Chair shares Vision of UK Music Diversity Taskforce

The issue of diversity in the music industry is prevelant. We spoke to Ammo Talwar who explains the vision behind the UK Music Diversity Taskforce.

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"Restore a sense of equality in the work environment."

The concern for diversity in the music industry as well as other domains of the workplace has been considered a method of a simple “box-ticking” exercise which is reportedly meant to solve the issue of diversity and inclusion.

Undoubtedly, the impact of the coronavirus lockdown on the workplace will have long-lasting effects even once measures are eased and eventually entirely lifted.

As a result of this impact, the element of diversity and inclusion must be considered when planning on ways to drive society and change post-lockdown.

Recently, the UK Music Diversity Taskforce has newly-elected their chair, Ammo Talwar MBE. He calls for the music industry to prioritise diversity as the UK emerges from the coronavirus lockdown.

Ammo Talwar is also the CEO of Birmingham-based music agency, Punch Records, and has worked with artists, developed tours and organise city-wide music festivals.

DESIblitz exclusively speaks to Ammo Talwar to gain insight about why he wanted to become the chair of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce, its concept and much more.

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Why did you become the chair of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce?

It’s an open process and I applied. It means you hold the music industry and trade bodies to account around issues of inclusion, policy & diversity.

It involves publishing a large report that is driven by modern data around diversity and the music industry.

Ultimately, I wanted to make real change in the industry, challenge the glass ceiling, share good practise and ensure the music industry reflects the society we live in – modern, collaborative and diverse.

What is the main vision of  UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce?

The vision of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce is clear. We exist to improve equality of access and retention across the music industry workforce, with a sharp focus on gender and race.

The issue of diversity has been a box-ticking exercise for too many people for too long.

As we all consider how society and the workplace will change as we emerge from the coronavirus lockdown, it is vital that the issue of diversity and inclusion is part of that discussion and the South Asian scene is a major part of this ecosystem.

We have collectively agreed that the UK Music Diversity Taskforce will focus on these five key strands:

  1. Produce a biennial report on our progress towards and the impact of diversity in the music industry.
  2. Develop an evidence-based approach to reporting on our diversity initiatives, leveraging learning through new partnerships around data.
  3. Dialogue regularly with music business stakeholders to spotlight best practice and industry leadership.
  4. Open up our taskforce to fresh voices and perspectives, becoming less London-centric and widening our impact.
  5. Dismantle our “glass ceilings”, especially at senior management and board levels, so we retain our best leaders in our industry.

How will British Asian genres of music be included?

This is not about any genre of music but more about people and workforce diversity which has suffered over the years. There are many key issues that we need to tackle to help achieve a more inclusive industry.

Gender pay gaps, shared parental leave for the self-employed and more inclusive representation across all levels of the industry are all problems we need to tackle.

Back in 2020 B.C. (“Before Covid”), the business case for the industry to get behind a more diverse and inclusive workplace was clear.

Our Diversity Taskforce was successfully working with music trade bodies, the government and in parliament.

We put forward clear evidence on both the importance of diversity to the music industry and the contribution of our industry to UK plc.

But, now in 2020 A.D. – (“After Downturn”), the gaze of the industry has shifted as we necessarily focus on sustaining ourselves economically.

We read all the grim statistics; the live sector alone could see £900m disappear from its annual contribution to the UK economy. We need to make sure diversity is visible and influences the new era that will be born.

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Singers, musicians and producers all face hardship now, how can you help?

We have already seen the industry moving quickly to attempt to cushion the immediate crushing blow of the lockdown for those makers and creators of music.

I’m aware of the major impact Covid-19 has had especially on the gig economy. Emergency support from PRS for Music, AIM, Musicians’ Union, PPL, BPI, Spotify, Live Nation, Help Musicians, Music Venue Trust and many more all help to sustain the most talented and most vulnerable artists.

A great one-stop-shop for all these funds is www.coronamusicians.info I believe our individual and collective responses to Covid-19 have the potential to act as agents of positive change across the UK.

People from diverse backgrounds are hardly represented at top levels in labels/publishers/organisations, how will you change this?

By introducing best practice from other sectors and simply sharing the evidence – diverse companies perform better and reports like the McKinsey – Why Diversity Matters explain all this in a very sensible way.

We will be carrying out our biannual major survey into diversity in the music industry. It is a big part of helping bring about the change we all want to see.

So, if you work in the music business, I urge you to take part. This evidence will play an integral part to change the sector.

Innovative campaigns have already impacted on many areas of the music business. The BRIT Awards selection process “reflects how vibrant the music scene is right now” as Geoff Taylor of the BPI said.

The PRS Foundation’s Keychange scheme has successfully challenged festival programming and has now broadened out to include all music industry organisations.

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How can you support female artists from South Asian backgrounds to enter the music industry?

We are working with multiple music companies and funders to restore a sense of equality in the work environment.

Loads of really good practise and work including PRS Foundations Keychange program helps to get more female artists regardless of ethnicity onto more festival stages.

Brighter Sounds in Manchester are running an amazing project called “Both sides now” specifically to get more women employed and back into the music industry, with a range of jobs including technical work, boardroom representation and artist managers.

Name three things you want to see change in the music industry?

  1. Better representation by ethnic minorities especially at senior and board level.
  2. More opportunities for working-class students to better engage with music and the arts.
  3. Sharper, visible opportunities for women in all parts of the industry.

The need for diversity, equality and inclusion in the music industry is a matter which requires significant attention. Ammo Talwar is determined to make a positive difference going forward post-lockdown.

Ayesha is an English graduate with an aesthetic eye. Her fascination lies in sports, fashion and beauty. Also, she does not shy away from controversial subjects. Her motto is: “no two days are the same, that is what makes life worth living.”