Survey catalogues extent of racism in the music industry

A new survey shows the extent of discrimination and racism faced by Black artists and professionals working in the music industry, with women particularly affected.

black lives in music


A new survey reveals the extent of discrimination and racist assumptions within the music industry, with Black female artists being particularly affected and earning 25% less on average than their white female colleagues.

The Black Lives in Music survey, Being Black in the UK Music Industry Pt. 1, of 2,000 people,is the largest survey of Black musicians and music industry professionals conducted in the UK, found that a majority of those who took part have experienced direct or indirect acts of racism in the music industry, with Black women being told by management companies and labels to assimilate to white/euro-centric standards because they do not know how to market a Black female artist.

Those surveyed reported a range of discriminatory acts, assumptions and “sometimes hostile working environments” and that Black artists are granted less studio time than their white counterparts, refused event performance opportunities and been told to change the type of music they create.

The survey found that:

– 86% of all Black music creators agree that there are barriers to progression. This number rises to 89% for Black women and 91% for Black creators who are disabled
– 88% of all Black music professionals agree that there are barriers to progression
– Three in five (63%) Black music creators have experienced direct/indirect racism in the music industry, and more (71%) have experienced racial microaggressions
– 35% of all Black music creators have felt the need to change their appearance because of their race/ethnicity, rising to 43% of Black women
– 73% of Black music professionals have experienced direct/indirect racism in the music industry, and more (80%) have experienced racial microaggressions

– 31% of all Black music creators believe their mental wellbeing has worsened since starting their music career, rising to 42% of Black women
– 36% of Black music professionals believe their mental wellbeing has declined, rising to 39% of Black women
– 38% of Black music professionals earn 100% of their income from music compared to 69% of white music professionals
– 57% of Black music creators have seen white contemporaries promoted ahead of them despite being more qualified.

The impact of discrimination on mental wellbeing was marked, especially among Black women. 42% of Black women surveyed said their mental health had worsened since starting a career in music and 16% had sought counselling due to racial abuse. Citing various reasons from the barriers to progression and overt racial discrimination, the report also found that 46% of earn less than half their revenue from music creating extra pressure to find other routes to supplement their income.

One woman said: “We can never seem to get through the door, and we are often overlooked at every turn – and if you have kids, it’s even worse. The music industry makes it harder for Black women overall, but especially for dark-skinned women who are just as beautiful, radiant, talented, intelligent, driven and credible as the next person! But when we bring these facts to the table, we are often labelled too outspoken, forthright, feisty, aggressive, angry, bitter, argumentative, sensitive, ungrateful and or that we have an inferiority- complex when the truth is we are natural-born leaders who shouldn’t have to dumb ourselves down to appease others.”

Another stated: “Black women can’t make rock music, sexual comments about the size of my lips, etc, racial comments about my ‘crazy, unruly’ afro, etc. I don’t give these comments my energy anymore but feel it’s important that people are aware.”

The survey makes several recommendations. It calls for greater transparency around the gender and ethnic pay gap, training programmes to increase diversity in middle and senior management in music organisations and investment in grassroots music education. It also calls on the music industry to create an anti-racism support service to support creators and professionals with a helpline available to Black creators and professionals who experience racism in the music industry as well as referral and in-depth therapeutic support.

Charisse Beaumont, Chief Executive of Black Lives in Music [BLiM], said:“This report is the first of its kind and holds a mirror up to the UK music industry showing what it actually looks like. The disparities Black creators and industry professionals are faced with is rooted in traditionalism and systemic racism.  The report highlights racist culture and behaviours in the workplace, financial barriers and lack of investment in Black music creators, and industry professionals unable to reach their career goals. The report also spotlights Black women being the most disadvantaged across all areas of the music industry and how all of these factors affect the mental health of Black creators and industry professionals. This is data, you cannot ignore it. The data clearly shows that change is needed across the entire music ecosystem from grass root education, all the way up to record labels. I hope industry leaders read this report and hear the voice of those who spoke out. I hope this report evokes change in the way we do our music business which has greatly profited from Black talent.

We are looking forward to working with all music industry leaders to ensure that we can achieve change, together.”

*BLiM is holding a weekly series of webinars ‘Being Black In The UK Music Industry’ from October 13th – 3rd November, dissecting the report and what it means to be a Black creator or industry professional in the UK, co-sponsored by tunecore. Register via

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