Tag Archives: White Privilege

Where’s the Racial Equality in the Music Industry?

The majority of us listen to music that has its roots some way or another entrenched in African American culture. And whilst we see racial diversity within the ranks of performers, it seems the higher up the corporate ladder you head, the less likely you are to come across someone other than a white male.

This was highlighted to me by a post in Digital Music News showing this exact problem.

Top Executives at Pandora

Top Executives at Live Nation Entertainment

Top Executives at Spotify

Top Executives at Universal Music Group

Some further research revealed to me that whilst this is a problem which is largely ignored, it hasn’t gone undiscussed.

Dennis McDougal noted that almost every person holding a position of power within the recording industry is white. This is despite over a quarter sales coming from black artists.

This is further pointed out by Vick Bain who wrote an essay on this issue in the United Kingdom. She highlights that in May 2011 77% of artists in the UK top 40 charts where from non-white backgrounds, whilst 92% of the “behind the scenes workforce” are white (p.9).

Johnny Roberts notes that historically, even when what was known as “race music” became popular in the 60’s and  70’s, the styles “quickly came under the control of the white-led majors”. Black executives were then shuffled across to “in-house black music departments.”

Furthermore, Every Person is a Philosopher noted how whites have managed to break into black dominated genres such as hip-hip, blues and RnB.  But at the same time, blacks are basically non-existent in white dominated genres such as country, rock and electronica.

This last point is part the frustration felt by Q-Tip and Azealia Banks when they attacked Iggy Azalea over her silence on Ferguson. Whilst whites do have a history of breaking into black genres, there seems to be an ignorance over the origins of these genres – hip-hop originated in the civil rights movement, the blues’ history is firmly entrenched in slavery. And whilst Iggy Azalea reacted wrong, she is potentially bearing criticism which should be directly universally to the white musicians. After all, how many white musicians came out in support of Ferguson protesters?

Music has many inclusive elements. Most musicians just like playing with good players – they care little for age, race or background (although gender has been highlighted as a problem). So isn’t it time we see true equality is all areas of the music industry? Perhaps the solution to the business model problems the music industry is facing is within the mind of a non-white male.

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Ferguson, White Privilege, and the Enemy of Silence.

I’ve been uncomfortably silent with regard to the grand jury decision in Ferguson. Whilst I did follow the story closely, part of my silence came from reading protest notes to non-blacks asking that black voices be heard; part came from not wanting to say the wrong thing; and part came from not wanting to treat #blacklivesmatter as a trivial social media campaign, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge or #kony2012.

I was wrong. I realise that now in light of the Twitter exchanges between Iggy Azalea, Azealia Banks and Q-Tip. And the more I read and think about this, the more I realise this to be true.

Firstly, I want to acknowledged that white privilege exists (before you argue this assertion please take the time to read this and this). The sooner this is widely acknowledge amongst the white community, the sooner we can come to tackling problems associated with it.

Denying its existence, being colour blind, or arguing that white privilege doesn’t apply to you does however perpetuate it. Just like not speaking up about your work colleague’s “I’m not being racist but…” comment actually being racist, not acknowledging white privilege perpetuates its existence: This is because, by default, those perpetuating the problem will assume you’re on their side.

There also needs to be real life, day-to-day, exposure of systemic racism. As this video illustrates, the flow on effect can be remarkable.

Also, more minority voices need to be heard, particularly in the mainstream media. From an Australian perspective, when was the last time you saw an Indigenous Australian on television talking about solutions to Indigenous inequality? Personally I can’t remember ever seeing this happen. But when this does happen (and it should be happening) there needs to be a show of support to give these voices traction. Being silent in response to these voices, on the contrary, only lends support to those who would rather tell than listen.

Silence is the enemy here, I now see that. Whilst I didn’t want to take away from the voices that needed to be heard, by saying nothing in support of those voices I was, by default, supporting an establishment that I am only incidentally part of. Whilst I grit my teeth a few months back at the foolishness of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I saw its effectiveness for raising awareness. However, I did nothing to raise awareness and show support for #blacklivesmatter.

We still live in a world where racial inequality is rife – the facts and figures continually back this up. Whilst I can never truly understand what it’s like to be treated in this way, I for one think enough is enough. This is not a problem that is simply going to go away, it needs to be tackled head on. Saying nothing is tantamount to sweeping it under the carpet and ignoring its existence. Only when we all speak up in support of equality, will inequality and prejudice be effectively tackled.

Some suggested reading:
12 things white people can do now because Ferguson
12 Things White People Can Actually Do After the Ferguson Decision
WHITE RAPPER FAQ