Music industry reports progress on diversity

By Mark Savage
BBC music reporter

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock recently spoke out about sexism and racism in the industry

There has been a significant increase in the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic staff in the music industry since 2016, a new report says.

The proportion of minority ethnic employees has risen from 15.6% in 2016 to 22.3% this year, according to trade body UK Music.

The report noted that representation is worse in higher-paid jobs.

Among those earning more than £100,000 per year, just 27% were women and 12.2% were not white.

In low-paid jobs - where salaries are less than £15,000 - the figures were 59.4% and 33.6% respectively.

Overall, female representation was at 49.6% in 2020 - roughly the same as in 2016.

UK Music, which represents the recorded and live music industry, has conducted a diversity study every two years since 2016.

The latest report follows moves in the industry to better support the black community, with initiatives such as #BlackoutTuesday, prompted by George Floyd's death and the Black Lives Matter campaign.

Since then, artists including Little Mix's Leigh-Anne Pinnock have come forward to discuss their experiences of racism in the industry.

UK Music said more still needed to be done, and its latest report was accompanied by a 10-point plan to improve diversity.

Among its commitments are:

  • Removing the word "urban" to describe music of black origin, using genre-specific terms like R&B or soul instead
  • Ending the use of the "offensive and outdated" term BAME in official communications
  • Maintaining a database of people responsible for promoting diversity across UK Music
  • UK Music members will commit to spending a portion of their annual recruitment budget to ensure a diverse candidate pool
  • Members will pledge to increase diversity in middle and senior management

UK Music chief executive Jamie Njoku-Goodwin said: "As an industry, we are united in our determination to lead the way on improving diversity and inclusion in our sector and across society.

"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."

'Dig deeper'

There has been increased scrutiny of diversity in the music industry as in all areas of society following the Black Lives Matter protests.

In September, the newly-formed Black Music Coalition (BMC) set out its mission to "protect, promote and advance the interests and views of black professionals within the UK music industry".

Its chair Sheryl Nwosu told the BBC last week that the new organisation "fully supports" the end of the term BAME.

"Far too often, BAME initiatives have fallen short of understanding the specific needs or support that each ethnic group require," said Miss Nwosu. "In fact, it has served to amalgamate those needs as if a blanket approach will suffice.

"We implore all companies to dig deeper and listen to the varied underrepresented groups within their business so that bespoke support and programs can be devised in order to truly establish equity for all across the industry."

UK Music's members include the BPI, which represents record labels; the Musicians' Union; the Music Publishers Association; rights body PRS For Music; and the UK Live Music Group.

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