Music and musicians are often championed for their self-expression and willingness to explore topics which are considered taboo elsewhere, but diversity behind the scenes of the music business is an ongoing issue. Previously, the exposure of the gender pay gap and lack of women in senior leadership roles caused plenty of controversy and subsequent debate. Now, during LGBTQ+ history month, the focus shifts to another area where the music industry needs to improve its efforts.
One of the leading music industry organisations, AIM (Association of Independent Music), recently announced that they were partnering with the LGBTQ+ charity, Stonewall. The charity focuses on ensuring institutions understand the value of individuals from the LGBTQ+ community and creating inclusive cultures in the workplace. The importance of creating a workplace free of prejudice is evident when you consider the statistics. Stonewall’s Work Report, published in April 2018, stated that 35% of LGBTQ+ people hid their identity at work in fear of discrimination, and less than half of LGBTQ+ people would say that there are policies in place to protect trans people in the workplace. Whilst there are no clear figures currently focused on the independent music sector alone, this highlights a clear need for improvement across wider employment, the responsibility for which is not just down to individuals, but should emphasise the role of employers. More training and clearer guidelines need to be set out while disciplinary action should be implemented against staff who use homophobic abuse.
On the announcement of the partnership, AIM released an article clearly identifying their commitment to tackling the issue of inclusion and listing practical steps that they will be taking. These include encouraging their members to focus on diversity within recruitment, encouraging companies to review their equality policies and organising educational ‘Empowerment Programmes’ for their members to ensure that there are visible public role models supporting the LGBTQ+ community.
AIM, however, are not alone in their efforts within the music industry, as other key companies have begun to focus on improving these statistics. The three major labels, Universal Music, Warner and Sony, alongside a number of other music companies, became members of a new non-profit charity and network, called Pride in Music. The charitable network, which launches this February, was setup to provide the British music industry with a “cross industry network for the LGBTQ+ community and allies.” Their membership board consists of prominent figures in major labels such as Blake Price, director of artists and partnerships at Universal Music who identifies as a homosexual man, and Jamie Ahye, Marketing Manager at Atlantic Records, who identifies as a queer trans man. It is the visibility of LGBTQ+ role models across the industry, both on the artist and behind the scenes front, that can lead to progressive change, and hopefully the fear of discrimination will be alleviated for fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues.
Within the music sector, inclusion seems like an obvious fit; the diversity of music genres that are accessible in the streaming age means that there is music for everyone’s taste. But in order to support diverse artists, the companies championing these artists must also employ a diverse range of people. Due to AIM’s partnership with Stonewall focusing on the independent side of the industry, while Pride in Music tackles the major labels, it is clear that positive steps forward are being made to ensure inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community throughout the music industry.