15/05/2020: Ammo Talwar urges everyone the music industry to ensure their voice is heard on diversity & inclusion
The issue of diversity has been a box-ticking exercise for too many people for too long. As we all consider how society and the workplace will change as we emerge from the coronavirus lockdown, it is vital that the issue of diversity and inclusion is part of that discussion.
For me, music and diversity go together just like Salt 'N' Pepa - that’s the 1980s’ hip hop duo for those of you not cool enough to know.
As the CEO of Punch, a music agency based in Birmingham that primarily develops tours, works with artists and produces a city-wide festival, I work hard to support and encourage grassroots black music.
I became the chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce because I wanted to make real change, challenge the glass ceiling, share good practice and ensure the music industry reflects the society we live in - modern, collaborative and diverse.
The vision of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce is clear. We exist to improve equality of access and retention across the music industry workforce, with a sharp focus on gender and race.
Of course, true diversity means much more than that and we are obviously a massive home for all the protected characteristics.
There are many key issues that we need to tackle to help achieve a more diverse and inclusive industry. Gender pay gaps, shared parental leave for the self-employed and more inclusive representation across all levels of the industry are all problems we need to tackle.
Back in 2020 B.C. (“Before Covid”) - the business case for the industry to get behind a more diverse and inclusive workplace was clear. Our Diversity Taskforce was successfully working with music trade bodies, the Government and in Parliament. We put forward clear evidence on both the importance of diversity to the music industry and the contribution of our industry to UK plc.
Innovative campaigns impacted all the areas of the music business. The BRIT Awards selection process "reflects how vibrant the music scene is right now” as Geoff Taylor of the BPI said. The PRS Foundation’s Keychange scheme has successfully challenged festival programming and has now broadened out to include all music industry organisations.
But, now in 2020 A.D. - (“After Downturn”) - the gaze of the industry has shifted as we necessarily focus on sustaining ourselves economically. We read all the grim statistics; the live sector alone could see £900m disappear from its annual contribution to the UK economy.
Our grassroots music venues face closure, with over 1,000 UK gigs cancelled in the first two weeks of May alone. More importantly, we have lost loved ones. You might wonder if this the time to worry about diversity.
I believe our individual and collective responses to Covid-19 have the potential to act as agents of positive change in the UK music business.
Already we’ve seen the industry moving quickly to attempt to cushion the immediate crushing blow of the lockdown. Emergency investment and support from PRS for Music, AIM, Musicians' Union, PPL, BPI, Spotify, Live Nation, Help Musicians, Music Venue Trust and many more all help to sustain the most talented and most vulnerable.
Positive change can happen and is happening. As its new chair, I want to see our taskforce working to promote diversity and foster the business resilience, good governance and problem-solving that inclusion can deliver.
We have collectively agreed that the UK Music Diversity Taskforce will focus on these five key strands:
1. Produce a biennial report on our progress towards and the impact of diversity in the music industry.
2. Develop an evidence-based approach to reporting on our diversity initiatives, leveraging learning through new partnerships around data.
3. Dialogue regularly with music business stakeholders to spotlight best practice and industry leadership.
4. Open up our taskforce to fresh voices and perspectives, becoming less London-centric and widening our impact.
5. Dismantle our "glass ceilings”, especially at senior management and board levels, so we retain our best leaders in our industry.
As we restore our security and solvency post-coronavirus, I believe progress in these five areas will help the music industry better mirror the transformation in the UK sports sector since 2016, through initiatives such as the Code for Sports Governance.
In June, we will be carrying out our major survey into diversity in the music industry. It is a big part of helping bring about the change we all want to see. So, if you work in the music business, I urge you to take part.
Diversity is about all of us. Inclusion starts with you, and your views need to be heard.
Ammo Talwar MBE
Chair of UK Music Diversity Taskforce