What works to support diversity in the creative industries? Insights from roundtable 6 of the APPG for Creative Diversity

By the APPG for Creative Diversity team

November 30, 2020

November was the sixth meeting of the Creative Diversity APPG, focused on the music industry. As in previous months, the session reflected the range of perspectives from the various parts of this large sector of the creative economy. The meeting heard from performers, event organisers, venue managers, and record company voices, as well as from diversity and inclusion campaigners. Their comments had much in common with previous sessions, but also reflected the specific dynamics of the music industry in this current, perilous moment. 

The roundtable reinforced the need for a much more accurate set of data on diversity in music. This is in terms of who is on stage, on record, and on radio, as well as in terms of who is working behind the scenes, in studios, in supporting live music, and in record companies. More accurate data will make the extent of the problem clear, particularly in the context of a lack of diversity in senior roles or in the most high-profile positions in music. In turn, data can be the basis for setting organisational strategies, plans, and targets to measure progress and to hold to account. This sort of transparency is the basis for broadening the workforce in the music industry. 

A data-led approach to setting strategy and targets needs support from leaders and their significant buy-in. At the same time the music industry is characterised, as so many other industries are, by a lack of diversity in leadership roles. This is despite entry-level positions being much more diverse and more clearly representative of contemporary Britain. As a result, it will not be enough to just wait 10 to 15 years for a new generation to make it through entry level schemes. Rather, appointments and promotions need to be made on potential, into environments that are supportive of that potential. These supportive environments are about allowing individuals the same sorts of protection from pressures and risks, and the freedom to make mistakes. This is the sort of environment that their white, middle class origin, able-bodied male counterparts have already benefited from during their rise up the ranks. Music can be a tough business, but that doesn’t mean diversity should mean additional pressures on individuals as a result of their background.

At its heart, the struggle to make a more diverse music industry is a fight against assumptions, stereotypes, and expectations. Changing these can be the foundations for a more inclusive music sector. Setting, for example, accessibility needs as a standard question, akin to asking dietary requirements, would transform the experience of the music industry for disabled workers and disabled audiences with disabilities. In doing so, the whole of the industry, its workers and audiences, would be transformed. It would mean accessibility is a starting point, as opposed to an afterthought or add-on.

Expecting diversity as a norm means overturning stereotypes of who can be a rockstar, a promoter, a record company executive or an orchestra conductor, to give just a few examples. Currently all of these roles have particular characteristics, such as being white, being male, or being able-bodied associated with them. Changing stereotypes will come from the expectation that performers, workers, and audiences are, and will be, diverse. 


For more information about the APPG for Creative Diversity, please contact Alex Pleasants (co-secretariat) on diversityappg@gmail.com.

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