vividly remember my first time going up to bat for UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce, as their new chair, feeling intimidated and overwhelmed in the Universal Music Group’s boardroom. The mighty UMG – home to Island Records, Polydor, Virgin – had agreed to host our inaugural session right where the big deals were done; the Rolling Stones, Sam Smith and Stefflon Don probably all inked deals or demo-ed LPs right here.

We’re in the same space discussing diversity in the music industry, with all the trade bodies and all the major labels around the table. I was nervous, even with vice-chair and veteran of the music world Paulette Long to back me up and keep me in check. But we didn’t know that when we left the room, the world was about to turn upside down.

This is March 2020. Parts of the UK are celebrating our exit from the EU with post-Brexit parties and a sense of euphoric win. Something else that’s in the air is Covid-19, but despite footage of super hospitals being built in China, it’s not yet being taken seriously here. Just a few months later; George Floyd is brutally killed beamed directly onto our phones.

The outcry over the murder of George Floyd once again highlighed injustices in the law, amplifying the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement. Theirs would soon become the strongest voice for global justice, equality and equity. It resonated with our UK youth like never before; modern, contemporary, organised and effective at all levels. Statues got dismantled, hashtags became “must”-focussed – #rhodesmustfall and #TheShowMustBePaused backed by the Black Music Coalition in the UK and black music executives globally. Furlough was introduced and the music industry began its journey into the abyss.

It’s not just “more brown faces in the board rooms”; it’s more diversity of thought and practice

Globally, the major labels moved quickly. New investment came in to support black talent, the term “urban” finally got thrown out and “white privilege”, “systemic racism” and “unconscious bias” were the new words in the music ecosystem. Letters were written to key UK music industry players, which had raked in profits from black artists and black culture for decades but had always overlooked the structural and systematic racism. “Enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues,” said BBC Radio 1 DJ Clara Amfo.

There were difficult debates, decisions and discussions for all of us. From the CEOs of major record labels to promoters and artists not from minority communities; questions of privilege (perhaps “white”, perhaps “gender”, perhaps “place”) were being asked. How much of their success in the music industry was down to privilege, family networks, not undiluted raw talent? More importantly, how do we create better opportunities and better representation for the rest of us? Modern day, diverse citizens should be everywhere across the music industry, not just as performers, not just as interns, but at executive and CEO level, smashing the glass ceilings of back rooms and boardrooms.

Black artists have always raised their voices for while others have stayed silent; Howlin Wolf spoke about the Mississippi Blues, Jazz and Be Bop defied Jim Crow’s America. James Brown post-Watts Uprising shouted “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”, Hip Hop hit back at Reaganomics. In the UK Steel Pulse was talking about Handsworth Revolution, Bashy heralded serious emotions about Black Boys. Stormzy raps on Grenfell and Dave just echoes what James Brown knew all those years ago; Black is Beautiful.

Now was the time for the music industry to stand up and back a radical, sustainable plan to repair the diversity deficit and back our black artists, black workforce and a modern diverse music ecosystem. At UK Music, the taskforce was already nine months deep into our flagship workforce survey. Now, this could go out against the backdrop of #theshowmustbepaused and #blackouttuesday; receiving unprecedented support from all the trade bodies – BPI, MU, PPL, AIM, MMF, FAC, IVORS, MPG, MPA and PRS. The uptake surpassed the 2018 survey by over 33%.

If diversity without action is just a dream, action without evidence is a nightmare

This was and is the only survey to look this deeply into representation in the UK music workforce, auditing levels of diversity, social mobility, the protected characteristics, retention and access at all levels, right across the music business. This included studios, management agencies, music publishers, major and independent record labels, music licensing companies, the live music sector: the total UK music ecosystem.

But what can be done with just data? To really put evidence to work, codesign across the music industry is required to deliver an action plan that is respectfully collaborative, holds senior executives to account and changes the culture with visible metrics and targets. It’s not just “more brown faces in the board rooms”; it’s more diversity of thought and practice, with sustainable ways to move progress forward with pace.

If diversity without action is just a dream, action without evidence is a nightmare. Our ten-point plan is drawn from the 2020 survey, based on new metrics, fresh evidence and lived experience of diversity in the music industry today, here in the UK. It is the accumulation of months of work across the total industry ecosystem – we consulted, we watched, we listened, we gathered data and now there is a strategic plan that has been co-signed by every single major music trade body. And some of it is really simple, common sense stuff, ensuring ordinary people in the music industry are allowed to execute extraordinary work.

