BPI Equality & Justice Advisory Group 2020 Review

In October 2020 the BPI announced the formation of the BPI Equality & Justice Advisory Group.

The group, which had been in place since June 2020, is made up largely of industry executives of colour with a background in music and media. Its purpose is to advise and challenge the BPI on matters initially focused on race and gender. It’s ultimate aim is to further support and promote equality and inclusion in music alongside other industry initiatives.

The Group’s members are drawn from The BRITS Diversity Advisory Group which first came together in 2016 under the direction of BPI Chairman Ged Doherty to advise on how The BRIT Awards could better reflect diversity and the depth of British Black music in the wake of #BRITsSoWhite. However, following the global music community’s Blackout Tuesday response to the death of George Floyd and the recognition that it needs to do more to address inequality and injustice, the Group was reconstituted to take on a broader industry remit.

The Group describes itself as a “diverse/intersectional and independent board of respected music industry professionals, who collectively advocate for the progression of the equality, diversity and intersectional agenda across the sector and will contribute to steering the BPI’s equality, diversity and intersectional work for its members, award shows, events and The BRIT Trust”. Its mission is to work “collaboratively and progressively to advocate and push for positive (intersectional) change and representation across the sector, with an initial focus on race and gender, for the benefit of the music industry and its current and future workforce at all levels”.

 

The BPI Equality & Justice Advisory Group is co-chaired by Paulette Long OBE, Kwame Kwaten and Ged Doherty.  The 13-strong group also comprises Amanda Maxwell, Arit Eminue, Ayesha Hazarika MBE, Indy Vidyalankara, Jasmine Dotiwala, Matt Ross, Meenal Odedra, Mervyn Lyn, Naz Hussain and Sharon Brooks. The Group is supported by an Internal BPI Equality & Inclusion Committee.  Member profiles can be viewed here.

At the time of its formation, Paulette Long OBE, Co-Chair BPI Equality & Justice Group, said:

“The BPI Equality & Justice Group is in the right place at the right time. Ready to tackle inequalities in the music industry having already proved that meaningful engagement, a strategic plan of action and a desire to do what is right can bring about real lasting change.”

Kwame Kwaten, Co-Chair BPI Equality & Justice Group, said:

“It’s been a long road and many meetings, but I feel being part of The Equality & Justice Advisory Group has been worth it and will grow to help bring more diversity to The BPI. There is still much work to do but I’m hopeful that we can make a difference. The Equality & Justice Advisory Group stands for just that! EJAG all the way.” 

Ged Doherty, Co-Chair BPI Equality & Justice Group, added:

“This group originally began its work in 2016 in the wake of BRITsSoWhite, helping to better reflect diversity and the depth of British Black music through The BRIT Awards. However, there is clearly a bigger job to be done in promoting equality and inclusion more widely across our industry, and, reconstituted as the BPI Equality & Justice Group, this group can play a broader role in advising and challenging the BPI to help ensure lasting and meaningful change.”   

Activities & Initiatives across 2020

 

The Equality & Justice Advisory Group typically meets fortnightly (virtually in 2020) and is co-chaired by Paulette Long OBE and Kwame Kwaten alongside BPI Chairman Ged Doherty.  An internal BPI working group supports its administration and the communications which aim to give the group’s objectives and work wider visibility.

Occasionally special guests are invited to attend EJAG sessions to share best practise from other creative sectors and to exchange and discuss ideas.  One such highlight came in November 2020 with the attendance of former Tottenham Hotspur FC and England footballer, broadcaster and football industry campaigner, Garth Crooks OBE. Garth gave a fascinating and inspiring insight into how equality and inclusion is being promoted and achieved within English professional football.

Black History Month

The BPI Equality & Justice Advisory Group members were introduced individually and as a group through the BPI’s online and social media presence across October – activity that coincide with Black History Month and a number  of blogs reflecting on different aspects of Black history and culture written by EJAG members Naz Hussain, Meenal Odedra and Amanda Maxwell. These were shared by the BPI across its social channels.

BPI Equality Training Programme

Overlapping with EJAG is the BPI’s Equality Training Programme – an educational series that aims to provide a valuable resource to BPI members and the wider music community through training workshops and other events (all hosted virtually in 2020 ) aimed at helping music companies to recruit, maintain and empower a diverse workforce.  Over 500 people attended six sessions, which looked at discussions around race, antisemitism, unconscious bias, diversifying recruitment, creating inclusive workplaces, and enabling career progression. EJAG members participated in a number of the sessions.  Notes on these informative sessions can be read here.

