After a day of digital, yesterday’s conference strands at The Great Escape 2016 packed in a little more variety, covering everything from the physical market – from CDs to t-shirts – to practical initiatives encouraging diversity in the industry, and several sessions on mental health.
What Has The Industry Ever Done For You kicked off the morning with a session called Building A More Diverse Music Industry, with presentations from Girls I Rate founder Carla Marie Williams, Women Produce Music’s Katia Isakoff and Ewan Grant, MD of Notting Hill Academy Of Music.
As first speaker, Grant announced during his presentation that the Notting Hill Academy was launching a new scholarship for students in partnership with leading urban culture site GRM Daily. “Employability is key, and the education of music needs to change; that's my priority,” he said. “How we recruit students is through scholarships.
“We have three scholarships at moment: one with The Ultimate Seminar, a yearly event at the University of Westminster, with one student coming through that; we are also proud to announce today that we're doing a scholarship with GRM Daily. There's a free place available through that. And within Notting Hill, we have tied ourselves up with a company called The Rhythm Studio.”
He added: “There are 15 students on each course; five of them are given scholarships. They're given free education. How can we afford that? We're not in it for profit. We're in it to put the right human capital back into the music industry. That's what we love. We felt that a lot of human capital was drifting away from the music industry into the tech industries. So that was the whole reason we set it up.”
At the end of Grant’s talk, another educator in the audience, University of Westminster’s Sally Gross, made a key point about the definition of positive discrimination, which had previously been described as CMU’s Chris Cooke as a “necessary evil”.
“I've got certain bugbears about diversity - I don't even like that word particularly, but not because I'm not interested in the idea of seeing change in the world as well as the industry,” she said. “The idea of positive discrimination - I just wanted to talk about that for a minute. If you get a job because you know somebody, that's positive discrimination. It's just not called that. That's a big fucking issue in this business.
“I could show you a map of the central music industry, in which the presidents of our major record labels right now went to the same school. I'm interested in research and data and evidence; I can prove those things. That's not because it wasn't a good school; it was just a good school in Hampstead. Kids from Harlesden don't tend to go there. Positive discrimination is nowhere near as evil as the other evil.”
CI general manager Kieron Faller was also on hand to provide a strong example of a successful – and diverse – company. Within the team of 10 people at the indie digital distributer, 40% are non-white, and half are women, across six nationalities. Faller pointed out: “A key point to talk about is that it has been proven in academic research that diverse teams get you better performance. This is not charity; it is not, Oh it's the right thing to do. This is better business. You get better results by having a diverse team. That's absolutely proven.”
His advice for building a better team included acknowledging – and eliminating – unconscious bias, wherein people are more likely to hire those similar to them. One way to affect unconscious bias is standardised interview structures with online forms, so that all applicants are asked the same questions to be scored on.
Faller also touched on the pay gap, noting that CI has introduced a standard pay scale for roles in order to ensure all are paid based on performance, rather than negotiating skill. He added: "Don't motivate based on pay. That means you don't need to worry about a pay scale dampening motivation within the company.
“Things that motivate people are autonomy, mastery and purpose. Having control over their own work, being able to become good at something, and what the fuck we're doing this for. Give people those things, which I hope we do at CI, then they're not so concerned about the money."
Outside of the main strands, PPL, PRS For Music, and the PRS Foundation joined together for a talk with Public Service Broadcasting and the act’s team. Titled Creating A Unique Sound And Show, the Old Courtroom panel saw PPL’s Keith Harris quiz the likes of Ritu Morton (Six07 Press) and Liquid Management’s David Manders, alongside J. Willgoose, Esq. about the rise of the band.
Willgoose recounted that in the early days of Public Service Broadcasting: “I was working a full-time job, so it was almost like having two jobs in the early stages. I wasn't depending on PSB for my income. It was a case of building things up over a couple of years. We were lucky really - still are lucky - I think our audience is a bit older than for a lot of bands who break through, partly because of 6 Music, whose audience is a bit older, and they tend to be people who still buy records.
“When it came to putting [debut EP] The War Room out, we didn't have it on CD at first; we pressed 12" ourselves. I was sending them out myself. It was running a mini logistics company for four-five months, it was an absolute nightmare. Then we had a distributor get in touch, who wanted to take on the record and get it into shops. Rough Trade, Resident both got in touch directly; shops came to us and said, We're getting enquiries about this, can we take some records off you?”
Also on the panel was A&R veteran James Endeacott, who told Willgoose: “It's that DIY ethic, that old punk ethic that happened in the mid-'70s, when music was so pompous and these punk kids came along pressing their own singles and distributing them from their bedrooms. It's exactly what you did. It's not a grand plan, but you've got something and you have to do it. What's separates great artists from not very good artists is the fact that great artists have to do it.
“What John's talking about now is what was happening 40 years ago. It's grown organically, and when you do that, it's got roots, a base. That's important for any artist. When you get catapulted into the limelight and sign a big five-figure deal, straight onto the B-list at Radio 1, you're elevated into a position and the only way you can do is down. There's a lack of people thinking long-term in our industry, unfortunately. What he's doing, probably without even realising it, is a long-term thing. You're building these roots.”