About Andy Edwards

Technology, music, cycling.

Diversity In Cycling – BBC London

Mani Arthur and I appeared on Jasmine Dotiwala’s BBC London show The Scene this week to discuss the DIVERSITY IN CYCLING report.

You can see the whole interview, which was filmed for social media as well as broadcast on the radio, here:

The Scene – Black Cyclists Network

The Scene ~ The two club cyclists working towards diversity in cycling and the Black Cyclists Network, Andy Edwards and Mani Arthur join Jasmine to talk about the issue of not having enough BAME people join cycling clubs, the Diversity in Cycling report written by Andy and the creation of the Black Cyclists Network, and the work they are doing with British Cycling

Posted by Jasmine Dotiwala Behind 'The Scene' on Friday, August 2, 2019

Me, Jasmine Dotiwala and Mani Arthur at BBC London for The Scene.

Diversity In Cycling – Launch Event

To mark the launch of the DIVERSITY IN CYCLING report, we held an event at Look Mum No Hands! which brought to life the themes in the report.  On a hot, sticky summer’s evening, LMNH was packed with over 100 cyclists, male and female, from all backgrounds and all walks of life.  With nine speakers together with audience questions we massively over-ran, but despite this and the hot and crowded venue, people stayed for the duration of the talk and many stayed afterwards.  

Speakers included Biola Babawale of Velociposse who contrasted her experiences of cycling with her career in the white, male dominated arena of asset management.  Mani Arthur described his vision for forming Black Cyclists Network, while Junaid Ibrahim described his experiences in forming Brothers on Bikes.  Nasima Siddiqui, co-foudner of Wyndymilla spoke of her long experience in cycling and the impetus for founding Wyndymilla, a vibrant and innovative cycling brand with an inclusive ethos.  PJ Dulay of the Fireflies and Cicli Artigianali discussed the mystique and etiquette surrounding cycling and how this can sometimes be intimidating for newcomers.  Matt Kumar of Kingston Wheelers highlighted the key takeouts for KW and other London cycling clubs.

Special guest, former professional and cycling legend, Maurice Burton together with his friend Joe Clovis told of their experiences of racism in cycling during the 1970s and their pathway through through the sport culminating with Maurice acquiring De Ver Cycles and forming Team De Ver C.C.

Following an audience Q&A, the evening was brought to a close with the impassioned words of Yewande Adesida of SES Racing who, having earlier described her own pathway into the sport, encouraged others to take up the mantle. 

Hopefully this is just the beginning of what is a long overdue conversation within the cycling community.

Photographs by Calvin Cheung www.ccheungphotography.com

Diversity In Cycling – The Report

This project started as a conversation between my friend Mani Arthur and I.  Mani is British Ghanaian and I am a white guy.  We are both cyclists and we both shared the same observation: more people from Black And Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds seem to be taking up cycling as a sport, but not necessarily joining cycling clubs.  Overall, the sport of cycling looks very white.  

As a result of that conversation: two things happened: Mani decided to form Black Cyclists Network and I decided to write a report titled “DIVERSITY IN CYCLING”.  Originally the aim was to produce a brief discussion paper for my own club, Kingston Wheelers, but very quickly the report gained momentum, attracting over 60 contributions from riders of BAME backgrounds, including a number of Muslim riders, and securing the support of British Cycling, whose CEO Julie Harrington contributed the Foreword.

You can read more about British Cycling’s involvement here and read the report itself here.

Fundamentally, cycling is a sport anyone can enjoy and it is actually more accessible than many people perceive.  The report details challenges, but there is lots of positivity too.  Key themes revolved around representation and visibility, if cycling is seen to be diverse it will attract a more diverse pool of riders.  Telling more than one story is important.  The media often seen obsessed with the narrative that cycling is a hobby for middle class middle age white guys when the reality is that cycling is so much more and the “MAMIL” phenomenon is actually quite recent.  Key recommendations in the report include:

PROMOTE VISIBILITY (BUT BE AUTHENTIC)

If your club has members from BAME backgrounds, with their permission, include those members in any visual representation of club membership. This helps make BAME participation visible to others; consider deploying ambassadors as a point of contact.

If you do not have many BAME members or none at all, do not try to be something that you are not, but do promote your values: if you are open to all newcomers regardless of race and gender say so. We all have to start somewhere, but let’s make a start.

