Meet The Campaigners is a series where campaigners in the music industry tell us about their organisations, what changes they are trying to make and what they are currently working on.
Sheryl Nwosu, Chair of the Black Music Coalition shares about the organisation’s origins and the exciting future plans, for the collective voice of Black music industry employees and executives in the UK.
The Black Music Coalition (BMC) is a community interest company (CIC) formed and led by Black music industry professionals, which is dedicated to eradicating the racial disparities and systemic barriers affecting Black employees/executives, including freelancers and independents, working across all sectors and levels of the UK music industry. Our aim is to act as a collective voice for those Black employees and executives.
When Black executives across the industry came together for a group call in 2020 in the dark wake of George Floyd’s murder to discuss their shared experiences of working in the music industry, there was at that time no plan to create the organisation that consequently formed following the strength of feeling expressed and the shared accounts of both overt and “invisible” racism collectively experienced in their professional (and personal) lives. It was recognition of the necessity to call out this racism, and the immediacy and sheer passion of that feeling that led to the creation of what is now the BMC. We are headed by an executive committee of four made up of myself as Chair, Afryea Henry-Fontaine, Char Grant and Komali Scott-Jones, who are each amazing Black female music executives, and we are steered, advised and supported by our wider committee of exceptionally talented Black executives and members who work across the music industry.
Since our formation in 2020 our work has included raising awareness about the racism, which undoubtedly affects areas such as the recruitment, retention, and advancement of Black executives in music, lobbying to eradicate and remedy this, creating initiatives and events that are designed to elevate and champion Black executives, and assisting in guiding and advising on the diversity and inclusion aims of music business organisations. The BMC’s portfolio of projects and initiatives to date have all been driven by our overarching goal to create a more equitable music industry.
One of our standout moments from 2022 was our photographic exhibition ‘Black British Dynasties in Music: A Family Affair’, the first exhibitions of its kind in the UK. It spoke to one of our key aims of creating and ensuring legacy; to us, this means to not only honour, but also to document and record the efforts and strides of Black executives, professionals, and creatives in the industry, especially those who have been or are often ‘unsung’. Through the exhibition, shot by renowned photographer Dennis Morris and also a brilliant young talented photographer Nathaniel Bailey, and which ran for three months at the Barbican in London, we highlighted the family links between some of the talented Black creatives whose musical creativity and talent has played an huge part in shaping the UK’s musical and cultural landscape.
Following the launch of our Excellence Honourees in 2022, this year we nominated and awarded 10 Black executives for our Excellence Honouree award. Visibility of Black executives is vitally important to ushering in the new wave of executives who should see the music industry as a place for them to work and prosper and to have long term careers – this is why we created the ‘Excellence Honourees’ initiative. These awards shine a light on brilliant Black executives as they blaze through in their careers (despite what we know to be the obstacles Black executives often face). As I wrote recently in Music Week when announcing our chosen 2023 #ExcellenceHonourees, it is vital that the outstanding work and contribution to the industry from bright Black executives is encouraged, documented and spotlighted to ensure that the industry remains a place of promise for Black executives, a place where they are seen, appreciated, and can thrive.
We are now in our third year of existence as an organisation and in Autumn we are about to open up membership to the BMC to all music executives across the industry. Our membership plan is to create a community and in particular to continue to provide Black music executives with a space to confide, discuss, and champion issues which are relevant to them. Our membership is also as a way for individuals and organisation to join the BMC and support us in our long-term efforts to create a more diverse, equitable, and hospitable music industry. We also hope that by building a community of members this will allow us to better address and communicate our objectives as an organisation, as well increase the reach of the voice and visibility of Black executives working in music.
We’ve ensured that whilst our membership is open to music executives of all races and ethnicities who work in the UK music industry, we have curated membership benefits and services, as well as some events, which are specifically for the Black music executives who sign up as members. This growing list of member benefits available to them, and the events we have planned, are designed to support Black executives in their careers and personal lives.
I am really excited about the membership launch as this presents the next stage for our organisation and the plan is to kick off with a roster of social and professional events rolled out into 2024.
I am often asked whether I am optimistic about the promises of change made by the industry back in 2020, and whether wholesale change in the culture of the industry and how it handles and approaches the issue of racism is going to materialise, and to be honest my answer varies; some days I speak to Black executives and through their enthusiasm and success stories I am buoyed in the feeling that change is happening, and so for now, this being one of those days 🙌🏾, I’ll end on an optimistic note – looking back at the BMC’s beginnings and also looking forward to our next steps, the Black Music Coalition, borne out of a desire to invoke change for the benefit of Black executives across the industry is still here and is thriving as an organisation and also growing in size and impact, I remain grateful as Chair to be able to continue to serve that cause.
As an organisation the Black Music Coalition stands for and supports Black executives and their career visibility, longevity, progression and equal treatment in the music industry.
We are fighting daily to remove racial barriers and racism which continues to affect the working (and personal) lives of Black executives. To continue the work we are doing we need your support!
We welcome donations, sponsorship and collaborative partnership approaches from individuals and organisations who consider themselves allies against racism and who are committed to creating meaningful change in the industry.
If you would like to support the Black Music Coalition or to apply for membership (from 9th October 2023) please visit our website: www.blackmusiccoalition.co.uk or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Find out more about UK Music’s Diversity work here.Back to news