BPI Membership Inclusion Programme

In November the BPI launched a new initiative – the Membership Inclusion Programme. Again – running in parallel with EJAG but with the same aim of encouraging quality and inclusion. The scheme will see up to 20 labels and music companies either owned or run by individuals from underrepresented categories – including women, people from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic background, people with disabilities, or those who identify as LGBTQIA+ – receive free Full BPI membership for a year and all the benefits this entails. Further details can be found here.

UK Music Diversity Taskforce & 10 Point Plan

EJAG members – Paulette Long OBE, Indy Vidyalankara & Mervyn Lyn sit on UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce. Established in 2015, the Taskforce works with the music business, Government and other stakeholders to boost inclusion and diversity across the industry. It includes representatives from major and indie record labels, music publishers, trade organisations, collection societies and the British live music industry. In 2016, UK Music undertook the first industry-wide workforce diversity survey, focusing on gender and ethnicity. The latest survey was published in 2020.  In 2019 Keith Harris stepped down as Chair and Ammo Talwar MBE was appointed as the new Chair. The Deputy Chair of the Taskforce is Paulette Long OBE.

The BPI contributes to the Taskforce and has signed up to its 10 Point Plan, which aligns evidence and metrics to strategic actions to help increase diversity and boost inclusion at the music trade bodies that represent the majority of the UK music industry. As part of its commitment the BPI undertook not to use the acronym ‘BAME’ in its communications – using the full wording of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic or appropriate other descriptions. BPI also dropped the term ‘Urban’ in the context of music genres, using alternative descriptions as appropriate, such as rap and hip hop.  Survey results from 2020 can be found here and details of the 10 Point Plan here.

BRIT Awards & BPI Awards events

The BPI is committed to ensuring that the vibrancy of diverse British music and the wider industry that supports it is reflected across its awards and events – notably The BRIT Awards with Mastercard and The Hyundai Mercury Prize – as well as other platforms it is involved with, such as The Official Charts, National Album Day, The Record Club and other events.   

EJAG can be called on to advise on how diversity and inclusion can be best reflected and promoted through such events. This is especially the case with the annual BRIT Awards and its Voting Academy, with EJAG members playing an important role in suggesting new members that can help the Academy to remain diverse.  The 2020 BRIT Awards held in February was acclaimed by many, including EJAG members, as being the most diverse and inclusive yet, with a stand-out performance by rapper Dave considered a memorable highlight that will go down in BRITs history.

2021

Going forward, EJAG members and the BPI will set out a communications plan that, working to a timeline that helps to celebrate and promote relevant cultural and social moments, will help to give greater visibility to the aims and work of the group and to broader goals around equality and inclusion. 

EJAG MEMBER REFLECTIONS ON 2020

 

A number of the members here share their thoughts on the formation and activities of the BPI Equality & Justice Advisory Group. They also reflect on the dramatic events in 2020 that have shaped lives and had a direct bearing on the equality and social justice movement in the UK and around the world. 

Kwame Kwaten, Co-Chair BPI Equality & Justice Advisory Group (EJAG), said:

 

“This year 2020 was A LOT. The Equality & Justice Advisory Committee represents many things.  Every year from 2020 onwards we aim to publish a bit about what we are up to. So that the name can stand for everything done that year.  That way we can build year on year. My  earliest EJAG memory was being asked to come to The BRITs/BPI HQ – at first being nervous and wondering why was I being called. Then being a proper fan of many in the room – the job at hand was pretty big.  We were being asked to truly advise the BPI and The BRITs and explore diversity firstly to The BRITs event and then take a wider look into to the music industry as a whole and advise there too.  We all checked that this was not going to be a set of pointless meetings going nowhere and then, on finding out that it was the real deal, quickly came to getting on with the job at hand. We now realise the scale of what it is that we’re looking at and know that to be a part of the changes needed we have to keep going and constantly evolve whilst having our foot permanently on the gas.

“This means committing to regular meetings . We started out looking at everything from making sure the voter base for BRITs nominations was truly diverse to talking through what we feel industry-wise needs looking at and changing. This year especially was hard but really essential.  It has made some people understand diversity and begin to question the very bedrock of how we got here. We know there is a long way to go and there have been some wins . The BRITs in 2020 made us all very happy.  Stormzy, Dave,  Celeste taking to the stage was a moment I will never forget.  I couldn’t have been prouder of our group’s small part in it. I repeat, there is still much work to do but this group is determined to make a difference.

