The following MBW blog comes from emerging British artist manager Allan Siema (pictured). Siema is the founder of Simple Complex Music and onthecomeuptv.com, as well as a talent scout at FaveSounds.com. Siema has been working within London’s underground music scene for the past 15 years.
When I began managing musicians in 2009, I didn’t believe my race would be an issue. Sadly, it was naive of me to think that I wouldn’t experience racial bias in an industry that claimed to be so diverse. It was a shock to my system and an immense eye-opener for someone whose attitude was that, if you planned and worked hard enough, anything was possible.
In the years that followed, I have encountered numerous circumstances that contained either indirect or direct hints of racism. In one instance, I was managing a young white artist who I had met by accident and we clicked really well. We worked really hard and suddenly we were getting calls from some major labels; we were both excited.
However, as I started to go for meetings, I was belittled, put in my place in the most British way possible. As a black man, we have been conditioned from an early age to detect the undertones of racism like a bloodhound on a search trail. This was one of many experiences of this kind that I have had to deal with. Fortunately, my love of music and connecting with new talent has kept me focused as well as invigorated.
“With 80.6% of the UK music industry populated by white people, you start to understand why racial bias and negative stereotypes of black culture could be amplified. Black people are minimized in the larger scheme of things.”
In my view, the main issue we have as an industry is lack of economic inclusion for black people – the opening up of opportunities to underrepresented groups and, therefore, allowing them fair access to financial resources and markets.
I have yet to meet a fully-owned black music distributor in the UK who I could speak to about successfully promoting records. The fact that this still an issue in the 21st century is something that I find difficult to comprehend. Within the black diaspora, we do not have a solid network of ownership or funding to be able to invest in our best and brightest. In the main, the old guard controls the purse strings, and continue to pass it down to their favoured networks.
Unfortunately, racial bias and stereotyping is another issue that continues to permeate the music industry.
According to a survey linked to a 2018 Diversity Report created by UK Music, BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals] represented just 17.8% of the British music industry, with white people dominating employment with 80.6% of roles. And according to the Office For National Statistics Census survey from 2011 (as cited in the UK Music report), only 12.8% of the wider UK population was non-white, yet in London and the South East, where the majority of the British music industry operates, BAME individuals made up 30% of the workforce.
This suggests that London’s music industry, which benefits from a large percentage of black acts while gaining financially from the exploration (and exploitation) of black culture, is tracking behind the average BAME representation seen across all other industries – including non-creative industries.
With 80.6% of the UK music industry populated by white people, you start to understand why racial bias and negative stereotypes of black culture could be amplified. Black people are minimized in the larger scheme of things.
These facts paint a picture of what work needs to be done to be able to increase diversity, and not just on paper. The music industry must now actively seek to invest in a community that has contributed so much yet been forgotten in times of need. We need accountability and transparency on how we can alleviate this issue that has gone on for decades and decades.
“We need more black representatives that understand the trials and tribulations involved so that we can better remedy them and ensure that the next generation does not have to go through similar experiences.”
Additionally, in wider society, we need to be able to balance the narrative of black culture. Too often our children are fed negative stereotypes, a subliminal indoctrination that continues to perpetuate a message that is detrimental to the development of the black economy.
As an emerging manager, I know that support on issues that affect black people on a daily basis is neither here or there. We are maligned for calling out racial discrimination and we get labelled as disgruntled, yet we so often get pushed to the side. I have experienced bouts of anxiety and depression because I have had these often bewildering experiences.
We need more black representatives that understand the trials and tribulations involved so that we can better remedy them and ensure that the next generation does not have to go through similar experiences. I urge the powers that be to actively get involved and make meaningful steps (not just throw money at the problem!) to better support us in an industry that relies so heavily on black culture.
I hope and pray that these last torturous weeks will continue to push our society to do better, and lead us to more equality across the global music industry.Music Business Worldwide