BLIM & Attitude Is Everything report: Black disabled talent is being held back in music industry

BLIM & Attitude Is Everything report: Black disabled talent is being held back in music industry

Black Lives In Music and the disabled music charity Attitude Is Everything have unveiled a new report, Unseen Unheard, which explores the experiences of Black British music creators and professionals with disabilities or long-term health conditions.  

Based on survey findings extrapolated from BLIM’s October 2021 report, Being Black in the UK Music Industry, Unseen Unheard presents an extensive range of responses and insights from 99 music creators and 50 industry professionals. 

These are complemented with new interviews carried out by BLIM in 2023, including a foreword by Esta Rae, senior events manager at the Association of Independent Music (AIM). The full report can be downloaded here.

The key findings highlighted pronounced instances of intersectional bias facing Black disabled people in music: 

– 74% of Black disabled music creators felt there are specific barriers to success in the industry because of their race or ethnicity compared to 58% of Black non-disabled creators who felt the same way.

– Only 38% of the 149 respondents felt that diversity and inclusion is an industry priority.

– A snapshot of 33 Black disabled music creators who had applied for funding found that only 42% had been successful, compared to 54% of Black non-disabled creators.

– 81% of Black disabled creators do not feel there is a clear career trajectory or path for them. Only 8% said they had felt supported through each career stage. 

– 73% of Black disabled music creators and professionals said they had seen non-Black contemporaries promoted ahead of them despite being less qualified. 

– 70% of Black disabled music creators and professionals said that they have experienced racism or racial bias towards them. 22% have accessed counselling as a result of these experiences.

– 91% of Black disabled creators and professionals said they felt unsatisfied with how they are supported by the music industry.

Unseen Unheard has issued a series of calls to talent development organisations, funders, industry support services, education providers and all industry employers. 

Key issues for representation include the recruitment of Black disabled people as professionals and volunteers for health and mental health support services and industry mentoring schemes. 

Conferences, networking events and industry showcases need to consider disabled people and their access requirements from planning through to delivery, the report recommends. Furthermore, conferences and industry forums should provide platforms to Black disabled creators and professionals to share their lived experience and their professional expertise.

In terms of consultation, the report states that Black disabled people must be involved in the planning and evaluation of services designed for artists and professionals. Safe spaces for Black disabled creative industries students should be created to share their lived experiences, the report recommended.

On the back of the findings, Black Lives In Music and Attitude Is Everything intend to lead by example and join forces to collaborate for change, starting today with the launch of the Unseen Unheard podcast series. 

Hosted by Attitude Is Everything’s Joy Addo, and broadcast on the Black Lives In Music YouTube channel and across all podcast platforms, the series features in-depth interviews with Black disabled creators and industry professionals about their experiences of navigating the music business. 

The first episode goes live today and features an interview with AIM’s Esta Rae. New episodes will be uploaded every two weeks.

Charisse Beaumont, chief executive, Black Lives In Music, said: “The Unseen Unheard report is another first-of-its-kind report which will aid in reframing the music industry. The report highlights the intersectional barriers Black Disabled music creators and professionals face daily and what we as members of the music ecosystem can do to address these barriers.  

“The landscape feels like it is changing in some ways. We have seen a reversal by organisations and the government of the commitments they made in 2020. However, what is encouraging is that we are seeing bold individuals and organisations who are resolute in demonstrating to the world that inclusion and authenticity is the new normal. 

“In this report, you will read first hand accounts of the lived experience of Black Disabled people who have smashed through every barrier and stereotype to become senior leaders in the music industry. Together with Attitude Is Everything, Black Lives in Music are on a mission for Black Disabled music creators and professionals to no longer be unseen and unheard but instead celebrated, uplifted and granted the same opportunities as others. Eradicating discrimination and creating platforms and pathways to showcase their talent and skills so they can thrive and have the careers they truly deserve. Let’s work together to create the truly inclusive music industry we all long for.”

Suzanne Bull, founder, Attitude Is Everything, said: “The Unseen Unheard report and podcast series marks the first major intervention generated by our partnership with Black Lives in Music. It’s a rallying cry to the industry to listen to Black disabled artists and professionals and to respond to their experiences of race and disability-related barriers. And the industry’s response must only be to ‘do better’. 

“The report’s sobering findings highlight the many ways in which Black disabled talent is being held back. This needs to urgently change. We need to see the ‘diversity’ conversation take place on conference stages, industry forums and boardrooms, not just in the meetings and spaces marked for the ‘diversity discussion’, but as the integral part of all conversations. This is the way that Black disabled people will be enabled to speak truth to power, showcase their skills and talent, and pursue ambitions free of the barriers which are artificially created for the benefit of no one within the industry.”

Esta Rae, senior events manager at AIM, said: “If you look around the industry there are many disabled people thriving within their roles – it is possible. Radio presenters, content creators, events managers, producers, engineers, Radio Broadcasters, photographers, the list is endless. But this report shows that many more out there feel that they cannot progress and that they are not recognised as talented artists or industry professionals with vast potential to contribute to this industry we all love. If the correct support was given across the board, it would fill a huge gap in terms of what the industry is currently missing out on.”

Joe Frankland, CEO, PRS Foundation, said: “This report should act as a wake-up call to those working in all music sectors, including to music funders like me. As ever, Attitude Is Everything and Black Lives in Music’s work centres the experiences of artists, creators and industry professionals to inspire meaningful change. The report offers up solutions to improve practice and to break down barriers to progression, and we must all play our parts to tackle the issues faced by talented Black disabled artists and professionals. I applaud the work of both organisations and the individuals speaking out, and I look forward to seeing further action.” 


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