opinion

BRIT Trust Diaries: BRIT School graduate Abi Deane reflects on the impact of Pride

In this edition of the BRIT Trust Diaries, we hear from BRIT School graduate Abi Deane, who reflects on the importance of Pride Month at the school and how her identity as a queer woman was enriched being in an ...

UK Music Futures Group members tackle key issues for the industry: Part 1

The UK Music Futures Group is made of young people from across the music industry. The Futures Group meets to discuss key issues affecting the music business and feeds directly into the board of UK Music. Here, as part of a series of articles, three members of the UK Music Futures Group address key issues for the industry… Nikki Riggon, head of programme, Punch Records on gender diversity  The landscape for women in music has been a considerable hot topic for some time. In my opinion it's clearly shifted in recent years, with notable strides made to increase presence and give recognition where it's due, however we still have some mountains to climb and substantial improvements need to be made. Earlier this year, the MU welcomed recommendations made by the government in their Misogyny In Music report, while other recent reports from organisations such as Women In CTRL, UK Music and The Jaguar Foundation have also underscored the need for ongoing discussion and concerted efforts to encourage more females to work and thrive in the industry.  These reports shed light on critical issues within the music industry, from the underrepresentation of female artists in festival line-ups to the concerning disregard for the safety of women in both the workplace and concert audiences. The findings carry significant industry and societal implications that warrant immediate attention and action.  However, a positive shift can be seen in the rising representation of women across various roles within the music industry, from artists and producers to executives and engineers. The progress  has begun to have a ripple effect and is, slowly but surely, inspiring more women into diverse roles.  There has also been an increase in initiatives aimed at addressing gender inequality. Funders often set aside money to contribute to change, mentorship programs offer guidance and support, and platforms dedicated to promoting female artists amplify their voices. But systemic barriers persist, including sexism, harassment, and underrepresentation in leadership roles. Recognising intersectionality is crucial, as women from marginalised communities face unique challenges that must be addressed at their roots. Tackling these issues head-on requires a comprehensive approach that spans every level of the industry, from major to indie sectors, while also acknowledging regional disparities and even shaking our education system.  While achieving true equality for women in the music industry is undoubtedly a big task, it is not insurmountable. As long as the conversation remains ongoing and efforts are made to address barriers, progress can be achieved. Sanjeev Mann, aka Supermann On Da Beat, producer, creative director Hip Hop Scotland on disability access There’s a number of reasons as to why disabled access in the music industry is an important issue.  Firstly, there’s the physical access to grassroots venues both as audiences and performers which is causing issues especially for artists at the beginning of their careers making it much more difficult to progress in the industry. This leads to a lack of disabled artists in the industry, which has a knock-on effect, meaning a lack of role models for young people to look up to and believe they can do the same.  In addition, the lack of disabled artists on stage has a negative effect on society's perception of disability. We need to make change by raising awareness and normalising artists from all parts of society to really push forward. Awareness and speaking about the issue in the mainstream is the first step. It will take time but I am confident we are on the right track.  We also need to be consulting disabled artists in every process of adaptations, so we can ensure that the right changes are being made. We also need more diversity in job roles within the industry like A&R, promoters and labels to bring a new perspective and their experiences to the table, so the industry can learn about what we need.  Casper James, project manager of TransForm Music, independent artist, live music promoter on support for the trans and non-binary community Over the last couple of years, I have worked on my project TransForm Music conducting research into the experiences and needs of transgender and non-binary people who work in the music industry or attend live music in England and Wales. For too long, transgender and non-binary people have been brushed over in equity and diversity investigations. Every single survey respondent participating in TransForm Music’s research expressed that they felt as though there was not enough support available for them in music.  Aside from the glaring underrepresentation on and off stage within the industry, more explicitly, transphobic assault and harassment appear to be all too common for transgender and non-binary people working in and attending live music. We found that due to music spaces lacking policies and knowledge for best practice to respond to incidents of transphobia, many transgender people feel uncomfortable reporting incidents, or reported incidents are not being dealt with at all.  As long as safety within music venues is a risk for transgender and non-binary people, we as an industry will struggle to see improved representation. Minimal safety measures create a barrier for transgender and non-binary people to continue returning to these scenes and spaces where they should be able to safely get their feet in the door and begin their musical journeys. Simply talking about inequality is not enough; proactive allyship consisting of real changes to policies and practices must be implemented. Venues expressed to us that fear of doing the wrong thing for transgender people is often a preventative factor for them to take action against transphobia. In response, we conducted transgender and non-binary focus groups to strategise how music venues could tackle issues raised through our surveys in a way that would be valuable and conscious of the needs of the transgender people affected.  These ideas for good practice, sourced from the community, have now been paired with our research findings and comprehensive information to create a go-to Transgender and Non-Binary Inclusion Guidelines booklet for music venues to use to take more confident approaches to improving inclusion in their spaces.  The guidelines will be free and publicly available this summer, alongside the rollout of our free training courses for venues in Wales.   

