Universal Music UK CEO and chairman David Joseph has spoken exclusively to Music Week about the major’s diversity plans.
There is a renewed focus on issues surrounding diversity and inclusion in the music business, following the Black Out Tuesday initiative.
Universal Music Group has established a Task Force for Meaningful Change, which British executives will feed into. Alex Boateng represents the UK company on the global task force, which also includes Island US president Darcus Beese.
“We have set up a UK task force, led by [Virgin EMI senior marketing manager] Afryea Henry-Fontaine and [EMI marketing director] Fay Hoyte, not only to feed into the global UMG task force but also to focus on specific internal and external change here in the UK,” said Joseph.
“Nothing is off the table but we are going to take a moment to work everything through, guided by both the global and UK task force. The group has my full support, and that of the entire senior management team, to help bring about real change.”
This week UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce launched its diversity survey of the industry.
At Universal, Morna Cook, senior director of human resources, will continue to lead on internal diversity and inclusion work covering unconscious bias, privilege and other issues for staff. The major has held compulsory ‘Inclusion is Universal’ workshops.
“We are encouraged by the diversity of junior staff joining the company, but of course we need to do more to ensure that these talented individuals are supported to become the senior execs of tomorrow with bespoke coaching and mentoring,” said Joseph.
“Building on our wider relationships with the likes of ELAM [East London Arts and Music], which tend to feed into the creative and A&R side of the business, we want to find talented people to fill every type of role, from legal to data to finance.”
The task force has my full support, and that of the entire senior management team, to help bring about real change
Executives across the industry have launched campaigns calling for change. The newly-formed Black Music Coalition of UK execs has urged the industry to remove the term ‘urban’ in favour of Black Music.
The Grammys has dropped the urban genre term and Republic Records announced it will no longer be used for departments, job titles and music.
“It’s not a term I have ever really been comfortable with and it is something our UK task force will be taking a close look at,” said Joseph.
Music Week has renamed its Urban Club chart from this week as the Black Music chart.
Label rosters have also come under scrutiny. In the previous edition of Music Week, Island artist Ray Blk spoke out about the reluctance of labels to sign black women.
Joseph pledged that the major’s task force will be investigating the issue.
“While all our A&Rs would tell you they just look for talent, I know there has been a lot of reflection on the make-up of our rosters, particularly when it comes to black female artists,” he said. "It’s something else our UK task force will be looking closely at."
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