To mark Deaf Awareness Week Ben Price – a member of the BPI’s Equality and Justice Advisory Group (EJAG) – talks music for those who are deaf with Deaf Rave founder Troi Lee and sign song artist MC Geezer.
It’s been an easy assumption to make for far too long. We’ve all heard someone comment at the sight of a BSL interpreter on the side of the stage, “Why would deaf people want to listen to music anyway? Surely they can’t hear it?”. The assumption then follows that people with hearing impairments wouldn’t want to work in music, either. As part of Deaf Awareness Week, it’s time to bust that myth.
Troi Lee founded Deaf Rave to give Deaf, Hearing and Disabled Artists and performers a platform to display their love for music. They provide entertainment with music, sign song and visual performances to an all-inclusive audience, globally and across the UK. Deaf Rave hosts club events for people with all levels of hearing impairments in a better-lit environment to allow for socialising through lip reading.
I sat down with Troi and one of the artists he helps to develop, MC Geezer, to find out more about the challenges people with hearing impairments face in the music industry today.
Tell me about some of the misconceptions around deaf people in the music industry you face in your day-to-day activities with Deaf Rave?
Troi: Over the years we have approached a lot of venues. I’ve done site visits and then on occasions when we’ve followed up on email they just haven’t replied. Some of them have been put off by thinking we would need music levels above normal standards. The biggest misconception people make when I go to a venue is that the sound system will need to be super loud and we’d need more bass. But to be honest we don’t need anything too different to what hearing people would have – and that misconception is preventing me from doing what we’re trying to do.
I also get a thousand questions from journalists asking “How do deaf people enjoy music? Do you have to increase the levels?” In some cases we do, but it’s not a big difference.
MC Geezer, as a sign song artist trying to break into the music industry, what are the biggest challenges you face?
MC Geezer: The biggest problem I have had is trying to find a PR company that will take me on. The only way to move forward is by having a PR. Most PR companies I have approached say “You’re deaf. Nah, no good.” and some just haven’t got back to me. I contacted a load of companies and I only got a couple of replies from companies who wanted to work with me. I don’t think people take deaf and disabled people seriously enough, because they want everything to be perfect and to look perfect. We’re trying to show the world what deaf and disabled people can do. Hopefully one day someone will get through and there will be more accessibility for more deaf artists to get into the industry.
The music industry has been mostly online for the last year, but has the deaf community been considered when it comes to livestream events?
Troi: We’ve missed out a lot when it comes to livestreams and online and digital content. There are deaf followers in the audience who want to watch it and understand what is being said, which is such a shame. Generally, 90% of the hearing events online are not accessible for deaf people, so we have missed out a lot.
What is the one thing you would like people to learn during Deaf Awareness Week?
MC Geezer: There is a big lack of deaf awareness. When I deal with disability organisations the relationship is brilliant because they have the empathy. We definitely feel a lack of empathy in the music industry.
Troi: I agree. Empathy of understanding and empathy of awareness. We need to sit down and talk! People do need training for sure. People need to open their minds and don’t have any fear of us. We do need to raise the issue and send a strong message out. We are definitely marginalised when it comes to the music industry and that needs to change.