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TASK FORCE TACKLES INDUSTRY TROUBLES

The Recording Academy Diversity Task Force went beyond recommendations for the Academy and offered ideas for the music industry as a whole to help deal with increasing diversity, eliminating improper behavior and increasing paths of opportunity for artists and executives.

In its multiple sessions with people in the industry, the Task Force heard about discrimination in the workplace based on race, gender, economics and age;  sexual harassment on tours and in studios; and barriers to entry in the business.

A few examples:

On studios: “The experience the Task Force heard numerous times about recording studios is illustrative: numerous women reported having been harassed and/or physically assaulted late at night, in recording studios essentially monitored and controlled by nobody, where there appear to be no workplace conduct rules enforced.”

On tours: “Female artists reported outright discrimination when auditioning for tour spots, especially (but not exclusively) in the Christian music field, where women may not be permitted to perform or travel on tour with male band members. Music festival lineups are also predominately male, with female artists rarely headlining a festival and only the most well established female artists generally performing at festivals.”

At Country radio: “Female country artists appear to receive significantly less airtime than their male counterparts. Speakers at Task Force listening forums described an ‘unwritten rule’ at country radio stations suggesting that songs by female artists should not constitute more than 15% of their total songs played. While, by definition, the Task Force cannot confirm the existence of an unwritten rule, these descriptions are backed up by data in a University of Ottawa report, which found that women held only 11.3% of the sounds on the year-end country airplay reports for 2018 —a 66% decrease from the year 2000.”

“If labels, artists, and agencies work together to insist on enforcement of a code of conduct as a prerequisite for business relationships, that is the foundation that can lead to a change in conduct,” Tina Tchen's Task Force wrote.

Armed with stats such as women are 21.7% of all artists, less than 15% of songwriters and approximately 2% of all producers, the Task Force had some recommendations:

Attention should be paid to the industry’s entry points to ensure that women and other underrepresented people are encouraged to enter the industry, and barriers to entry are reduced. This includes, for example, recruiting and retaining more women and underrepresented people into schools of music and music production and engineering programs.

Institutions in the industry need to establish and build an inclusive workplace culture, from hiring, promotion, and retention, to policies promoting equal pay, paid leave, and flexible work environments.

Institutions should work to establish or strengthen mentorship programs for women and other underrepresented groups in order to foster better retention and advancement.

Diversity statistics at every level of organizations should be reported, including with respect to whether women are appropriately represented at senior levels and fairly paid.

Use promotional resources to highlight successful women within the music industry and in particular, within music’s technical fields.

Key industry stakeholders need to develop a “code of conduct” making clear that bullying, harassing, and discriminatory behavior will not be tolerated in workplaces, including recording studios, workshop settings, or any aspect of a tour. Any employee, contractor, or freelancer must agree as a condition of their  engagement to abide by the code.

Training on workplace culture, including training on sexual harassment, bias, and inclusive behavior, needs to be tailored to the music industry and provided broadly.

The “unwritten rule” limiting women’s airtime on country music radio stations must be abolished, and to do so key stakeholders with national force (such as labels) can insist upon it by withholding business unless there is meaningful change. Second, the industry should dedicate resources to understanding the existence of streaming disparities and what causes them.

The industry should consider creating industry “ambassadors” to underserved communities;  encourage artists to host free sessions at their recording studios;  develop programs for equipment manufacturers and others to make their products more affordable and accessible; and engage with lower-cost, less music-centric colleges and universities to encourage participation.

Industry stakeholders should consider adopting “reverse mentorship programs” or “continued learning classes” to ensure its “aging” members are kept up-to-date on emerging technology, trends, and issues in the music industry.

The full report on the industry can be found here.

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