Keith Harris celebrates progress but warns against 'significant issues' as diversity survey lands

Keith Harris celebrates progress but warns against 'significant issues' as diversity survey lands

Keith Harris has told Music Week there are “still significant issues” around BAME (Black, Asian, minority ethnic) representation at senior levels in the business.

Speaking exclusively to Music Week for our bumper end of year special issue, out now, Harris was addressing the latest round of results from UK Music’s Music Industry Workforce Diversity Survey.

Released this week, the report collated data from almost 3,000 artists, songwriters, composers, musicians, producers, managers, publishers, record labels, licensing companies and the live sector.

The figures show that BAME representation is up from 15.6% in 2016 to 17.8% in 2018. The proportion of women in the industry rose from 45.3% in 2016 to 49.1% in 2018.

BAME representation has increased among senior managers, from 11.4% in 2016 to 18.8% in 2018. Representation among those aged 16 to 24 is now at 25.9% (up 5.7 percentage points in two years).

For that age group, women account for 65.3% of workers, although women over 35 are not so well represented. Representation among interns and apprentices is 35.2%.

“When you look at the senior management, there are still significant issues in terms of people being promoted,” Harris said. “It’s one thing employing people but it’s another thing allowing them to make progress.

“In the boardroom, there is still a lot of work to be done. I still find it remarkable that on almost every board I sit on, I’m the only minority face.”


In the boardroom, there is still a lot of work to be done

Keith Harris

However, Harris, chairman of UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce, is encouraged by a new generation entering the business and noted that there have been “significant promotions” since the survey began in 2016.

“That is finally being recognised and that’s going to be good for the industry,” he said.

Harris went on to say that some areas have been more responsive than others in reporting their results, noting that the publishing sector has been less successful than others.

“There are one or two sectors that aren’t doing as much as they could to get people to respond to the survey, so that would naturally make you suspect that they are lagging behind a bit,” he said.

He added that the rise of UK rap, grime and urban music may have sparked an increase in aspiring executives from diverse backgrounds.

“We won’t really know how much progress we are making until grime and urban music genres recede a little bit,” he said. “It might be masking the fact the industry hasn’t progressed as much as we want – black people don’t necessarily only work on black music.”

Read the full, exclusive interview in the new issue of Music Week, out now. Subscribers can read it in full online here.

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