What’s happening with diversity in the music industry?
Examining the strides being made to level the playing field
As I have previously talked about in the article “The lack of women in the music industry,” gender inequality is a noticeable issue in the music business. It cuts across all sectors, from artists to executives behind the scenes, and unites the music industry with other industries facing the same problem in the U.S. and around the world. Lack of inclusion for minority groups is also an issue undermining talented individuals.
We have all heard the dismal numbers — how many women get record deals compared to men, the demographic that tends to win most of the awards, and the high rates of harassment and victimization — so there is no doubt that there is a massive problem.
With that said, I have decided to look at the positives and the strides being made, even as more people speak out. There is, obviously, a far way to go, but the reality is that things are changing. For starters, there is a general realization that change is critical and a recognition for the need to work on rectifying it. Indeed, I have been hearing more about collective actions being taken to balance the scales, so to speak.
Just a few weeks past, Oprah Winfrey added her voice to the movement, announcing a new documentary that will address the issue of sexual assault in the music industry. Winfrey’s announcement follows initiatives by various celebrities within and outside the music industry, who have called time on the imbalances in music, including gender and racial discrimination. Then there are the recent organizations, most notably Shesaid.so and InChorus, which have partnered on creating a database that collects reports on discrimination and harassment in the music industry.
And that’s just in the U.S. In the United Kingdom, Australia, and other parts of the world, a number of non-profit organizations have been set up to lobby policymakers to develop programs aimed at ending discrimination and harassment and encouraging diversity in the music business. There are also numerous initiatives being rolled out to assist women musicians and music minority groups with support relating to music education, production, and performance.
Evidence that things are changing
The status quo is still in effect in many areas of the music business but there is evidence that things are changing as a result of the actions mentioned above. After backlash in 2018 about how white and male the Grammy Awards were, the Recording Academy formed a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, which rolled out a list of measures geared at straightening out the inequities identified. So far, those measures seem to be bearing fruit, starting with the Academy contracting Alicia Keys (herself being vocal on the diversity issue) for hosting duties. This year’s Grammy nominations have also been labeled as being the most historically diverse and youthful by at least one publication, with Lizzo and Lil Nas X, leading the way.
In the UK, last year’s Music Industry Workforce Diversity Survey suggested that the representation of women and minorities in that country had improved over previous years. It is expected that this year’s report will likely indicate additional improvements in the imbalance.
I have also noticed where more women in music have been willing to speak out against discrimination. In the past, many admitted to being scared to air their concerns because they feared backlash and being blacklisted by the “patriarchy.” I must say I am humbly proud to have been among the first women to speak up, as per my 2017 article about the lack of women in the music industry. And while I can’t say for sure in what way my contribution helped to bring about change, I am pleased that the feedback was generally positive. In fact, I received several encouraging and thoughtful emails from a number of men as a result.
I could go on but the evidence shows that things are changing for the better. Of course, there is no time and place for complacency, but I am choosing to look at all the positive things happening, even while expecting more being done.