“The Equality & Justice Advisory Group stands for so much and we really have only just begun.”

Amanda Maxwell, EJAG member, said:

“2020 – what a year! One that if you told any of us it was going to happen the way it did in 2019, I think majority would have laughed in your face. It’s been a rollercoaster of a year and one that has affected each and every single one of us in every industry, and every country.

“Humanity became united for the basic understanding of the impact COVID 19 with the first pandemic and then George Floyd Junior being murdered came the second with the overuse and necessary steps towards Black Lives Matter pandemic number two. After years of suffering racial abuse, murder, torture, humiliation and belittling suddenly the world decided enough was enough.

“Black Out Tuesday lead to a global movement within our industry and one that EJAG had been discussing before this moment came.

“This year’s BRIT Awards was an example of Black British culture being brought to the forefront – little did we know what was come a few short months later. 

“Now, more than before, the conversation on racial barriers within our industry carried more weight and understanding for change. Necessary and informative educational conversations have followed since with members of EJAG leading, such as “Anti Racism”. Plus thought-pieces throughout Black History Month.

“As we step in 2021 the work and conversation continues with the foundations being set towards a better future.”

Arit Eminue, EJAG member, said:

“2020 was the year the global population was brought to its knees.  2020 is the year we were forced to consider what is essential on a professional and personal level as individuals and collectively.  It’s the year the rule book was torn apart and left for us to rewrite.  It’s the year that reminded us (daily) how little control we have, yet on the other hand, how powerful we are when we connect. And it’s that power of connection that runs through EJAG.  I am proud of the work we have achieved over the past 12 months – from the level of diversity at this year's BRIT Awards to the training we’ve delivered to the new bursary scheme we’ve launched and so much more.  From the feedback we’ve received, our efforts are making a difference, which is what life really is about.

“On a personal note, I am acutely aware of how privileged I sound when I say 2020 was not a shit show for me. Yes, it came with its highs and lows. However, it served to remind me how blessed and privileged I am. Early in the year, I read a saying that said something like ‘we may all be in the same storm; however, we are in different boats.’  It made me stop and think.  Real talk – my boat was comfortable, and I started to feel like a fraud when I uttered words of complaint, so instead, I consistently practise gratitude.  I have a roof over my head, access to free medical care, more food than I should be eating (my hips don’t lie), family and friends who work my nerves at times but love me nonetheless, sound mental health and an ability to create my own wealth.  Like I said, I consider this perspective to be a privilege. It’s my reasonable service in return for the breath that I take to continue to use this privilege in service to others, and EJAG is one way I get to do this.

“So, I thank 2020 for the lessons – of which there have been many – and turn towards 2021 with hope, expectation and excitement – adversity is the birthplace of creativity - things can only get better.”

Indy Vidyalankara, EJAG member, said:

“The BPI Diversity Committee first came together in 2016 to help address the #BRITSSOWHITE issue following the BRIT Awards that year. It was really landmark to see Ged head up the group, with commitment and accountability, and it has been wonderful to see the impact and progress made. Right up to the BRITs 2020, with Dave’s incredible performance, it was the most diverse awards to date. But that was before Covid and before the events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement that reverberated around the world, and in the UK music industry we love. #BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused reflected a fire in many of us for change.  In this unprecedented year, the BPI EJAG has played a meaningful role in the serious groundswell of work happening across the industry for equality and inclusion. 

“It’s been great to see the incredible teamwork, from a range of skills and backgrounds, track records and networks come together around the Zoom table to steer and advise the BPI on a number of issues both proactively and reactively.  Moving onto 2021, we plan to widen and grow the group’s membership, broadening the range of specialisms into other intersectional areas.

“With three members, including myself, also a member of the UK Music Diversity Taskforce, it’s been an advantage to be part of complementary and collaborative workstreams with equal commitment. I believe all this work will show how ready and ripe for change the music industry is, and through executing change we can lead the way for other sectors. I’m in it for the long-haul and don’t plan to take my foot off the gas.”

Jasmine Dotiwala, EJAG member, said:

“2020 is a year that impacted the world with a global pandemic juxtaposed with a global rise in a fight for rights for the black community.

