opinion

BRIT Trust Diaries: Nordoff Robbins CEO Sandra Schembri on the power of music

Music’s impact on our daily lives cannot be underestimated. It can provide entertainment, moments of connection and build confidence. But dig deeper and we see the role it can have as a change agent with a significant impact on society.  ...

'Normal is outdated': Ammo Talwar calls for change as UK Music launches fourth Diversity Survey

UK Music Diversity Taskforce chair Ammo Talwar has called on the music business to support its Diversity Survey, which returned last month. In a new opinion piece for Music Week, Talwar highlights the changes in the overall industry landscape between the present day and 2016, when the survey was first launched. However, he stresses the need for more support across the business. Among the findings of last year's edition was the revelation that people who identified as Black or Black British represented 12.6% of the workforce at Entry Level, but only 6.4% at Senior Level, while those who identified as White accounted for 65.4% at Entry Level and 80.1% at Senior Level. "We are all diverse in some way, which is why we need everyone to contribute," Talwar writes. "We need to hear your voices. It’s not just a box ticking exercise." Read Ammo Talwar's piece in full below: UK Music launched its Workforce Diversity Survey back in 2016, driven by its newly formed Diversity Taskforce, led by the formidable Keith Harris. They say the past is another country; certainly, those were different days. There was no pandemic, no Partygate and no Genshin Impact. Instead, there was the EU referendum, the US elections and Pokémon Go. We lost David Bowie and Prince and have since found the likes of Bugzy Malone and Dua Lipa.  The focus around diversity in the music industry had been on the performers themselves; this new survey was our first opportunity to really connect with the thousands of people working behind the scenes. UK Music now has six years of data measuring the music industry's workforce diversity. But what good is it doing us? The Ten-Point Plan – a considered, cohesive approach to strategic action launched in 2020 – was only possible by analysis of data trends revealed by the survey. With UK Music's members (including AIM, BPI, FAC, Ivors Academy, MMF, MPA, MPG, Musicians’ Union, PPL and PRS For Music) all behind it, we are helping to shape a newer, better, more equitable and ultimately stronger music industry. 2020 was also the year the pandemic hit and George Floyd was murdered; pausing the industry for Black Out Tuesday and socially distancing us throughout lockdown. Change was – and is – in the air. How do I know? As well as being the chair of the Diversity Taskforce, I’m CEO of PUNCH in Birmingham. I see the challenges and changes for equity, diversity and inclusion in my hometown. Artists like Mist, Lady Leshurr, Jaykae and Millionz have amplified the city's contemporary voice, moving the dial so youngsters like Sipho and Indigo Marshall can be heard more easily. Peaky Blinders has brought our swaggering street life to a global audience, pushing aside anyone who had always been ashamed of Brum's history as a working class melting pot. It's also the home to the new and cool creative spaces being shaped by our industry ones to watch, such as Meta’s Sade Omojowo and rising A&R Muna Ruumi. However, we now need to ensurethat the Ten-Point Plan commitment is consistent and spread throughout the industry – from businesses in live, recorded, publishing, to representatives like managers, lawyers and accountants. We also need this to be the case across the whole of the UK, so we are – dare I say the word – levelling up. We are helping to shape a newer, better, more equitable and ultimately stronger music industry As 2022 rolls on, we almost won Eurovision, ABBA are back, and Knucks is on the verge of stardom – and we’ve launched the fourth UK Music Workforce Diversity Survey.  The survey means we’ll have seven years’ worth of data measuring the music industry workforce diversity. Tracking this information is vital because the more data we collect the clearer patterns emerge and the greater understanding we have of the make-up of the industry – more importantly it shows us where to put energy and resources. This is why we need everyone to get behind this campaign. We are all diverse in some way, which is why we need everyone to contribute. We need to hear your voices. It’s not just a box ticking exercise – we want to gather qualitative data that gives people a chance to share their stories and lived experiences. By delving deeper into our industry to gain a greater understanding of the experiences, we will be able to build a better knowledge of the needs of our workforce and how we can make it more inclusive for all, especially those with protected characteristics and from low socioeconomic backgrounds.   This survey data will help inform the work of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce and UK Music, who will produce a report on the findings of the survey. Let’s not let the lessons we learned since 2016 about building a better music industry for everyone be sidelined, especially now that life for many has returned to ‘normal’.  Normal is outdated. We want something different. Help us do this by filling out the UK Music Workforce Diversity Survey.