Dialogue with diverse voices – with people who don’t look like you, talk like you and hang out in places like you

As the chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce, I know we are responsible to make change happen, and we must be held accountable to ensure actions are sanctioned, strategy is developed and systems change. The ten-point plan closely aligns with the demands of Black Music Coalition, Women in Ctrl, PRS Foundation and all the other campaigning music companies to ensure justice and equality with a sharp focus on race and gender.

The ten-point plan has some really simple stuff that some would say is just common sense. Advertise to a broader audience base for new recruitment, listen to diverse staff members, update and implement stronger diversity targets. There are also deep, long-term drivers around the gender and race pay gaps, around governance and ultimately putting new voices into key decision-making rooms. Some say follow the money, we say: dialogue with diverse voices – with people who don’t look like you, talk like you and hang out in places like you.

We want to bring people with us, because we know diversity is stronger, better, smarter and more sustainable when “done with”, rather than “done to”. But at the same time, there are some drivers, some values that are absolutely no compromise. The ten-point plan demands sharp actions at pace with respect. It’s going to be a long complex journey. Without the tragic death of George Floyd and the uprisings afterwards, without #TheShowMustBePausedUK, without #BlackOutTuesday, the UK music industry wouldn’t be at the watershed moment I believe it is today. Change is coming.

It’s simply time to act.

 


Ammo Talwar MBE is UK Musics diversity taskforce chair and Punch Records CEO. This article originally appeared on the Punch Records website.

UK live industry grew 17% in year before Covid

The worth of the UK’s live music industry increased by 17% in 2019, according to UK Music’s flagship annual economic study.

The Music By Numbers 2020 report says that the live sector enjoyed its most successful year to date in 2019 and that 2020 was “shaping up to be even stronger” but due to the pandemic is now in “urgent need of a lifeline”.

According to the recently published UK live music: At a cliff edge report, the live sector contributed £4.5 bn to the UK economy in 2019 but its revenue has dropped to almost zero this year due to the pandemic.

“The Music By Numbers report shows that pre-Covid-19 the live music industry was growing rapidly, up 17% in 2019 and delivering increasing value to UK plc. The pandemic literally stopped the show. Targeted help is needed to support our proudly entrepreneurial sector through this economic uncertainty and return it back to growth,” says Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association (CPA).

UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin says: “2019 was a fantastic year for the UK music industry, and we were firmly on track to be one of the great British success stories of the coming decade.

“Music By Numbers 2020 shows just how successful our industry was before the catastrophic blow of Covid-19 knocked it down, and how important it is that we get it back on its feet.

“When the time comes to recover from this pandemic, our world-leading music industry can be a key part of our country’s post-Covid economic and cultural revival – but we need the right support to get us there.”

“The pandemic literally stopped the show. Targeted help is needed to support our proudly entrepreneurial sector”

In the report, UK Music says the live sector’s increase in worth was partly due to a high number of stadium tours and “a consistently strong performance across the sector,” along with data collection improvements among grassroots venues.

The report nods to 2019 stadium shows from international artists such as Bon Jovi and The Eagles alongside domestic superstars such as the Spice Girls and Take That.

Major touring artists contribute massively to the live sector’s GVA and supports festivals and enables promoters to reinvest in
developing acts.

However, this year, social distancing has prevented most events from taking place – operationally and economically – while travel restrictions have made touring impossible for both UK and international artists.

The Music By Numbers 2020 report concludes by noting that the government-backed Culture Recovery Fund was welcome but says “more support is needed so that the industry can get through this period with as many organisations and companies surviving as possible”.

The report calls for five specific actions to restart the live music at the earliest opportunity including an extension of the VAT rate reduction on tickets beyond 31 March 2021; government backing for a live music events reinsurance scheme; an extension of business rate relief for venues for 2021/22 financial year and removal of festival sites on agricultural land from the business rates system.

It also calls for 2020 local authority license fees for festivals to be rolled over to 2021 and for the continuation of joint industry/government work to establish clear protocols with health agencies regarding testing and live events.

Read the full Music By Numbers 2020 report here.

 


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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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