PROMOTE ACCESSIBILITY

Many larger clubs have different rides across the week with different start times. Not everyone can make 9am on a Sunday morning. Promote a range of options.  Provide context to cycling club culture, what it means to be in a club, to ride in a group and general dos and don’ts. 

BE INCLUSIVE

Inclusion is essential to diversity. It is not just about having BAME riders present but ensuring riders of all backgrounds feel included and visible. Work with others both within your club and the broader community to share knowledge and promote pathways. 

TELL MORE THAN ONE STORY

Challenge stereotypes that cycling is the preserve of middle-aged middle class men in Lycra.  It is not. Cycling in the UK and Europe has been traditionally a rural and working class sport that has grown so much its appeal is universal. Cycling is for everyone.

RAISE YOUR OWN RACIAL AWARENESS

Many white people are uncomfortable talking about race. That is because most of us are not equipped to have the conversation. Read, listen and learn. If one person stands out in a group, be aware they may feel an extra level of intimidation than any other newcomer.

MONITOR PROGRESS

Quantify your membership through capturing ethnicity data on joining/ renewal forms.  Monitor progress over time. Larger clubs and organisations should certainly do this.

AFRICA UNITE – Nigeria’s Sustainable Cycling Foundation

Earlier this year I led an initiative through the cycling club of which I am a member, Kingston Wheelers, to undertake a kit collection for the Sustainable Cycling Foundation in Nigeria.  The collection garnered an overwhelmingly positive response in terms of the amount of kit collected. This came not only from within the club, but from the broader cycling community.

Cycling Weekly has covered the story.  Their article gives a great overview of the collection, but, even more importantly, the amazing work of Sustainable Cycling Foundation.  You can read the full article as a PDF, here: SCF Nigeria Kingston Wheelers Africa feature.

My main contact at the SCF is Iboroma Akpana, a Harvard educated corporate lawyer with his own law firm in Lagos and Abuja.  Iboroma travels extensively and while he was in town for Ride London last year we got together for a Regents Park ride and Look Mum No Hands coffee stop. This is where we hatched the plan.

Kit collections are not a new thing.  Former pro Matt Brammier has been active in this area and it was Garry Palmer of Sportstest who introduced me to Iboroma in the first place, has organised several kit collections.  Allied to organising a kit collection, I wanted to build a narrative about cycling in Nigeria and across Africa.

This meant informing the UK cycling community about the opportunities and what is already being achieved not only in Nigeria, but also across Africa.  Even to this day, when people think of Africa they think of a single story that is fed to us by the media.  The reality is far more impressive that we are often led to believe.  Poverty exists in Africa, but African nations are not defined by poverty.

There is also organisation, entrepreneurialism, resilience, ingenuity and, fundamentally, talent. The SCF was formed by a number of prominent members of Lagos based cycling club Cycology.   The club has in excess of 300 members and counting and the socio-economic profile of its members is probably not vastly different to Kingston Wheelers.  Through the SCF, they are building the sport of cycling in Nigeria pretty much from scratch.

The SCF not only organises their own kit collections, but tap into their network of friends, including Kingston Wheelers.  They fund training for riders to develop careers as mechanics and coaches/ personal trainers, organise races, training, nutrition and for the more advanced riders the opportunity to ride in pan-African events.

 

Moreover, the SCF has been very active in encouraging women’s cycling in way we can probably learn from in the UK.  Not only is there a strong network of women at club level, the Nigerian Ladies team won the gold medal in the TTT at the All African Games beating the formidable South African team into second place.  Rita Miebaka Aggo (above), one of their prominent riders, was interviewed for the Cycling Weekly article.

     

In pulling all this together, there was a conscious effort to avoid “white saviour syndrome”, an accusation levelled at Comic Relief and Bob Geldof amongst others.   I bug an awful lot of people with the work of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the acclaimed Nigerian novelist.  In her seminal TED Talk The Danger Of A Single Story, Chimamanda confronts the single story narrative that is often applied to “Africa” and instead she presents a more complex and diverse reality.  If you watch Chimamanda’s TED talk, you will witness an important touchstone for this initiative:

 

Not only did we as Kingston Wheelers collect an awful lot of kit, but we did so in a genuine spirit of partnership with the SCF and with a strong grasp of the needs of the Nigerian cycling community.  We were allies, not saviours.

Hopefully this will be the start of an ongoing relationship that could take in more collections, rider exchanges, sponsoring and supporting local race teams in Nigeria in addition to rider mentoring and coaching.

