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More than half of Black music creators have experienced racism, new report finds

The report follows comments about racism in the industry from Tinie Tempah and Alexandra Burke

By Tom Victor

Tinie Tempah poses for a photo
Tinie Tempah has discussed his experiences of racism in the industry (Picture: Press)

A report into racism in the music industry has found there is “nothing stealthy” about the prejudices faced by artists and creators.

The report from the Black Lives in Music initiative has found that 6 out of 10 Black music creators have experienced racism, while 86% claim their race has provided barriers to career progress.

It follows revelations from artists such as Alexandra Burke and Tinie Tempah about how their race has impacted some of their interactions within the industry.

It is the first major study from the group, which cites its aims to “dismantle structural racism” in the industry, and also details pay disparities between black creators and their white counterparts to the tune of £299 per month.

Roger Wilson, author of the report, told the BBC Black musicians “are victims of pay disparity and lack of opportunities to progress,” describing racism in the industry as “serious, upfront and personal”.

“[The report] clearly shows that prejudice continues to be an issue – both implicit and structural,” Wilson added in presenting the study, and called for the industry to “take a good look at itself”.

The report also found that 31% of Black music creators say their mental wellbeing has worsened since starting in the industry, which rises to to 42% of Black women.

Meanwhile, four in 10 people said they had been forced into a genre “which is not true to me”.

At senior industry levels, only one in five roles (19.9%) are filled by Black and ethnically diverse people.

Following the publication of the report, Black Lives in Music chief executive Charisse Beaumont said: “The voices of Black music creators and industry professionals can no longer be ignored. Change must achieved but this can only happen if it is done together.”

According to respondents to the report and other public comments from artists, discrimination faced has ranged from outright racist comments and “jokes about… skin colour” to “hostile working environments” and budget inconsistencies.

X Factor winner Burke revealed last year that she was told to bleach her skin after winning the show, saying “Still, to this moment, it breaks my heart.”

Meanwhile, in a recent interview, Tinie Tempah questioned budget disparities between rappers and folk artists which don’t necessarily reflect sales, and noted that – while barriers to entry in music might be lower than at times in the past – challenges faced by Black artists remain significant.

“There are still lots of people that are racist. So it just depends on what happens beyond that point that you’re discovered or that everyone likes your music,” the rapper said.

“If you’re with a good set of people, maybe you might have an easier ride than someone did 10 years ago, or maybe 20 years ago, or maybe 30 years ago. But is it equal yet? I would say no.”