Viewpoint: UK Music's Michael Dugher on the importance of diversity

Viewpoint: UK Music's Michael Dugher on the importance of diversity

From Wireless to Download, the range of festivals on offer to music fans in the UK has never been more diverse.

The number of people enjoying live music events is at a record high, as UK Music revealed last week in our 2017 Wish You Were Here report on the industry’s contribution to the economy.

But it is a very different story when it comes to some festival line-ups and the diversity among the music industry’s workforce.

A recent study by The Times found an overwhelming 83% of acts booked for the main stages of leading festivals between 2007 and 2016 were male.

If those findings are correct, that’s a poor reflection of the liberal and enlightened values that we cherish in the music industry and that picture needs to change. Furthermore, only a handful of headline acts are BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic).

We need to better reflect the communities we live among and seek to entertain – not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s good for business. 

A study by the Creative Artists Agency in June found that American films with more diverse casts performed better at the box office than less diverse movies.

As the chairman of our Diversity Taskforce at UK Music, Keith Harris, said: “If you’re ignoring your audience, eventually it will catch up with you.”

In January, we released the results of our UK Music industry-wide diversity survey, which focused on gender and ethnicity. 

The study found that BAME representation in the workforce was 15.6% - higher than the 12.8% figure for the UK population as a whole.

But the figure is less impressive when you take into account the fact that two thirds of music industry workers are based in London, where the BAME population makes up around 30.3% of
the workforce.

When it come to gender, the split of men to women – 53.6% to 45.3% – showed women are still under-represented in comparison to the UK population, with its split of 49.3% to 50.7%. 

The number of older women in the industry is particularly low. Only 32.7% of the music industry workforce aged between 45 and 64 are women.

UK Music is working hard to address the issues with a range of proposals including encouraging companies to undertake unconscious bias training.

Other organisations are also leading by example. Earlier this year, the BPI successfully completed an overhaul of the BRITs voting academy to increase the numbers of women and BAME participants.

But we need to be doing far more on the key issue of encouraging diversity across all sections of our industry.

That’s why I would encourage everyone to take part in our latest survey, in order to gauge the levels of diversity.

It’s a survey that takes under a minute to complete but will give us valuable data to help us find ways to make our industry as diverse and inclusive as it is vibrant and creative.

The range of talent is clear for all to see and is envied across the world. But the range is much narrower when it comes to matching the diversity of our society. 

It is very much in the music industry’s interests to do the right thing. Enlightened self-interest starts by getting enlightened.

However, in order to formulate better ways of broadening diversity, we first need to know exactly what the current picture is. That will enable us to track improvements and see where further initiatives are needed.

Our mission is to work with industry groups and music employers to ensure that our workforce is as diverse as the music we create for millions of people at home and abroad.

All of which brings me back to the survey and a plea to fill it in and to share it as widely as possible. If you believe the industry should be doing more to improve diversity and break down the barriers faced by many people trying to get on in the music business, help us make the changes we need by taking part.

The findings of the survey are published every other year and shared widely to help bring about the changes that I am sure we all want to see. 

Our inaugural survey last year collated data from almost 3,000 people from across both major and independent record labels, managers, publishers, producers, royalty-collection societies and the live music industry.

We hope that this year’s study will be equally successful and help us accurately map just how diverse our industry is.

As a creative industry admired across the globe, we should be leading by example and setting the bar high for every other industry in the UK.

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