opinion

Moot points: Why the UK needs artists & execs to take on the world

The biz has only just returned to work and already the news of Guy Moot's move from Sony/ATV to the top job at Warner/Chappell – where he'll be working alongside Carianne Marshall – has told us plenty about the music ...

Viewpoint: AIM's Paul Pacifico on the diversity agenda

The Association Of Independent Music recently announced a partnership with leading LGBT equality charity Stonewall. AIM CEO Paul Pacifico explains why he’s committed to being an ‘ally’ in the workplace… When AIM announced its partnership with Stonewall, some people immediately dismissed it as AIM just being ‘a bit worthy’. So I wanted to explain why becoming a Diversity Champion is beyond simple virtue signalling for AIM and why I personally feel compelled to act on this issue. AIM is known to champion socially-aware and responsible behaviour, but make no mistake, all of our initiatives are directly linked to our core mission to support and empower entrepreneurs in music. As with all things, we want to ensure that any action taken by AIM is practical, useful and effective – both for our member businesses and for their wider stakeholders. AIM’s work has to be of value to the community from both a social and a business point of view. In her keynote address to our AGM, Stonewall’s executive director of campaigns and strategy, Rachel Stein, set out the practical benefits that come from fostering an inclusive and diverse environment in the workplace. Helping ensure that the workforce feel free to be themselves drives a number of key performance factors such as engagement and innovation, which in turn enables greater productivity. The principle also extends to the recruitment of diverse talent. The fact that nearly half of young people between the ages of 18-24 see themselves as something other than totally heterosexual underlines the importance of adapting with the times to remain relevant for the newest entrants into the workforce. As a Diversity Champion, we will encourage our members to consider diversity in their recruitment and inclusivity in their culture. Over time, there has been a welcome increase in awareness of the importance of diversity to the music industry. Some initiatives, such as the PRS Foundation-led Keychange Pledge and Manifesto, are well-conceived and effective. UK Music and SheSaidSo are also positive examples. Others are well-intentioned but unlikely to result in progress, and some may even be counter-productive. The fact that, according to Stonewall’s research, 35% of LGBT employees hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity at work tells us we have a long way to go. Diversity for diversity’s sake is not a good enough reason for us to act. It fundamentally misses the value diversity and inclusion bring to the table. It would be investment, but with no return. We are proud of the fact that the independent sector is made up of companies that are largely owner-operated and therefore free to express their own character and culture as they wish. We take it for granted sometimes that our community is stronger together than individually, but it is important to challenge ourselves and ask the question: ‘Why?’ The answer includes obvious practical elements such as collective bargaining power, but also the vast spectrum of ideas we hear from our members. We learn from the smallest, newest members who bring fresh thinking and new approaches as much as we do from the established practices of our biggest players. Over nearly 20 years of existence, AIM’s community of members has grown significantly and deliberately sought to diversify. We cannot speak for the independent music community with credibility if we are not representative of the broadest possible range of people and musical styles out there. Everyone trying to build a business in music is welcome at AIM. However, we are not truly representing a diverse range of members if we do not empower them to speak up and participate in the debates and direction of AIM. This takes work and needs commitment, but in our experience that commitment pays off. Inclusivity is part of AIM’s DNA. As such, everyone, regardless of business size, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, age, neuro-diversity or background should feel welcome and included. We have to acknowledge that there is little point in having workplaces that seem to have a good gender balance, BAME or LGBT representation on paper, if those employees still don’t feel welcome or empowered. Until everyone feels included and enabled, we are in danger of ‘ticking the diversity box’ without reaping the rewards that inclusion has to offer us. Building on the work AIM has done in the area of women in music, I am determined to challenge our own culture in the workplace. I am grateful for the number of times in my life that I have been stopped in my tracks by a comment from someone who identified as ‘outside the norm’, which has helped me enormously and saved me from the limits of my own perspective. For me, Stonewall’s knowledge, expertise and insights will help AIM get further, faster and better towards true inclusivity, all of which means our community stands to gain most from the incredible richness of knowledge and expertise from those outside the mainstream. After all, those are surely some of the founding principles on which the independent sector is built.

"He was the most extraordinary talent of his generation": Sarah Stennett on Lil Peep

