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UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce Chair Ammo Talwar On Driving The Change Agenda Forward In 2021

Diversity has to be a fundamental driver to our recovery, growth and levelling-up agenda, says Ammo Talwar, UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce chair.

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The biggest question hitting my inbox right now is: how can we help shape a fairer, more equitable music industry?

People want to know how can we build on the passion of 2020 beyond well-meaning black squares, beyond hashtags and beyond rhetoric. How do we build back grassroots trust and respect for our industry? How do we transparently deliver on the New Diversity agenda? All I can say is that we have to get in the kitchen and start cooking.

As the music industry starts to unpack its ingredients for 2021 – new budgets, new artists and hopefully some new diverse staff sitting at the top table – major labels, trade bodies and industry leaders need to realise that diversity cannot just be served up like soup.

Diversity has to be a fundamental driver to our recovery, growth and levelling-up agenda. It’s an upstreaming effect and algorithm; not an after-thought like corporate social responsibility. Diversity is the seasoning right through the dish that will help to reenergize the UK music industry and UK plc.

2021 is still fresh on the table and already the historical diversity deficit is making itself heard. Other areas of the musical ecosystem are making a lot of noise such as events and hospitality, a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into music streaming, and summer festivals are being rebooted.

And – dare I say it – the “B” word is now impacting European touring. Global artists like Elton John are even throwing the gauntlet down on the Brexit deal saying “UK negotiators screwed up”.

The new diversity agenda is no longer just talking about equality, equity and justice; it is also a return to an anti-racist activism and taking action against institutionalised racism.

If this is the way forward, we need to move quickly from unconscious bias training to actually getting to the heart of a systemic problem. We don’t need another outburst from a Wiley, a Morrissey or even an Eric Clapton to make us reconsider what is the most effective use of our time and resources.

There is no “secret sauce” or “special blend of eleven herbs and spices”, we just need to keep going in that post-2020 direction collaboratively. Systemic change sometimes only needs small actions done repeatedly. They create ripple effects that keep nudging the sector along and help to shift the dial.

There is no need for marketing executives and CEOs to get broadsheet recognition by well-meaning but small investments and low impact schemes.

They can follow the energy from mid-2020 where everyone demanded change, not small scale stuff but bold radical large scale systems change.

It’s not all bad news. There are some tasty new programmes coming out of the kitchen right now, with the PRS Foundation and the Black Music Coalition pumping out new support for Black creatives through Power Up.

Ditto’s Industry Access and MOBO’s Mobolise also look set to move the dial and apply the right heat under the pot.

Here at UK Music we are grappling with all of these issues, and we remain positive about the systems’ reboot we need to keep the pressure up.

Our recipe for change in 2021 is clear and we hope that by sharing it with you we will open up a dialogue on a journey of transformational change.

1. Supporting UK Music members in implementing and assessing progress on our Ten-Point Plan and other diversity initiatives with their memberships and the wider industry.

2. Releasing further data to expand on the survey statistics already included in the UK Music 2020 Diversity Report.

3. Amplify the impact of the Ten-Point Plan and support the sector in using data and technology to improve evidence-gathering.

4. Develop a high-profile event for October 2021 to mark one-year anniversary of Diversity Report launch.

5. Increase dialogue across the sector with the aim of embedding greater confidence in undertaking diversity initiatives and building deeper relationships with other non-creative sectors.

6. Focus and finish action plan around race and gender through the implementation of the Ten-Point Plan

• Ammo Talwar MBE is Chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce and CEO of Punch Records

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