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How music businesses can drive internal change

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Now is not the time for silence! We need major change at pace with impact in the music industry.

Ammo Talwar, Diversity Taskforce Chair, UK Music

We’ve designed this resource to help businesses to think through the steps they might take to drive change within their own organisations.

If you want to drive change then it’s about more than simply recruiting people from a diversity of backgrounds. It’s about retaining them and enabling their progression - and for that to happen there’s a need to address how inclusive an organisation is. Inclusive organisations listen to people and foster a sense of belonging. They treat people as individuals and give them a stake in decision-making.

Becoming an inclusive organisation

Assess your starting point

Find out your strengths and where you need to make improvements. A good place to start might be collecting the diversity data of your staff and board, and seeking their views on how inclusive the culture is. If you want to cover all bases then this equality, diversity and inclusion self-assessment toolkit provides a more comprehensive framework.

Grow knowledge and awareness

Change is happening at such a pace that it’s unlikely that any one individual is up-to-speed, let alone a whole staff team. Staff training (including for senior leaders) in topics like mental health first aid, neurodiversity, and disability equality could be helpful. You can also use online tools to check things such as unconscious bias, gendered language in job ads, and web accessibility. Partnering with industry specialists who are set up to address issues of underrepresentation and inequality can bring lived experience and expertise into your organisation where it may not currently exist.

Prioritise creating a work environment where staff feel listened to, can submit feedback and see tangible action taken.

Martha Pazienti Caidan, DJ, presenter and producer

Seek feedback, listen and act

Diversity and inclusion is an ongoing conversation, and one that should be embedded into your staff and stakeholder feedback mechanisms. Enable anonymous feedback on your policies and practices, and demonstrate how you’ve followed up. Consider how you empower the staff team to make decisions to build an inclusive culture.

Develop a strategy

Identify your organisational priorities and write them into a strategy that articulates what the incremental changes will be, with built-in accountability mechanisms. The people at the top should take responsibility for making sure the strategy is implemented.

Demonstrate change

Ensure that you communicate to people what actions you have taken. You can seek to endorse, accredit or kitemark your good practice with schemes such as Accredited Living Wage Employer, Disability Confident Employer, Investors in People, Attitude is Everything Charter of Best Practice or joining campaigns such as Keychange and Equality in Audio Pact.

Outward representation

Make sure that your external communications represent a diversity of people: for example, if you’re using stock photos of ‘music fans’ in a publication or on your website, or you’re putting together a panel of experts for an event. This diversity should be reflected in your commercial outputs: for example, in the range of artists/styles of music on your roster.

We’re very inclusive and aware of injustices and are not afraid to have difficult conversations, to make mistakes and learn from each other.

Holly Hollister, Selextorhood, Birmingham

Building a diverse workforce at all levels

Look at what kind of representation you have in your office. If the vast majority is white, male, well-educated and middle class, ask yourself if that's because that's the only kind of person talented enough to work for you?

Jamal Guthrie, Route, London

Identify your diversity gaps and take positive action

Any skills audit you undertake should have diversity built in. Identify where your gaps are and make them explicit when you recruit to a role (including at board level). Spell out who you’re looking for in the job description to encourage people from underrepresented groups to apply: for example, “We’re committed to creating a more diverse team and are particularly looking for people from xxx background”.

Build routes into the workforce for those seeking to work in the industry

This might be through entry-level jobs, paid internship programmes, apprenticeships or commissions. Or simply providing hotdesk space or incubation support for new creative businesses where people can benefit from your resources and networks.

Broaden your approach to recruitment

Expand your recruitment networks to attract a greater diversity of candidates. There may be local or regional networks established to support people underrepresented in the industry (e.g. Create Jobs in London, Creative Access nationwide) or specialist organisations whose networks you can use to reach the groups you’re trying to attract.

Simplify your job descriptions and strip out any jargon. Don’t require qualifications unless they are essential for the role.

Create a welcoming interview environment, and ask what reasonable adjustments people might need beforehand. Consider ways of determining job suitability that go beyond a face-to-face interview (e.g. a real life work task that someone can complete at home). Offer to cover costs such as travel, accommodation (if people are travelling far to the interview) and childcare to enable people to attend, and consider offering an automatic interview to all disabled candidates who meet the criteria.

See this best practice recruitment guide for creative leaders for a more comprehensive overview.

Take a chance on the hard workers who just need a bit of guidance.

Imogen Storey, Esche Haus Audio, Blackburn

Contract and commission fairly

If you’re contracting freelancers then go about the process in the same way you might in recruiting for a job - see this best practice guide for working with self-employed people. If you're running artist development programmes or competitions, these fair access principles offer a quick and easy-to-read overview of what to consider.

There are additional and more complicated practical considerations for learning disabled artists to work through: co-ordinating support schedules to fit with touring, accessing/using online platforms for promotion, receiving payment for shows, to name a few.

Gareth Evans, Carousel, Brighton

Pay people fairly

Provide a living wage to ensure that people have enough income for food, travel, accommodation and other essentials while they’re working for you. This includes internships – see UK Music’s Code of Practice.

Supporting in-work progression

Provide a structured and supportive induction, ongoing opportunities for development (including access to coaching and/or mentoring) and regular check-ins or supervisions. Enable people to see how they might progress in your company and give them support to help get there.

If they're performing poorly, ask why and think about ways in which the structure of your company could adapt to help them along. Is there enough training provided? Is the culture of your office so competitive that people are willing to watch someone else struggle to mask their own failings?

Jamal Guthrie