(Hypebot) — In recognition of Black History Month in the UK, Christine Osazuwa of Warner Music Group spoke with UK Music’s Paulette Long OBE and Ammo Talwar MBE about the state of equality and diversity in the recent UK Music 2020 Diversity Report.
By Jason Joven of Chartmetric
At How Music Charts, we try to bring a new perspective to the music business, and this episode that perspective is from Christine Osazuwa, Global Marketing Director of Data & Insights at Warner Music Group. She was also the first guest on this podcast back in December 2019.
Disclaimer: All opinions and views expressed by the guests and host are theirs alone, and do not in any way constitute the opinions or views of any company they work for or have been associated with.
In honor of UK Black History Month, Osazuwa hosted this episode with a different take on music data! In addition to her day job, she is also a Co-Chair of Warner Music Group UK’s Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employee resource group, The Link. As a Nigerian-American working in the UK music industry, Osazuwa is committed to a diverse and equitable music business and the power that data can bring to any conversation. Given that context, she was thrilled to introduce today’s guests: Paulette Long OBE and Ammo Talwar MBE.
UK Music & British Music Industry Royalty
Long has served as Deputy Chair for the UK Music Diversity Taskforce since 2016, while Talwar has served as Chair since 2019. With decades of music industry experience between Long and Talwar, spanning publishing, arts education, marketing, PR, artist management, and running record shops, they have both been recognized under the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the Queen for their enduring contributions to the UK’s cultural industries.
Their latest accomplishment is the 2020 UK Music Diversity Report, which is available here. It is third report from UK Music, “an industry-funded body, established in October 2008, to represent the collective interests of the recorded, published and live arms of the British music industry. Through collective representation, UK Music promotes the interests of record labels and music publishers (major and independent), songwriters, composers, lyricists, musicians, managers, producers, promoters, venues and collection societies.” Long adds:
It’s the whole music industry coming together so we can lobby as one voice…have a look at research, have a look at policies, and just do what we can to make sure the music industry is buoyant and survives any crisis that comes along.
In addition to diving into the report’s data, the three discussed the importance of diversity, representation & accountability to progress the industry and create the culture we want to see within our workplaces and around the world.
But when it comes to diversity, there are just two things that Long and Talwar are laser-focused on: “progress” and “impact.” The rest is just numbers.
The Vital Need for Diversity in the UK’s Music Business (and Globally)
Diversity is a word frequently tossed around in company circles, but Long and Talwar are adamant about impact. As Talwar notes:
The UK music industry is £5.2 billion pound industry…it’s essential we have representation and we’re reflective of the cities and towns that we live in. There’s approximately 190 thousand people that work within the UK workforce, so we want to ensure that this thing that we call equality…it’s really echoed across the totality of the ecosystem.
Long has spent more time with the effort and notes that the third edition finally begins to take advantage of previous years’ work:
The Diversity Taskforce was there to look at diversity from within the music industry, and it was there to do it from data perspective…it’s served a brilliant purpose by putting numbers with regards to putting numbers and statistics to an arena that wasn’t looked at…we’ve built a really good database of information…the two key areas we’re looking at…gender and ethnicity.
Massive Change in 2020 Requires More Just Data
Talwar notes that, of course, 2020 was a massive year full of life-changing shifts around the world, and that requires human stories to make the data come to life:
We had to really listen and take on board what’s going on…we did a lot of listening…we can collect data, and that’s really important, ultimately data means nothing without a serious sense of lived experience. The qualitative versus the quantitative…if we don’t triangulate that amount of information, and do it respectfully, then we have no answers. We can’t look at data by itself, and we can’t look at lived experience by itself, they have to merge the two together. And that’s what the UK Music Diversity Taskforce has done.
Language Matters, Alongside Honest Mistakes and Laughs
The group speaks at length regarding the words we use in the music industry, which includes discussion of the distinctly British term for minorities: Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME). Its troublesome nature is similar to discussion about “urban” music, where rich cultures and people are slotted into one-dimensional terms.
When it comes to the term “Black music”, Osazuwa makes the point as an American living and working in Europe:
I find the term ‘Black music’ deeply offensive…I hate that term…I feel that “Black music” implies that there’s only one way to be Black…they’re not talking about Rock and Roll…Pop music…they’re talking about Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B…I’m very much speaking from an American perspective when it comes to that, but from my perspective of UK “Black music” as well…it’s just another colloquialism for “urban”, and I’d rather us talk about “Rap”, and “Hip-Hop”, and “Soul”, and “R&B”…it’s an all-compassing term that’s meant to be more politically correct, but I think it’s erasure of the full Black identity and the full Black experience.
Long presents her own perspective on “Black music” as a British citizen:
I feel what you’re saying, but from a UK perspective, we’ve just now been able to be “Black” people…we’ve just got to the point where we’re saying “Black”…we’ve moved away from “urban” and able to say “Black” again…but with the way the system works here, we have to take it in stages…we have to start reclaiming the term “Black music”, which for me is a cultural thing, which talks about the history of Hip-Hop and Grime and Drum & Bass and talks about the artists who were left behind and forgotten…”Black music” is not perfect, but it’s a stepping stone down.
Contrary to what cancel culture sometimes allows, Long also makes the point that sometimes the only way forward is allowing ourselves room for honest error:
Language: it’s changing, it’s evolving, we’re working out what to say and how to say it. Sometimes you have to confidently and boldly be wrong, in order to then be right. When somebody corrects you, then you’re just hands up, “Sorry about that, but what should I say? Thank you very much.”
Talwar also adds, that there’s no rule saying that we have to be deadly serious at all times. Provided we are sensitive to others’ perspective, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of a laugh:
Dealing with race, we have to add humor to the whole conversation…let’s crack some jokes…we’ve done some presentations…have been predominately white middle aged men, and it’s been so serious…you could hear a pin drop…and we don’t come from that culture…We try to have a bit of fun whilst we’re talking about serious things.