POWER UP: Findings since the launch in January 2021
With the anniversary of Blackout Tuesday/ #TheShowMustBePaused we wanted to reflect on some of the findings following the building and launch of the ground-breaking POWER UP initiative right through to the application process and the establishment of the network.
A year on, POWER UP partners and Executive Steering Committee members applaud the efforts of those in the industry going beyond solidarity. Conversations are turning into action, and vital investment in the grassroots and tackling social injustice must be recognised. But in every sector, we are so far from representation, fairness and equality. More needs to be done across the industry to support and offer pathways for Black talent break through the glass ceiling.
POWER UP so far…
POWER UP has kick-started a strong network of 40 talented Black music creators and industry professionals/executives that will continue to grow (to 400 in the next 10 years) which will have an influence on moving the needle for the development and success of Black talent.
The POWER UP Participant Programme open call for Year 1 attracted 512 applications from 363 music creators and 149 industry professionals and executives, reaching a broad range of Black music professionals working in all genres, in all sectors of the music industry and across the UK – the majority being first-time applicants to PRS Foundation.
The POWER UP Participant Programme Year 1 Participant Cohort is made up of 20 Black Music Creators and 20 Black Industry Professionals.
Participants bring their expertise and experiences to the network and will benefit from powering up through grant support of up to £15k and holistic support shaped around Participants’ needs, including capacity building masterclasses, mentoring, coaching, mental health and wellbeing support, and access to added value support from POWER UP Partners and the peer network which is integral to breaking down barriers.
The POWER UP Participants work in a broad range of genres – from Black Music genres to Electronic & Dance, Pop, Classical, Jazz, Rock and Country and everything in between.
The selection of Participants will help to address the Intersectional barriers raised in 2020’s POWER UP Focus Groups, with particularly strong gender balance (52.5% of Participants are women or gender minority industry professionals or music creators), and over a quarter of Participants identifying as LGBTQ+.
The Year 1 network reaches all around the UK, with 38% of Participants outside London, including 2 in Scotland, 1 in Wales, 1 in Northern Ireland, while covering most English regions, though based on our findings, much more needs to be done across the music sector to address the double barriers of race and location.
POWER UP’s launch highlighted the marginalisation, underrepresentation, lack of visibility and economic inequality for Black people in music, and partners have built a clearer picture of these racial disparities through this in-demand application process. Racial disparities were starker in genres, regions and nations where representation is worse. Knowing that Black people make up only 7.8% of the music industry workforce, with underrepresentation as the workforce ages and at higher career levels (Black people represent 12.6% of the workforce at Entry Level but only 6.4% at Senior Level), POWER UP’s Year 1 selection addresses this head on: the majority of Participants have worked in music for over 10 years, 87.5% of Participants are over the age of 25 and noticeably, 60% of industry professional participants are over 35.
75% of Participants are receiving support from PRS Foundation for the first time.
The POWER UP Selection Process Highlights the Severity of Anti-Black Racism
Black professionals experience structural and systemic racism and injustice, everyday prejudice in the workplace, income disparity and other barriers.
Over 500 POWER UP applicants outlined their experiences of anti-Black racism and Year 1 selection also shows that severe issues impact industry professionals and music creators employed or working within major corporations, at independent companies (of all sizes), from freelancing through to Senior Management and Board-level positions at companies, in the recording sector, music publishing, the live sector, at management companies, on stage, on screen, in studios and in the media – regardless of genre or location.
We must come together to challenge and prevent the common racial barriers highlighted through this process:
- It is unacceptable that so many Black people working in the live sector have to ask White colleagues or friends to make calls or join meetings to secure dates, venues or fair hire rates.
- Overt racism was all too evident, with some applicants having to experience inexcusable language and attitudes, including the use of the ‘n-word’ and other unacceptable racial abuse in work environments. Many applicants reported violent racial abuse too.
- In 2021, no Black music creator should be pulled aside at venues, in studios or offices and asked what they’re doing in the building, nor Black representatives in venues, studios or other work environments made to feel like they don’t belong.
- Experiences range from workplace micro-aggression and ignorance through to consistently being overlooked for investment, support and senior positions.
- Many have experienced companies virtue signalling while failing to create progressive and inclusive work environments, and have felt penalised for speaking out, with a lack of infrastructure for support a real issue within companies of all sizes.
- Disparities in record and publishing deals are not confined to legacy contracts’ financial inequity, with many Black music creators highlighting a lack of investment, underrepresentation within decision-making roles behind the scenes, and a lack of understanding. Such disparity between Black creators and their White peers must be monitored and challenged.
- Black professionals in music, regardless of their area of expertise, are pigeonholed to only being ‘allowed’ to work or be given roles or marginalised into taking space in areas they are expected to be in – including in Black Music genres, in creative roles or in Diversity & Inclusion spaces, rather than being able to progress in any area.
- Creators and industry professionals are having to ‘tone down’ their culture to accommodate the environments they are in. This ranges from hair style and dress sense to changing names in job applications, and other subversions of ‘Blackness’.
- White counterparts have more opportunity to fail and still survive and thrive. Black professionals don’t have that level of freedom, support or resource.
- Stereotypes, assumptions and prejudice are commonplace, and disparities are more profound in areas such as Live and Business Affairs and outside London and other metropolitan areas with higher representation.
- The industry must develop a more nuanced understanding of Intersectional barriers for Black women (particularly darker skinned Black women), gender minority and LGBTQ+ professionals on-stage and off-stage, eliminating all forms of discrimination.
- Abuse online, particularly on social media platforms is becoming more blatant and palpable.
POWER UP is a great example of companies and organisations from every sector of the industry of the industry coming together to support Black talent across the UK, in all genres, from all backgrounds, and shows how critical it is to invest in addressing racism and anti-Black behavior in the industry. The more we work together the more impactful and sustainable change will be and we encourage more labels (including the majors) and organisations across the country to get involved.
Set up and managed by PRS Foundation in partnership with YouTube Music, Beggars Group and the Black Music Coalition, the POWER UP initiative brings together several music industry partners across all sectors to accelerate change. Supporters include Creative Scotland plus AIM, the BPI, the FAC, The Ivors Academy, the MMF, the MPA, MPG, The Musicians’ Union, PPL, PRS for Music and the PRS Members’ Fund who bring added-value support to power up participants. One year on from Black Out Tuesday, POWER UP partners are doubling down on messaging that companies and individuals at all levels must go beyond solidarity to bring about the meaningful change the Black music community demands, which will benefit all.
Alongside the POWER UP Participant Programme, The POWER UP Movement will be a force for change that harnesses the experiences identified by individuals in the music industry to inform powerful, meaningful and wide-reaching action. In alliance with the Black Music Coalition, the POWER UP Movement will introduce a pledge this Autumn to aid in applying industry pressure to increase Black representation, empower and advocate for Black talent and industry professionals, consequently influencing policy and shaping the future of the music.