Progress report: UK Music's Ammo Talwar on why the industry needs to embrace change

Progress report: UK Music's Ammo Talwar on why the industry needs to embrace change

Three months on from the UK Music Diversity Report, Ammo Talwar has spoken about the initiatives in place and the organisation’s 10-point plan.

As Diversity Taskforce chair, Talwar and deputy chair Paulette Long are at the forefront of the campaign for change in the music industry. Both are part of the executive committee – along with former Diversity Taskforce chair Keith Harris – for the new PRS Foundation Power Up Initiative.

Talwar and Long recently gave a virtual presentation for Sound City, following the launch of the Rip It Up project – a curated and bespoke bursary programme for the next generation of Black, Asian and diverse talent. Rip It Up is supported by Sound City, Youth Music and SM-Mgmt. 

Here, Ammo Talwar gives Music Week his progress report…

How much was achieved on diversity and inclusion last year and what's top of the agenda this year?

“We did loads of really solid ‘back-end’ work last year, including a major workforce survey, our UK Music Diversity Report and 10-Point Plan, which is recognised by the music industry as a benchmark for rapid change. We launched this in October, whilst also reflecting on what took place in Minneapolis with the murder of George Floyd. It was also a time for reflection and change.

“The data collected unpacked some interesting narratives and evidence. Whilst in some areas it was moving in the right direction, in others we collectively needed to call stuff out. There was an improvement for ethnic minorities in 2020, moving up to 22.3% of the workforce – compared to 15.6% in 2016 and 17.8% in 2018. That is positive in terms of overall make-up but, if you look into other data in the report, there’s a bit of a block when it comes to the middle of the ladder. Black, Asian and ethnic minority representation goes from 42.1% at apprentice/intern level to 34.6% at entry-level to 21.6% at mid-level and 19.9% at senior level. In terms of gender, women make up 51.2% of the workforce at mid-level but only 40.4% at senior level. We need to do more in terms of understanding why women and people from ethnic minority communities don’t get right to the top. We need to listen more, put a strategy in place, hold people to account and then audit. 

“Last year was about benchmarking, listening more, unpacking systemic racism, collaborating, and creating safe spaces to have awkward conversations around equality, equity and justice. This year has to be about visible action. It has to be about movement and shifting the dial. It has to be about the doing, with KPIs and metrics at the heart of it, with respect but at pace. We don’t have another five years to get this right and build back UK Plc.”

We can't lose the diversity momentum we’ve created

Ammo Talwar

Is the pandemic affecting progress on key issues?

“The pandemic is affecting everything. First and foremost, it’s pretty much dismantled live music and, secondly, it’s having an adverse effect on Black and Asian communities – primarily to do with structural inequalities in housing, health, social care, access to parks, clean air and so on. Covid-19 is having a double-whammy effect on Black and Asian communities.

“We can't lose the diversity momentum we’ve created. Our job, collectively, is to make sure that diversity stays on the top table and is used as a catalyst to amplify the UK music industry, rather than being an add-on. If you read the McKinsey Report 2020 and follow all the other evidence, it tells you that having more women in your organisation is better for the bottom line. If you have a diverse workforce,  it’s also better for the bottom line. Diversity should and will be an intrinsic part of re-establishing the music industry.” 

What's been the industry reaction to the 10-point plan and how is it proceeding?

“Industry has reacted phenomenally positively, primarily because it’s co-designed and created with all the trade bodies. The 10-Point Plan, I would say, is an industry standard now. People know they’ve got to make change within a timeline. Every single CEO and chairperson of every single trade body has signed off on the 10-Point Plan, so there’s accountability. I also think people are excited to see what the change will look and feel like, and it’s all stacked up with data and metrics.” 

Can the new Power Up initiative dovetail with the work of the Diversity Taskforce, how can you work together?

“I’m a massive fan of this new PRS Foundation with partners initiative. It already dovetails, primarily because myself and Paulette Long are on the executive committee, and, secondly, we can support Power Up with data and all the other stuff we have already done. Ultimately, with all the campaigning organisations and initiatives looking at diversity in a broader sense, we have to share and triangulate. So, we are naturally connected.”  

How can projects like Rip It Up help?

“People need to see more organisations doing more to reflect the citizens, communities and audiences that they serve. Ultimately, if you’re not reflective of modern-day Liverpool, for example, and its sound, you’re going to end up being a dinosaur and losing your audience. So, it’s not just about civic duty, it’s about survival and the bottom line as well. The world is changing at rapid pace, that’s exciting as new forms, new audiences and new sounds will come out of the UK. “

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