Included in the article are some suggestions for UK based cycling clubs who are interesting in putting together an initiative like ours, it is worth restating here:

HOW CAN PEOPLE ACT ON WHAT THEY HAVE READ?

1) Be an ally, not a saviour.  Africa is a vast continent with many cultures, there is huge inequality but do not underestimate local expertise and resilience.  Africa has many stories.

2) Tap into the diaspora.  Many first and second generation Nigerians live and work in the UK, while retaining strong ties to their roots.  This is true of many Commonwealth countries across Africa and around the world.  Speak to friends and network.

3) It is OK to do some due diligence.  The SCF were very transparent with us, even providing financial accounts and strategic plans. Not everyone is that organised, but do not be surprised to see that level of professionalism.

4) Look for new opportunities. South Africa, Kenya, Rwanda and Eritrea are all doing great things, but explore the potential in other countries too.

5) Kit must be wearable and rideable.  When doing kit collections, do not donate what you would not personally ride or wear.

6) Respect local knowledge.  The British cycling community has a lot to offer nations like Nigeria, but we don’t know everything. Build a dialogue and ask what is needed locally. Identify what you can contribute.

7) Promote with purpose. Talk about what you do and start a conversation.  Feedback outcomes to demonstrate what is possible and bring people together.

When They Go Low, We Go High: EU Copyright Directive

This article first appeared in Record of the Day, which you can read here.

The European Parliament’s decision not to immediately pass the new EU Copyright Directive in July was seen by many as a major setback. It was defeated by 318 to 278, a margin of 40 votes. This means the proposed legislation now moves forward to a full plenary debate and vote next Wednesday 12 September.

As the music industry faces this pivotal moment, it is worth reflecting how we got here and what we are now facing.

The creative industries as a whole have long argued that embryonic digital legislation passed in the mid 1990s is outdated and simply not fit for purpose. The legislative process is slow at the best of times. Meanwhile, the tech industry “moved fast and broke things,” incurring the wrath of creators whose livelihoods have been upended as a result.

The publication of the draft EU Copyright Directive in late 2016 was an achievement in itself. Not only did the draft legislation address copyright protection and safe harbour loopholes, it also contained provisions concerning fairness and transparency towards creators. Following further debate and lobbying, is even more of an achievement that the key elements of the draft directive remain mostly intact.

The Directive has not been without it’s critics, as is the case with any proposed legislation. Academics, libraries and dignitaries such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee have all put forth concerns. We in the music industry can acknowledge some concerns as understandable even if we believe they are unfounded.

What is not understandable are the thoroughly vile and dishonest tactics deployed during the course of this year, whose objective is to stop the legislation in its tracks at any cost. The scale of this activity reads like set pieces straight out of the Cambridge Analytica playbook.

Some in the music industry have questioned how we fight back given the vast funding involved and the sheer scale of this enterprise. But fight back we must and the actions of those we face only serve to give us greater strength.

As any Jiu-Jitsu grandmaster will tell you: use your opponents’ force against them. In this case, we should call out the deceitful actions from within the tech sector and elsewhere and those actions speak louder than any words.

  • The Financial Times reported some MEPs received death threats

  • MEPs were each bombarded with over 60,000 emails from bots

  • These emails contained identical content according to The Trichordist

  • The same blog named the domain name from which a large number of these emails originated and its link to a US Inc. entity.

  • The same tactics have been found on Twitter: multiple bot accounts promoting #SaveOurInternet and similar hashtags

  • This contrasts to real world protests that only drew a few hundred protestors combined across Europe. The bots did not show up.

These actions must also be viewed against the current backdrop where tech firms have been scrutinised for avoiding responsibility concerning:

  • Blatantly dishonest content

  • Content that incites hatred and violence

  • Little accountability in how such content is disseminated

  • Minimal transparency in how user data is abused in facilitating all this

Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey are amongst those tech executives rebuked by lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic, for failing to take responsibility and failing to act in managing their own platforms. This is reflective of a broader failure that lies at the heart of a misguided and libertarian ideal, that somehow tech firms are exempt from laws and rules that govern the rest of the world.

The music industry and broader creative and media industries are made up of real people, filled with passion and blood pumping through their veins. They compose their own emails, speak to politicians and show up in person.

