Black Lives in Music launched to tackle racial inequality in UK music industry

Black Lives in Music (BLiM) will use data and advocacy to amplify and empower Black musicians and music creators in order to bring about increased and sustained representation and participation at all levels for a truly diverse and inclusive industry. 

Its keys goals are to:

  • Be a catalyst for meaningful change and meaningful action towards a genuine diverse community within music.
  • Provide meaningful opportunities at grassroots level for Black musicians to aspire to be part of the wider talent pool
  • Support and empower Black artists to realise their ambitions
  • Advocate for equality for the careers of musicians and the music industry workforce

Research from Arts Council England showed that of leadership roles occupied by employees at almost 100 of its leading National Portfolio Organisations, only 10% of Chief Executives, 11% of Senior Managers, 11% of Chairs, and 15% of board members were from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

But there is currently no data about the experience and everyday reality for Black musicians in the UK. The organisation will address this by launching The Black Lives in Music survey, ground-breaking research looking at the issues Black creatives faces in multiple areas including racial discrimination, mental health, well-being and economic disparity. The results of the survey are set to be published in an annual BLiM report in May 2021.

BLiM Co-founder and Chief Executive Charisse Beaumont said:

“We are bringing together all Black musicians and music professionals for this research in order to create change. Your participation will make this data, which currently doesn’t exist, the most powerful data set about Black musicians in the world which will be used to drive positive and lasting change.”

Co-founder Roger Wilson added:

“We need you to be part of it…to do this for you and your future. If you do, it will make a difference!”

BLiM has created a 10-step digital charter urging music organisations to agree to meet in order to reflect the nation’s diverse culture and combat systemic racism within the industry. Its taskforce comprises some of the most esteemed Black executives and musicians in the UK working for diversity and equality in music. Amongst them are Orphy Robinson MBE, Shabaka Hutchings, Paulette Long OBE, Cleveland Watkiss MBE, Yvette Griffith and James Joseph.

BLiM will support organisations to work towards developing balanced professional ensembles with people of colour, recruitment of Black people representing senior management/board level and programmes, and mentoring and support for the progression of Black musicians into professional ensembles.

It works with orchestras, professional ensembles, universities, conservatoires, festivals, operas, and trade bodies.

Chineke! Foundation Executive Director Chi-chi Nwanoku OBE said:

“Black Lives in Music is an extremely welcome organisation adding an important voice to the campaign for greater equity and inclusion across the music industry. Music takes on many forms from jazz to classical and speaks to us all no matter who you are or where you come from. Now is the time to remove all existing and remaining racial barriers of access and inclusion to allow music’s ability to truly bring people together from all walks of life. It is perhaps music’s greatest power.”  

BLiM partners include Spotify; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Help Musicians UK; Arts Council England; Trinity Laban; Leeds Conservatoire; PRS Foundation; The Ivors Academy; Musicians’ Union; Featured Artists’ Coalition; Manchester Jazz Festival; Jazz North; Marsden Jazz Festival; Lichfield Jazz Festival; The Black Music Coalition; London Mozart Players; and National Youth Choirs of Great Britain.

Arts Council England Director of Music Claire Mera-Nelson said: 

“Arts Council England is delighted to support Black Lives in Music. Through their work, Charisse Beaumont, Roger Wilson, and their taskforce are giving a vital platform to the voices of Black musicians in the UK, helping us all to hear and engage with those who are systematically under-represented in the sector. By investing in their insight, and by acknowledging and challenging the diversity deficit in music, we can all affirm our commitment to helping find the way to a better, more relevant, and more inclusive future.”

Help Musicians UK Chief Executive James Ainscough said:

“The data that Black Lives in Music collects will provide the musician-focused insight to fuel the change we all want to see. Their collaborative yet determined advocacy will create a positive legacy for many generations of musicians. That is why all of us at Help Musicians are passionate about supporting the establishment of Black Lives in Music. We are committed not just to co-funding their work, but also to listening and acting so we are part of the positive change that is needed across the music industry.”

The Black Music Coalition Chair Sheryl Nwosu said:

“The BMC wholeheartedly support and so have partnered with Black Lives in Music in the creation of this survey. Both organisations are determined to lead with action in understanding and eradicating the barriers which have historically stifled and continue to hamper the progress and success of Black music professionals and creatives in the UK.”  

PRS Foundation CEO Joe Frankland said:

“PRS Foundation is pleased to see Black Lives in Music making such progress to address inequality of opportunity for Black people in the music sector. BLiM’s survey will go a long way to develop a deeper understanding of the everyday barriers and systemic racism that prevents exciting talent from thriving. And we are excited to align our Power Up Movement work with BLiM’s drive to push companies and organisations to go beyond solidarity and to make themselves accountable for change. This has to be the year of action.”

Musicians and music professionals are being urged to sign up to The Black Lives in Music survey by visiting: https://blim.org.uk/change/

The Black Lives in Music survey is conducted by Black Lives in Music, Opinium Research, and Inc Arts, with contributions from The Black Music Coalition. For more information about BLiM see: http://www.blim.org.uk

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