“EJAG's next chapter in 2020 has been timely. Our group is comprised of a cross-section of creative arts world talent from a variety of specialisms. So, with our finger on the pulse of trends, we were ahead our time and had identified an imbalance in the socio-economic and minority groups levels of the music industry in 2016 which had initially brought our group together.

“EJAG's mission on launch years ago was to ensure the health and equity of overlooked and underrepresented musical voices and communities, and in 2020 the group that was already formed and making positive change, was able to galvanise and support numerous other start-up and established groups across the music industry. Our monthly in real-life meetings at the BPI quickly pivoted to online fortnightly meetings due to the urgency that BLM had created.

“To ensure that entry-level and mid-level music industry staff can progress and be pipelined to senior C-Suire levels, we discussed new mentorship programmes and how who, when and where they could be launched. Similar conversations were taking place cross-industry in sport, media, and more and EJAG invited leading voices in the diversity and inclusion space to share learnings with the committee.

“From this shared experience, research and data from the committee's own experiences and experiences of our peers we are creating and have planted seeds to push ahead to the next level in 2021 where cross-industry groups unite, the EJAG group grows and the industry unites to champion and celebrates more underrepresented people working in the British music industry at all levels. I know we are on the road to yet more impactful change.”

Maggie Crowe OBE, BPI internal EJAG working group member, said:

 

“Sitting on EJAG this past year, I’ve listened and learned. 

“This group has passion, strong opinions and challenging conversation, but also lots of laughs, which, to me, just shows their boundless amount of genuine solidarity and energy to get stuff done. 

They are a force for good and as the world is trying to heal itself emotionally and physically, I know their work will help shape the discussion and decisions much needed for the overall health of our industry.” 

Matt Ross, EJAG member, said:

 

“2020 was always about ‘vision’ – referenced in my native Trinidad, amongst many other nations, as a target for a multitude of goals and aspirations.  That ‘2020 vision’ has transpired to be far more painful than imagined, but I remain hopeful that the clarity, and catharsis it provoked, will prove to be a juncture of positive and irreversible change. 

“When Gil Scott-Heron opined that ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’ he was addressing the apathy of the masses, blunted by vacuous and addictive TV; he was right, but thankfully the passage of time could not have made him more wrong. Visibility of police brutality and racism – from the casual to the very un-casual – has been facilitated by the ubiquity of smart phones, providing a stark mirror for the privileged, cosseted and well meaning, who reside in comfortable ignorance. 

“Once you see, you can never un-see; and, the seismic shift in the visibility of these realities and their pervasive and perpetual consequences, is, for me, the defining moment of 2020.  As if more illumination were required, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the poor and people of colour, simultaneously accentuated these disparities, while demonstrating our underestimated capacity for change; painful, but empowering as we look to the road ahead. 

“Big up to Ged, Gennaro, Maggie and the BPI team, for being real and getting shit done. 

“Big up to Dave, for the greatest BRITs moment ever; and Celeste for showing the beauty and soul of our art. The BRITs made me cry and filled me with pride. 

“Big up 0207 Def Jam, the floor is yours; you stand on broad shoulders. 

“Rest in peace Richard Antwi. The scholars are in good places and are a source of great pride.

 “I’m thankful for 2020 and the vision it has brought.” 

Meenal Odedra, EJAG member, said:

“I was SO excited about 2020.  It was the year that my company was turning one, it was going to be a year of business and personal development, so much to look forward to. And then COVID happened, and then Blackout Tuesday, and then The Show Must Be Paused, and then the Black Music Coalition was formed, and then Black Lives Matter protests took place worldwide. Wow.

“Reflecting back, 2020 hasn’t been the ’shit-show’ that I’ve thought it was. It’s been the year for change, it’s been a year for social change, it’s been a year for putting justice and equality at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Whilst it is frustrating that some people have only discovered in 2020 that racism exists (!), here’s to hoping this shift towards equality and justice continues in 2021. 

“When shifts within the music industry began, the Equality and Justice Advisory Group began to meet more frequently. We rolled up our sleeves and began talking, I mean really talking about what we could do and what we wanted to do to create some impactful change in this industry that we all love.

“As always, I am so proud to be on this committee, I say this often, but it really wasn’t easy for me to find my feet. I know the barriers that a young working class, woman of colour faces, and I’m honoured to be part of a group committed to change. 