Centre Stage: Mark Davyd

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd’s monthly deep dive into live music’s biggest issues… Music Venue Trust’s work is, at its heart, about artists – inspiring and nurturing them, connecting them with audiences, and offering a safe space for experimentation and new music. With that in mind, we spend a huge amount of time in public discussions about buildings because a space where all that activity can take place is essential. However, we spend much less time actually thinking about the bricks and mortar of those places. It was pleasing, therefore, to have the essential link between artists and venues detailed in the recent Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry. Presentations by members of the Featured Artist Coalition and Music Managers Forum, alongside representation for artists in the shape of Lily Fontaine from indie band English Teacher, were highlights of the final oral evidence session. Artists and their representatives came with a clear message: live music is the bedrock of a sustainable career and creating a core fanbase. And artists and venue operators both know that there is something very wrong in our grassroots ecosystem, which must be tackled. The final session of the Select Committee inquiry was televised and a lot of comment has been offered about the likely recommendations the committee members will make. Prior to that, the cross-party group of MPs that make up the membership of the committee had already held two sessions with grassroots music venue operators in London and Manchester, meeting with 49 venues in total. Those two meetings were revealing and informed the discussions of the last debate, mainly because of how strongly the language, the thinking and responses expressed in the first two meetings by venue operators were echoed in the final session by artists. Promoters active in the grassroots sector have expressed the same concerns: an inability to get enough income from the show to make it affordable to deliver; the changing patterns of behaviour among audiences, which mean that even a full room may not be breaking even; and the loss of spaces across the UK, removing the possibility of creating aspiration in our communities for artists and other roles our industry relies on – sound engineers, lighting technicians, stage managers and such.  Regular readers of this column will have seen my attempts at a thorough analysis of these issues many times. The CMS Select Committee did not reveal anything to anyone in our industry that we did not already know, but what it has done is provide a key moment that calls all of us to come to the table with genuine answers to the challenges they present. Some issues, such as the conversation around collection and distribution of songwriter royalties, have been reviewed many times, both publicly and privately, without reaching a conclusion that takes a positive approach to the industry’s grassroots foundations. This has provoked a lot of discussion about the potential need for regulation and a mandatory financial levy if, as regrettably might be the case, we can’t resolve these issues ourselves. This is an outcome Music Venue Trust has been predicting for a while, even if we’ve been reluctant to accept it as the best way forward. A regulator and a mandatory levy is a huge risk to the profitability of our live music industry and is likely to challenge a vast array of practices, which have strong historical reasons for their existence but might not make sense to a neutral observer.  There is, however, one worse outcome than all of this – and that is there being no financial support for grassroots venues, artists and promoters. It isn’t going to be acceptable to our political representatives to allow the continued loss of access to music in our towns and cities, with all the localised outcry that is caused every time a venue announces it has been forced to shut its doors. The closure of Bath Moles last year was the turning point in that discussion. We should never have allowed it to happen and we must act quickly to remove the possibility of it happening to any other iconic, deeply cherished space. The CMS Select Committee report, with its recommendations for the future sustainability of the grassroots sector, is likely to be the most important intervention into live music since the industry professionalised itself years ago. While it does not create government policy, it will steer policy approaches and it will do that at a crucial moment in the political calendar. There will be an election this year. If the live music industry does not have in place a model of financial support that enables the grassroots ecosystem to survive, it is inevitable this will become an election issue. Whichever part of the music industry you work in, you’re going to be asked what you intend to do about it. We should either have an answer to that question, or we should be prepared for the consequences of having one imposed on us.

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