Matt Griffiths says the music industry is a top-heavy machine that no longer encourages the diversity and originality that once helped it thrive.
Gergely Csatari (CC BY-SA 2.0)
#BlackoutTuesday signalled time for the music industry to “disconnect from work and reconnect with our community”, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet the industry is disconnected from many of the communities it claims to serve: a top-heavy machine that no longer encourages the diversity and originality that once helped it thrive.
It’s promising that many organisations pledged to do more to remedy the industry’s monoculture, to support Black musicians and behind-the-scenes professionals. But more than a day of reflection is needed to remedy an ecosystem riven with socioeconomic inequalities. The music industry must remove barriers and improve access to the full range of roles, end unpaid internships, support independent venues and grassroots projects, give emerging artists a fair share of streaming royalties, and implement comprehensive evidence-led diversity and inclusion policies.
This drive must be mirrored in music education. Our research shows 97% of young people listen to music each week. Those from lower income backgrounds are more likely to see themselves as musical, are just as likely to sing and play an instrument, but their creative identities often go unrecognised in schools. This will impact diversity in the future music industry unless radical change happens now. Moreover, we must open education to teachers and community practitioners with different backgrounds and experiences to give young people access to representative role models.
Youth Music is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion, fighting for change on behalf of and alongside young people. But we too have more to do. 52% of the organisations receiving our Fund A grants identify as ‘diverse-led’, yet only 9.5% of Fund A grants went to BAME-led organisations. The problem is complex, and we do not have all the answers. But we welcome feedback so we can do better. We hope we can count on our industry and education allies to do the same.
Matt Griffiths is CEO at Youth Music
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