Despite greater representation within the British music industry, the British sector remains hostile to black creators and professionals, according to a report highlighting the effects of systemic racism on mental health and a racial wage gap that disproportionately affects women black.
The first Black Lives in Music study found that 63% of black music creators had experienced direct or indirect racism, including explicit racist language or different treatment because of their race or ethnicity, and 67% had witnessed it. of this behavior. Racial microaggressions were abundant, experienced by 71% of black music creators and witnessed by 73%.
Anonymous respondents reported that “they had to repeatedly ask other artists to stop using the word N,” “jokes about skin color, Africa, and persistent questions about where I really am” and be typified as artists. of R&B.
These figures increased among black music professionals, with 73% direct or indirect racism and 80% micro-aggression.
One professional recalled being at a meeting for a white female artist who featured a “moodboard full of black women and afro-textured hairstyles” that were described as “Rasta hair.” When they said a white artist shouldn’t sing in Jamaican patois, they said they were told, “I wondered if that’s what you thought, so I was afraid to ask you.”
Black Lives in Music is an organization that advocates for equal opportunities for blacks to work in the UK music industry without discrimination. The study is the first of its kind and aims to address the lack of data on the daily reality of black music staff.
1,718 performers, creatives and industry staff have been surveyed. Sixty-four percent of respondents came from black, mixed, and Asian ethnicities, working between genders and from the grassroots to established levels. The majority (55%) lived in London and 17% had a long-standing deterioration, condition, illness or physical or mental disability.
“The data clearly shows that change is needed across the music ecosystem, from popular education to record labels,” said Charisse Beaumont, executive director of Black Lives in Music. “I hope this report will bring about changes in the way we do our music business, which has benefited a lot from black talent.”
In recent years, prominent black British musicians such as Leigh-Anne Pinnock of Little Mix, Keisha Buchanan of Sugababes, Raye, VV Brown, Heather Small and X Factor winners Alexandra Burke and Rebecca Ferguson have opened up about their experiences of racism and its effects on their mental health in the UK music industry.
Pop star Laura Mvula was removed by Sony RCA Victor by email in 2017, although her second album, The Dreaming Room, won that year’s Ivor Novello Award for Best Album. He recently told Gal-Dem, “When I entered the scene, they said,‘ You know there’s only room for one black artist at a time, Laura? “”
He added that journalists frequently described his presence in music as referring to his classical training, “which is just a way to apologize for being there … and I played to the fullest. I thought it was something like: “Look, here’s this Blackie playing the violin.”
Rapper Tinie Tempah has also recently talked about the inequalities black artists in the British music industry have. “You’re a rapper, so that’s your budget and you’re black, but it’s a Shropshire folk artist … they haven’t sold as many records as you, but we think they’re more viable, so let’s go spend more “he told PA Media.
Following the assassination of George Floyd in May 2020, executives in the black music industry created Blackout Tuesday, a one-day business closure to highlight the challenges of black music professionals and manufacturers in an industry. strongly influenced by black creativity. Many labels and organizations pledged to give grants, advice, and charitable donations, and said they would stop using the marginal term “urban” to classify black music.
But only 8% of black creators said they were satisfied with the support they received; three-quarters reported otherwise.
Rude artist Saskilla recently told The Guardian that despite last summer’s promises, there had been no “significant change”. “Everyone promised blacks, ‘We’ll do this, we’d do that too,’ but they just talked? What change is really going on for the next generation?”
More than half of black music creators and 45% of professionals felt that their contributions to the music industry were unrecognized. An opera singer said he had made his career in classical music abroad because there was “little support for color artists” in the UK.
The report found that 31% of black music creators believed their mental well-being had worsened since they began their music careers, reaching 42% of black women, many of whom felt greater pressure to alter your name, appearance and style of music.
Among professionals in the black male music industry, 29% said their mental health had declined since they began their careers, compared to 39% of women. The white creators who responded to the survey also highlighted the issue of mental health, suggesting the need for sectoral action on the problem.
A recent study on diversity led by the UK Music industry body showed that racial diversity in the workplace had increased. In 2020, the representation of blacks, Asians and others of ethnic diversity between 16 and 24 years was 30.6%, compared to 25.9% in 2018. Representation decreased in senior positions, with blacks and people of ethnic diversity who occupied only one in five of these positions.
Only 9% of black professionals said they felt adequately supported. An industry respondent who had reached the executive level said, “There seem to be only two routes to the top: learning to‘ change code ’to navigate through school-educated private gatekeepers or being so successful at your unsupported account they can’t ignore you and they finally choose to support you. I’m the first … it’s been exhausting. “
The report also focused on economic disparities. Pre-Covid black music professionals earned an average of 1,964 pounds a month compared to 2,459 pounds from their white peers. White women in the industry earned on average more than 450 pounds more a month than contemporary black women.
Before the Covid crisis, white music creators earned an average of £ 1,454 a month, compared to £ 1,155 among black artists. Once again, the situation worsened for women: white women earned £ 1,282 a month, black women reported an average income of £ 1,026.
Black music creators are also at a disadvantage when it comes to funding music: 72% of white creators reported having at least one successful application to an organization like the Arts Council or the PRS Foundation compared to 52% of black creators.
The disparity was even more pronounced among women, with white creators with at least 74% successful application, compared to 46% of black women.
James Ainscough, executive director of the charity Help Musicians UK, said the report showed that “the individual stories we hear from professional musicians cannot be told as rare one-off incidents, but that they illustrate important and widespread problems. that we all have to work together to lead ”.