With experience on both sides of the stage as a musician and tour manager, Roger Wilson is co-founder of Black Lives in Music; an initiative dedicated to addressing better representation throughout the music industry. Here he provides his perspective on what the live industry could and should be doing to ensure that it truly reflects a diverse society.

As someone who has worked on both sides of the stage in the music industry, I can say with some authority that the live industry has suffered with a lack of diversity in all areas. I use the word ‘suffered’ because the industry can benefit in so many ways from being more representative and acknowledging the current diversity of the United Kingdom. Diversity brings a wider talent pool, different experiences and views.  It brings different ways of thinking through and finding solutions to organisational issues.  With real diversity, organisations and the wider sector can reflect more clearly and represent more effectively their service users, their communities and wider society. This last point can only result in more revenue streams – ultimately, more profitability. So, yes, there is a moral case and a business case for the UK live industry being more diverse. If my points are not landing in your heart, they should be landing in your wallet.

So, if we are happy to acknowledge there are any number of reasons why diversity is a good thing for our industry, what’s the first step?  It’s always the most difficult one. Why? Because it takes honesty. Individuals and organisations must acknowledge that racism, prejudice and discrimination are real and still affect our industry. Black Lives in Music stands for equality in the industry. Feel free to exchange the word ‘racism’ with ‘prejudice’ or ‘discrimination’ and apply to all of the protected groups. There is clearly work to do.

 “If my points are not landing in your heart, they should be landing in your wallet.”

Honesty is the baseline starting point that enables us to begin that journey with confidence in the knowledge that we are heading in the right direction. From that baseline, the industry must gather and interrogate data – data can either be a stick or a carrot, a wakeup call or an aspiration, it’s your choice which it is. If we can measure progress in our efforts, we will better understand our starting point and the direction of travel.

The industry needs to adopt more fair and equitable processes. Recruitment should cease to have any hints of nepotism. We need to acknowledge that bias is something we all possess and mitigate for this in how we recruit at all levels. Some recruitment is still based on a volunteer system. We should consider this fact in the context of the intersection with race, gender and socio-economic background – what is the profile of your average volunteer? Can they really afford to do something for nothing?

We also need to challenge artistic content and ensure that it is culturally representative. With creativity in mind, let’s programme and champion diverse talent and measure our progress in doing so.

This is just the start of the journey. Building an inclusive community requires changing structures, mechanisms and processes. By definition, structures take time to build. The important activity of breaking these down and rebuilding them so they are fit for purpose takes time, humility, determination and honesty. To be aware of our own ignorance and blind spots is crucial to progress.

This article was published in the latest edition of Access All Areas magazine  – subscribe for free here