UK Music Diversity Study Finds 'Things Are Changing For The Better'

Keith Harris

Keith Harris 

Having long been viewed as a predominantly white and male run industry, measures to improve diversity in the British music business are beginning to bear fruit, finds a new study from umbrella organization UK Music.

According to its latest Music Industry Workforce Diversity Survey, the number of BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) people working in the U.K. music industry rose from 15.6 percent two years ago to 17.8 percent in 2018.  

The same period saw the number of female workers climb from just over 45 percent to just over 49 percent, while representation of young women aged 16 to 24 was up from 54.6 percent to just over 65 percent.

BAME representation among young workers also rose by around 6 percent, as did the number of BAME interns and apprentices (up 10.8 percent). The percentage of BAME staff in senior management roles was up from 11.4 percent in 2016 to 18.8 percent in 2018.

Almost 2,750 music industry workers took part in the study, spanning artists, songwriters, composers, musicians, studio producers, managers, publishers, label staff and representatives of the live business. 

The survey, which focused on sex and ethnicity, is the second study into diversity by UK Music, which warned that while improvements had been made over the past two years more work still needed to be done to better improve gender, class and ethnic balance. 

It noted that there remains a lower representation of females aged 35-plus compared to younger age groups, while the number of BAME workers over 45 still fell below the national average. 

“Things are changing for the better,” said Keith Harris, former Motown general manager and chair of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce. “Progress has been slow but steady. We are continuing to keep our focus on ethnicity and sex as the most obvious indicators that things are changing, while remembering that diversity in the industry is about much more than that, with socio-economic background being among the important but often neglected areas which needs attention,” he stated. 

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher welcomed the survey results, but warned against complacency. “British music is a world-leading success story and one that we as a country should be very proud of,” he said. “But I want us to be equally proud of our diversity as an industry. Whilst we can welcome some very real and significant improvements, we still have much more work to do. Just imagine how much more successful our industry could be in the future, if we could only deepen the well from which we draw our talent?” 

Those sentiments were echoed by Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, who said that “everyone, regardless of their background, should have the opportunity to build a successful career in the music industry.” He went on to say, “Diversity makes good business sense and I hope the improvements we have seen will continue so we have the strongest, most vibrant and inclusive music industry possible.”