At the UK Music organized #LoveMusic busking event in London earlier today, artists, executives and even politicians turned out in support. Artists such as Brett Anderson, Ed Harcourt, Dave Rowntree, Madeleina Kay, Newton Faulkner and BASCA Chair Crispin Hunt. In addition a number of cross party British MPs who support the directive including Tom Watson, Nigel Evans and Kevin Brennan were amongst those in attendance.

One has to ask, if those opposing the EU Copyright Directive have such a compelling argument, why do they resort to such deceitful means? If we judge their actions, the arguments of those opposed to the directive hold no legitimacy and the European Parliament should vote in favour of the directive.

Andy Edwards, music manager and consultant
@andyedwardsbiz

Kendrick Lamar wins the Pulitzer Prize for Music

Andy Edwards explores what having a Pulitzer Prize winning rapper means for the music industry and the arts landscape as a whole.  This article first appeared in Record of the Day.

DAMN. Kendrick Lamar is the first non-classical or jazz artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music. The Pulitzer Prize was launched in 1917 and the first Pulitzer Prize for Music was awarded in 1943. Kendrick Lamar is the 67th recipient.

The Pulitzer is a name with overwhelming gravitas, commonly associated with American journalism, poetry and literature. The music category recognizes “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.”

The award itself comes with little fanfare, no red carpet sizzle, but, rather, the recipient will forever be known as the “Pulitzer Prize winning author/journalist/ poet/ composer/ etc”. The attention heaped upon Pulitzer Prize winning rapper and songwriter Kendrick Lamar has been truly global. His award made headline news here in the UK, prompting widespread comment. The significance of this moment cannot be understated and had many layers relevant to all of us in the music industry and in a number of ways.

The significance for hip-hop and black music

As Jasmine Dotiwala pointed out on Sky News, in the early ‘90s the US government tried to shut down the likes of NWA, Ice T and Snoop Doggy Dogg. Twenty-five years later a 30-year-old rapper from Compton is being feted by the establishment, hopefully signaling a new level of acceptance.

It sets a significant marker for the music industry itself. The last black artist to win Album of the Year at the Grammys was Herbie Hancock in 2008. Lauryn Hill and OutKast have won Album of the Year in the past, but in recent years no black artist has won the accolade. At a time when black music has reached new artistic heights and cultural resonance coupled with poor female representation, The Recording Academy has been blasted for being out of touch.

DAMN was actually shortlisted for Best Album at this year’s Grammys, Lamar’s third nomination for the award. Childish Gambino and Jay-Z also made the shortlist but they all lost out to Bruno Mars. Beyoncé has made the shortlist three times, culminating with her greatest work yet, Lemonade, leaving her empty handed again last year prompting many to ask, what has the lady got to do to win Best Album?

In winning the Pulitzer Prize, Lamar has leapfrogged the Grammys in recognition. Perhaps this serves as a challenge to The Recording Academy to go further and do better as it considers options for 2019?

The significance for contemporary music

Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, have all won many plaudits over the years as authentic and significant American artists and storytellers, but none have won a Pulitzer Prize for Music. The overwhelming majority of recipients are classical. In recent years, a handful of jazz artists have won the award, first Wynton Marsalis in 1997, then Ornette Coleman in 2007 and Henry Threadgill in 2016. These gentlemen are masters of their art, but it took them years to reach that level of acceptance by the American arts establishment.

Only last week, the debate surrounding Arts Council funding in the UK contrasting the attitudes afforded to opera and classical at the expense of other genres, illustrates how far contemporary music still has to go in winning over the arts establishment in the UK. Kendrick Lamar’s achievement is significant not only for hip-hop, or for black music, but for contemporary music as a whole. It challenges the arts establishment around the world to fully embrace the cultural significance of contemporary music.

Arts Council England could learn a great deal from the Pulitzer’s and the process behind them. Kendrick Lamar’s award was the result of not only diverse and inclusive voices, but also diverse and inclusive process, thought and debate.

As David Hajdu, one of the jurors and also a writer for The Nation, explained in the New York Times, “some pieces of classical music that drew upon hip-hop as a resource, that led us to put on the table the fact that this sphere of work – rap music – has value on its own terms and not just as a resource for use in a field that is more broadly recognized by the institutional establishment as serious or legitimate.

The tone and conduct of the debate brought together jurors from a range of artistic backgrounds, including those more traditional, to this unanimous outcome.