Viewpoint: Anger is not enough to save venues like Nambucca

Music Venue Trust's CEO Mark Davyd reacts to the closure of London venue Nambucca, and says it's more urgent than ever to press ahead with the Own Our Venues initiative... Nambucca closed in May. It didn’t need to and I’m furious about it.  Whatever your role in the music industry, you should be angry too. A legendary small venue on Holloway Road  in North London, Nambucca was a cultural space that provided a home and a place to start, to grow, and to develop for such bands and artists as The Libertines, Wolf Alice, Florence + The Machine, The Kooks, Kaiser Chiefs and Laura Marling.  Nambucca was a community space for Londoners who want to invest their time, money and energy in their passion for live music, and who need a place to express their love for the new, the alternative, the cutting edge.  Nambucca was a place where our sound engineers, lighting technicians, crew, door staff, promoters and operators learned first-hand the skills they need to run our industry. All that opportunity, community and spirit, washed away.  Former Music Week cover star Frank Turner wrote a song (The Ballad of Me And My Friends) about his nights at Nambucca trying to build his career, hassling anyone he could think of to come out and see him. At a time when the music industry wasn’t interested in him at all, when it wouldn’t give him the time of day, when he wasn’t on the cover of Music Week, Frank found a home at Nambucca. So too did thousands of other grassroots artists who rely on their local music venue as a space to begin.  The industry relies on places like Nambucca, just as much as Frank did. Without buildings like that, without those opportunities, we are literally stripping chances away from hundreds of potential future stars every year. They’re the bedrock on which every artist with any meaningful, long-term, sustainable career has built their life for the last 70 years. They won’t be replaced by TikTok or outmoded by YouTube. They’re the very foundations of our entire industry. And we should all feel incredibly angry and concerned when we lose any single one of them.  Without venues like Nambucca, we are stripping chances away from hundreds of potential future stars every year? Mark Davyd Letting them simply close shouldn’t be an option. As an industry, we are multi-billion pound generators of economic activity, paying huge sums out to sports clubs in branding deals, paying our top executives bonuses the size of small cities’ GDPs, and registering extraordinary growth, year-on-year. And yet we don’t seem to be able to work collectively to stop the closure of absolutely vital venues like Nambucca. Because we, apparently, cannot find the comparatively paltry sums of money required to keep them open, keep them in business, and keep them offering the work we all rely on, as well as the incredible riches and careers which they facilitate. If we can’t keep Nambucca open, there is something fundamentally very wrong with our industry.  It does not have to be this way. At the end of May, Music Venue Trust launched the Own Our Venues project. This is a simple investment programme that will buy venues like Nambucca across the country and place them into permanent protected ownership. Own Our Venues is the method by which we can stop there being any more venues closing when they could be kept open. 93% of our grassroots music venues are tenants. They have an average of 19 months left on their short term leaseholds. And then that’s it. Another venue closes, another vital bedrock of our industry is lost.  There’s a joke that’s been doing the rounds in the grassroots sector for the last 25 years. It goes, ‘How do you make a million pounds running a grassroots music venue? Start with two million.’ Hilarious. But not so funny for the communities, artists and workers finding it increasingly hard to access live music as venues shut across the country and we do nothing.  Everyone who genuinely believes in a future for our industry needs to stop being angry about how our grassroots sector is being ripped apart, and get organised behind Own Our Venues. Together, we can make a radical change to the ownership model of our venues and thereby secure a resilient and sustainable grassroots sector that is constantly improving. Not just for this week, this month, or this year. For decades to come. Producing the thousands of new artists on which our industry depends.  Frank Turner’s homage to Nambucca concludes with the lyric that he and his friends ‘will have the best stories to tell.’ Come with us as we try and write a brand new story for the UK’s grassroots music venues. A story we can all be proud to tell.  It’s time to stop being merely angry as more and more venues close, and it’s time to take action. It’s time to Own Our Venues.   PHOTO: Ewan Munro   

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