Black musicians are ‘overlooked’ due to ‘systemic racism’ in the UK music industry, survey finds

·2 min read
Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock released her own documentary about racism in the industry (Getty Images)
Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock released her own documentary about racism in the industry (Getty Images)

The UK music industry has a systemic racism problem particularly affecting Black female artists, a new survey has found.

The Black Lives in Music Survey, which is said to be the largest poll focusing on the experiences of Black musicians and industry professionals, was released on Wednesday (13 October) and based on data gathered earlier this year.

Of the 1,718 performers, creatives and industry staff surveyed, over half had experienced direct or indirect racism, including fighting assumptions about what kind of music they should make.

Sixty three per cent of Black music creators said they had experienced direct or indirect racism, while 71 per cent said they had experienced microaggressions.

Eighty eight per cent of all Black music professionals agreed there are barriers to progression.

These include Black women feeling pressure to change their appearance and fearing they will not be able to earn as much as white women. Black women suffered a disproportionate disparity in earnings compared to the rest of the industry, the survey said.

One of the commenters, who spoke anonymously, said: “We can never seem to get through the door, and we are often overlooked at every turn – and if you have kids, it’s even worse.

“But when we bring these facts to the table, we are often labelled too outspoken, forthright, feisty, aggressive, angry, bitter, argumentative, sensitive, ungrateful and or that we have an inferiority-complex when the truth is we are natural-born leaders who shouldn’t have to dumb ourselves down to appease others.”

One Black male singer said radio producers told him they were not interested in Black male artists because they were linked to rappers. Another recalled being told they were “too dark, too young, too slim for a Black singer, too old” and “your music is too good for a British black singer”.

Black Lives in Music CEO Charisse Beaumont said: “This is a first-of-its-kind report which holds a mirror up to the UK music industry, showing what it actually looks like. The disparities Black creators and industry professionals are faced with is rooted in traditionalism and systemic racism.

“The report highlights racist culture and behaviours in the workplace, financial barriers and lack of investment in Black music creators, and industry professionals unable to reach their career goals.

“The report also spotlights Black women being the most disadvantaged across all areas of the music industry and how all of these factors affect the mental health of Black creators and industry professionals. This is data, you cannot ignore it.”

Earlier this year, Little Mix star Leigh-Anne Pinnock released a BBC Three documentary titled Race, Pop and Power about racism in the industry. In one scene, she, Alexandra Burke, Raye, NAO and Sugababes singer Keisha Buchanan all shared their own experiences of discrimination as Black women working in music.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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