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British Music Business Steps Up Efforts To Improve Diversity

A new drive to address a lack of diversity in the British music business has been launched by umbrella organisation UK Music.

Led by the trade body’s Diversity Taskforce, the initiative’s first stage is a cross-industry survey focusing on the gender and ethnic staffing of record labels, publishers, collection societies, promoters, management companies and distributors.

According to UK Music, it is the first in-depth survey of its kind to be conducted about the British music industry, which, much like in America, has long attracted criticism for a shortage of senior level female, black and ethnic minority executives. The results of the survey will be published later this year.  

“Music is proud of its artists’ diversity but this should be better reflected across the executives who lead and shape the industry,” said Ayesha Hazarika, senior advisor at labels trade body BPI, upon the scheme's launch. She called it “a vital first step so we can get a snap shot of what the industry currently looks like.”

“It is important that the music industry is in the vanguard of the creative industries when it comes to equality and diversity, so that we can make the most of the benefits of having such a diverse society, which has served Britain so well in the past,” added Keith Harris, who has chaired the UK Music Diversity Taskforce since its inception in 2015.

Up to date and accurate figures on the ethnic make-up of the business are hard to come by, but a 2011 “Music Blueprint” by campaigning organization Creative & Cultural Skills reported that 93 percent of the industry were of white background with 61 percent male.

A subsequent 2015 report from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport found that 11 percent of jobs in the creative industries were filled by black, Asian and minority ethnic workers, a similar level to the wider U.K. economy.

The lack of diversity within the music industry was placed under the spotlight at this year’s Brit Awards when no black artists were nominated in any of the major U.K. categories, despite the critical and commercial success of home-grown acts like Lianne La Havas, Kwabs, Laura Mvula, Ella Eyre and grime artists such as Stormzy and Lethal Bizzle.

The resulting condemnation generated its own Oscar-copying hashtag, #BritsSoWhite and led to Brits chairman Ged Doherty writing an open letter in which he pledged to make future editions of the event “more truly representative of modern British music.