When Gustav Åhr, aka Lil Peep, passed away in November 2017, First Access Entertainment CEO Sarah Stennett  – who had partnered with Peep on a JV to invest in, and advise him on his career – was left devastated. Since then, however, huge interest in his music has kept his team busy managing his legacy. Here, in her own words, Stennett explains how they’ve done it… "I knew Gus was special as soon as [broadcaster] Travis Mills first showed me a picture of him. He was in a rowing boat and, at the time, he just had one tattoo, a ‘Cry Baby’ one on the top of his head. I thought he was mesmerising. “His face was so striking and beautiful: I wanted to know why he came to the decision to tattoo something so significant and emotionally expressive on his face. Travis played me something from his SoundCloud. I was nervous because I hoped that the music lived up to the beauty and fascination of this young man. He played me a track called Beamer Boy and I knew within 45 seconds. I went, ‘Just stop. I don’t need to hear any more, I just want to meet this guy, he’s amazing and this is so exciting.’ “I don’t know why, but that day I felt very much like I was waiting for something to happen. From that day on, I got this sense of excitement around what he was going to do. He brought fun, excitement, passion, belief… Peep was, to me, everything I got into the music business for. When I heard the music and when I saw him, I had a very significant emotional reaction that took me back to all those moments in my life that were soundtracked by specific records that really mattered to me. “That was the start of our journey together. I have never fully accepted his passing and I can easily get consumed by ‘what ifs’. The day it happened, everybody from my office came round to see me. We’d all got to know Gus when he was living in Portobello, he’d become part of our lives and everybody loved him. Once you met him you were under his spell.   Everything Gus left behind has great impact and meaning Sarah Stennett, CEO, First Access Entertainment   “That first 24 hours after he died was very weird. I had no ability to digest it. It was like, ‘What do you mean he’s gone? Where is he?’ My early relationship with him was about trying to find him, because he’d disappear and then pop up doing a show somewhere – he was very elusive. So when he disappeared before it was like, ‘He’s going to come back and I’m going to see him again.’ “I had a few days when I was literally in bed, devastated. And then I got busy. I knew we had a lot planned and the plans we’d agreed. He’d been due to play [US hip-hop festival] Rolling Loud and [that slot] became about making sure as many people as possible got to know the brilliant, creative genius of this young man, whose life was cut short. We wanted them to have the pleasure of understanding this great voice of a generation and that became very consuming for me. “It became a big event. Skywriters wrote his name in the sky, everybody was looking up and hearing his lyrics and that’s really when I started to understand that we had a lot of work to do. Everybody had the same goal, from [collaborators] Mezzy, Smokeasac, and ILoveMakonnen to his mother, Liza, Chase [Ortega] from The Hyv and [Columbia chairman/CEO] Ron Perry. Everybody wanted to ensure we got the album out in the right way and it was finished the way he would have wanted it to be finished. We had to do justice to his legacy. “The first thing we did was the video for Save That Shit; it was such an amazing song that it deserved a video. We showed it to his closest friends and collaborators, in particular Smokeasac. He was thrilled to see Gus in that video, he said, ‘I think Gus would love it.’ “So we put that out and then the Marshmello song [Spotlight] happened. It was never, ‘We’re going to do this and this,’ it was a very organic process. Gus was already in a conversation with Marshmello. He’d met him and they were already talking about doing something, so it just seemed to make sense. Marshmello did the track and in his set all summer he was playing the song and had this wonderful, mega-sized image of Gus that would come up on his stage set. It was introducing Gus to a new audience and helping us say, ‘This is who Peep is, this is what his voice sounds like, this is the song he wrote.’ It just seemed right. We never went out with a blueprint, because we were just doing what felt right step-by-step, listening to people who had a good sense of what he would have wanted to happen. “The Falling Down track happened before Xxxtentacion passed away. I’d been told that there was a track, but I’d never actually heard it, and then when Xxxtentacion died, I got word that he had really wanted to release the track and how much he respected Gus. I was very touched by the fact that he recognised what an important artist Gus was and that he’d discovered Gus’ depth by exploring his catalogue. Of course, we thought about the controversy [surrounding Xxxtentacion], but my personal view was that people can make a decision if they want to listen to it or not. It’s very simple: you either press play or you don’t. “The thing with Gus is, he left so much work. He made it very clear the next thing he wanted to put out was Come On Over When You’re Sober, Pt 2 and he was very excited about the work that he’d done with Makonnen. There was a lot of music made in those sessions with Makonnen that was really optimistic and fun – they just had a great time and were excited about what they were doing together. “But, ultimately, the decisions around releases aren’t mine. I’m part of the decision-making process in so far as I can give guidance and information. But Gus’ family, friends and collaborators work together to give effect to his intentions and wishes as best we can. As long as everything is true to what he would have done, then we are making the right decisions.   We never went out with a blueprint, we were just doing what we felt right Sarah Stennett, CEO, First Access Entertainment   “I love everything he did, all the music he created. I was always in awe of him, always wanted to hear what he had to say and see what he was doing. Everything he’s left behind has great impact and meaning. We’ve delivered part of his legacy, but there’s definitely some amazing material to come that is going to be a joy for people to be able to hear. “I’ve learned you can’t assume special people are going to be in your life forever, so value your experiences. I’m very grateful that I was in a position where I could get to know the most extraordinary talent of his generation. To be around somebody like that was just a pleasure and I’ve learned to be a lot more present in what happens. “People who knew him will always remember his spirit, his kindness and the fun he brought to a room. If you met Peep you’ll never forget it. Never. “And I hope people who never got to meet him remember him through discovering his music, what he wrote about and what he meant. That’s a journey I’d encourage people to take. Delve into his work and understand it, because he is definitely a very important artist. That’s undeniable to me. Go and discover Peep, listen to him, watch his interviews, understand what he was doing and saying, because he was a very clever, inspiring young man.” In a recent edition of Music Week, we took an in-depth look at how estates and labels are managing the legacies of some of music’s fallen icons. Subscribers can read the feature here.  

Not just for Christmas: Why the biz has to make music matter all year round

Not fade away: Why every artist deserves a second chance in the modern music biz

Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on Article 13

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