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Diversity: Breaking the spell

Diversity: Breaking the spell

chAIR: Vanessa Reed, PRS Foundation (UK)

Guest speakers included:
Jamie Ahye, Pride in Music (UK)
Tilly Scantlebury, Artist (UK)
Jamz Supernova, BBC Radio 1 (UK)
Natalie Williams, UK Music (UK)

Chair Vanessa Reed of PRS Foundation opened the session by declaring that “diversity is no longer a mystery subject.” Reed stated that the priority now is to get more women to the top of the industry, before highlighting the positives changes that are already being made.

“We’ve got loads to be excited about, but we need to concentrate on how to push things further,” said Reed.

ReBalance finalist Tilly Scantlebury from indie band Lazy Day offered an artist’s perspective. “Musicians I love are being celebrated because of their differences and not in spite of them,” she said, indicating the inspiration this gives to young artists.

BBC 1Xtra’s Jamz Supernova gave her perspective, saying that, although female DJs are increasing in number, “the imbalance is that it’s still at the grassroots level, in terms of headliners there’s still a long way to go.”

Reiterating this point, UK Music’s head of research, Natalie Williams, drew on results from the company’s diversity survey. “At entry level, there’s really good representation, but that progression is not replicated at a senior level.”

Jamie Ahye of Atlantic Records spoke of his work to improve LGBTQ+ representation in the music industry through the Pride in Music network which aims to “create a community of LGBTQ-identifying people to give us a voice in the industry,” offering a resource for those with questions regarding LGBTQ+ issues within the industry.

“AT ENTRY LEVEL, THERE’S REALLY GOOD REPRESENTATION, BUT THAT PROGRESSION IS NOT REPLICATED AT A SENIOR LEVEL”

Talk turned to accessibility and the limitations of the existing recruitment process in terms of improving access for minority groups or those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. Williams stressed the importance of implementing a “blind” recruitment process to counter unconscious bias, whereas Supernova and Ahye focused on education.

Despite improvements, Supernova has still encountered many issues: “as a woman of colour, I would like to be less oppressed, and more listened to and valued,” said the radio DJ, referencing issues of being spoken over and her opinion being discounted or accredited to another.

Ahye pointed out that discussions surrounding diversity usually come from “diverse people”, stating that “we need an ally” to progress things further.

The other panellists agreed that solidarity and “making everybody accountable” was key for improving diversity within the music industry, as well as stressing the importance of unconscious bias training.

Summarising the session, Scantlebury stated that “gender equality benefits everybody and comes at the expense of no one.”