UK music industry to implement anti-racism code of conduct from 2023

A 2021 report found racist abuse and racial inequality across the industry. The UK Music Industry Anti-Racism Code aims to protect and represent Black and ethnically diverse musicians and workers

A new code of conduct to eliminate racism in the music industry will be adopted in 2023. Designed by Black Lives in Music (BLIM), an organisation set up to address inequality in jazz and classical spaces for Black musicians, the UK Music Industry Anti-Racism Code will cover issues around pay, inclusion and safety for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse members of the sector.

Supported by the Independent Standards Authority, the code will stand for all those working in music in the UK, from freelance technical staff to artists working for large companies. Labels and organisations will commit to creating a safe working environment for all, to strive for inclusion over diversity and to undertake mandatory training, data collection and accountability processes.

The code was born out of a 2021 report by BLIM which found that 63% of Black music makers had experienced racism in the UK industry, a figure that rises to 73% for Black music professionals. The 1,718 performers, creatives and staff surveyed reported experiences of harassment, bullying, microaggression and racist language. As a result, 36% of Black music professionals said their mental wellbeing had declined.

Black musicians also report being pigeonholed into genres such as R&B and hip-hop, while structural barriers mean that Black and ethnically diverse people are underrepresented in senior industry positions, making up 19.9% of executive positions according to a 2021 survey by industry body UK Music.

“The music industry has a hole in terms of what Black artists are chosen and what investments are made; the same type of music is being put out by Black people when in reality we do every kind of music,” said BLIM chief executive Charisse Beaumont. “But that space is not being created for us. And why is that? Because the decision-makers at the top are not diverse.”

While many music organisations and labels pledged to implement anti-racism strategies in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in 2020, little has been done in the time since, Beaumont said: “We get maybe a dozen contacts a week from people going through discrimination. A lot of the people that we speak to in the music industry and in music education are saying not much has changed.”

Other clauses in the code state the need for adequate career progression opportunities, as well as equal contracts, funding and pay.

Beaumont announced the code at today’s parliamentary inquiry into misogyny in the UK music industry. Women and non-binary people and those with disabilities experience worse discrimination within the UK music industry, according to data gathered by BLIM. Black disabled musicians are “literally invisible”, said Beaumont, while Black women are the “most disadvantaged” due to disproportionate pay gaps and experiences of sexual abuse.

She cited the issue of women working in technical roles in live music. “The number is quite low, because there’s a general consensus that it’s an unsafe environment,” Beaumont said. “Some of the sexual harassment and abuse that takes place gets reported but it’s not believed. In a male-dominated environment, women are often very fearful of retribution, such as losing their job, so they don’t say anything.”

Unlike other industries, standards of conduct in music are yet to be sufficiently regulated, said Beaumont. “Right now it’s like the wild west. Unlike in finance, schools and food, the creative industries have no accountability and no authorisation.”

In the future, Creative UK, the not-for-profit organisation that supports the creative industries in the UK, will implement the code across other creative industries.

With the backing of the Independent Standards Authority and trade bodies, Beaumont said she felt hopeful about the change the code could make within music: “We really hope to see a better music industry; one that everyone can feel safe and belong in; one that is striving for every person so they can fulfil their ambition. Because right now, that’s not the case.”


Safi Bugel

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
63% of Black music makers have experienced racism in UK industry – study
Survey of 1,718 performers, creatives and staff reveals microgression, pay disparities and discrimination are rife

Laura Snapes Deputy music editor

13, Oct, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
Back to Black: how the music industry reckoned with race this year
Black Lives Matter sparked overdue changes – but if deeper prejudices go unaddressed, they could be all too fleeting

Chanté Joseph

28, Dec, 2020 @3:17 PM

Article image
Little Simz and Knucks share best album prize as Mobo winners announced
PinkPantheress wins the best female act award, while Central Cee takes best male act in a ceremony that paid tribute to the late SBTV founder Jamal Edwards

Shaad D'Souza

30, Nov, 2022 @10:00 PM

Article image
Grammys establish task force to address anti-women bias in music industry
Recording Academy president Neil Portnow pledges to ‘tackle whatever truths are revealed’ following ceremony’s male-dominated winners list

Laura Snapes

02, Feb, 2018 @10:07 AM

Article image
Grammys 2023: If someone had to pip Beyoncé, you could do worse than Harry Styles
The queen of pop broke records – though not for the big gongs, again. But if the Recording Academy has a history of unexpected choices, this year’s wins for Styles, Bonnie Raitt and Lizzo had substance behind them

Alexis Petridis

06, Feb, 2023 @2:20 PM

Article image
Ukrainian hardcore, Nigerian alté and Red Bull-soaked bloghouse: 2023’s most promising musical newcomers
From Memphis rap to Manchester post-punk and Laurel Canyon-worthy beauty, a new generation is coming this way

Shaad D'Souza and Laura Snapes

29, Dec, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
David Attenborough, weed and ‘American apartheid’: the awesome mind of rapper Billy Woods
After absorbing the culture shock of moving to the US from Zimbabwe, and spending two decades toiling in obscurity, Woods has become America’s most feted underground MC

Stevie Chick

08, May, 2023 @9:56 AM

Article image
Harry Styles, Cleo Sol and Inflo top nominations for 2023 Ivor Novello awards
British songwriting awards also acknowledge Florence + the Machine, Wet Leg, Central Cee and more

Aneesa Ahmed

18, Apr, 2023 @6:00 PM

Article image
English music venues to receive £2.25m in emergency pandemic aid
First cash made available from UK government’s £1.57bn emergency arts fund announced on 5 July to combat effects of Covid-19 lockdown

Ben Beaumont-Thomas

25, Jul, 2020 @5:01 AM

Article image
Lil Wayne: the tragic decline of a hip-hop trailblazer
As he prepares to release a memoir, Gone ’Til November, we look back at the New Orleans rapper’s career – from giving Drake his big break to becoming the voice of Katrina and his ongoing Cash Money legal battle

Morwenna Ferrier

30, Sep, 2016 @7:00 AM