“On a personal note, working alone can be incredibly isolating, I came to think of EJAG as not just people I saw four times a year,  it’s been wonderful going from being the shy Meenal in the BPI boardroom, to pipping up, and sharing my opinions!”

Mervyn Lyn, EJAG member, said:

“It has been an extraordinary year full of very few highs and many lows and then more lows.  One high was The BRIT Awards early in the year that was hailed as the most diverse and inclusive ever. This was a direct result of the steps taken by The BPI Diversity Group (Now EJAG) in the previous years in reviewing and repopulating the voting academy to better represent the diverse makeup of music consumers.

“Covid 19 did its thing, not only hammering home a wake-up call to humanity for meddling with nature as it has consequences.   Black, Asian, elderly and disadvantaged folks were hit hardest with death and infection rates disproportionately high in these groups.

“In the midst of this global pandemic police brutality hit new heights and mobilised the BLM movement that grew and grew. The momentum it created sparked many businesses to reassess how they tackle diversity and inequality. In the music industry specifically, millions of £s were pledged to hit this growing problem head on. We’ll be tracking the progress of these financial initiatives to ensure these funds trickle all the way down to places where they are needed most to level the playing field and give diversity a real chance.

“The BPI Diversity Group also looked into how it could be more effective and help perpetuate and stimulate the changes needed. A name change to EJAG and more than just a mission statement to set to help evaluate and advise on equality and social justice issues within the business. Bringing to BPI members a number of online courses targeting “Unconscious Bias”, “Let’s Talk About Race” and “Diversity In The Ranks” amongst others.  There was a concerted acknowledgement on Black History Month and plans are currently being formulated to make this a greater focus for 2021.

“For me it’s been a year of major change and I’d goes as far as to say the 2020 has been a significant moment in time, one that we really need to make sure we take full advantage of and use the opportunity BLM movement have given us to make more than just a superficial gesture in the equalities and justice area but a change that will be long lasting and meaningful for years to come.”

Naz Hussain, EJAG member, said:

“2020, what a rollercoaster of a year with its highs and lows. Covid-19, Brexit, the shocking death of George Floyd and the global social injustices around the world which have shaped the year and will live long in our memories for all the wrong reasons.

“The Equality & Justice Advisory Group (EJAG), originally established in 2016,  is comprised of a group of individuals from various backgrounds who are passionate about equality and social justice within the music environment and indeed the wider society. Having previously worked closely with The BRIT Awards to drive positive changes, EJAG continued with its mission to challenge the music industry to be more diverse and inclusive, particularly in response to the highlighted challenges and barriers faced by underrepresented groups of people within our industry.    

“The year began very positively with the 2020 annual BRIT Awards being held in February celebrating its 40th anniversary year. The impact of EJAG’s work was clearly felt with the show delivering one of its most inclusive and diverse ever. Highlights included performances from Billie Eilish, Mabel, Celeste, Lizzo, Dave, Stormzy and Burna Boy. Winners on the night included Mabel, Billie Eilish, Dave and Stormzy. Not too soon after that, the world went into lockdown due to COVID-19 along with the outpouring of grief and protests at the racism that was sparked by the tragic death of George Floyd.

“Reflecting on 2020, it became even more obvious that inequality exists in all areas of society and the music industry is not exempt. Whilst there is an acceptance that progress is being made, it is also clear that this progress is slow and still insufficient. Much more needs to be done to accelerate positive change, and EJAG’s priority is to examine how this can be achieved in a cohesive way. It really is a time to stop talking, to take clear actions and to demand and facilitate accountability across and within the music industry.

“In 2021, EJAG is bound by the need for the continued fight against injustices and is motivated to keep the momentum for change going.”

Sharon Brooks, EJAG member, said:

 

“This is a year marked by how it took the insidious effect of a Pandemic, the unbelievable death of George Floyd and the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement to expose the hidden realities of race, health and socioeconomic inequalities still pervading our communities to this day…

“The disruption of pent up emotions in response to these unprecedented events has birthed a new normal, highlighting the need and recognition for those uncomfortable conversations to become comfortable.

“EJAG, and its recent convening of minds and its quest to put the rights of the wrongs is a collaboration of eclectic experiences, wisdom and knowledge that has seen its influence shape the BRITs to reflect  the richness and creativity that our culture and heritage brings.

“As EJAG  rolls into a new year the achievements and the other works done thus far are milestones to be celebrated and commended as testament of the group's determination and perseverance  ‘to get the job done’.”