Be unashamedly artistic

In the streaming age, play counts are the new heavy rotation. Play counts have become an obsession. The challenge of introducing new artists to the market and making an impact is one the industry continues to grapple with. Once that artist finds an audience and begins to grow, however, the only limitations are the artist’s own ambition and hard work.

As the man himself, explained: “you have to listen to it over and over and over again to fully understand the direction and the message that I put in there; the execution of it. And I want you to do that. I wanna challenge the way you think and the way you take your music.”

We could be clever and conclude that Kendrick Lamar is taking a counter intuitive approach to music making in the streaming age, but really he is just being a true artist: thought provoking and provocative. He is putting out his music on his terms and he wants you to listen to it on his terms. Streaming included.

This Pulitzer success, coupled with DAMN’s commercial success signals very clearly that the album, as a format and a concept, is not going away. Moreover, whenever anyone says “could {insert classic album} be made today?” Stylistics aside, the answer is a resounding yes.

#BLACKLIVESMATTER

What this award also recognizes is a journalistic quality to Kendrick Lamar’s work that documents contemporary African American life. YouTube and social media have exposed long-held injustices affecting the black community to broader white audiences and almost every form of artistic expression has harnessed this moment.

Black creators are succeeding in every creative field around the world, be it movies such as Get Out and Black Panther, television comedies such as Issa Rae’s Insecure and Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum in the UK. In non-fiction, Reni Eddo-Lodge has produced a global best seller that began with a frustration at that typically (white) British trait of brushing uncomfortable truths (race) under the carpet. Pulling it all together is a renewed focus on Africa not only as a source of inspiration, but also a source of creative talent. This dynamic has not gone unnoticed by Midem organisers who will be exploring African markets such as Nigeria, Ivory Coast and the Congo in Cannes this year.

A political thread connects all of these creators and across all continents, albeit from many different viewpoints and experiences. It also serves as a reminder to all recording artists and the industry that supports them, that in challenging times a political message has artistic resonance with a mainstream audience.

There is a generation of executives too young to remember the civil rights movement and Vietnam War that produced such a rich body of music in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Instead, that generation was brought up to think of politics in music as being aligned to “Red Wedge” or “New Labour” or some form of party political affiliation. Understandably, this resulted in cynicism and disengagement, whereas millennial artists and audiences display idealism reminiscent of their grandparent’s generation.

The politics of 2018 cuts across party boundaries and country borders. Even in this past week, the Windrush debacle in the UK has prompted a global outcry and it was revealed that Grenfell was entirely preventable. Politics fuelled Stormzy’s electrifying BRITS performance. Politics has taken Beyoncé to new creative heights. Politics is not something for artists to be wary of, nor their managers nor their A&Rs for that matter.

A political narrative can fuel any artist from any background and any genre of music. As a former artist and current music executive said to me only last week, “grime and hip-hop are cutting through because those artists have something to say, other genres have to look to themselves and do better,” (he was once in a guitar band).

Kendrick Lamar has raised the bar not just for hip-hop but all contemporary music. Pulitzer Prize winner. DAMN.

Tweet Andy Edwards your thoughts to @andyedwardsbiz

Arts Council England v the Music Business

Andy Edwards explores the facts and figures behind the Arts Council v Music Business debate.  This article first appeared in Record of the Day.

The role of the Arts Council is once again in the headlines. This week, leading figures representing the music industry locked horns with senior opera figures over Arts Council funding.

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher branded Arts Council England (ACE) “too posh for pop”, pointing out that 62% of ACE’s National Portfolio goes to opera and a further 23% goes to classical music. In contrast, only 8% goes to popular music and 7% to other genres (including jazz, folk, etc).

Hitting back in The Daily Telegraph, Michael Volpe General Director of Holland Park Opera, responded “I’ve been hearing the word ‘posh’ in relation to opera for 30 years. Very few people in opera are posh – certainly not the performers”, although Volpe conceded in the same piece “Opera companies get a lot of money, perhaps more than they ought to, and that’s an ongoing argument.”

ACE has £1.45 billion of public funds and £860 million National Lottery funds to distribute over the next four years. Of the £368 million allocated to music, opera will receive £229 million, classical £85 million and pop £27 million.

The debate is especially timely because ACE has initiated a public conversation to help inform its strategy for the next 10 years. Given the music industry is only just returning to growth having suffered 15 years of decline, a lot is at stake. A barrier to that discussion is a fundamental misunderstanding between both sides.

Some might argue the opera world, and the arts establishment as a whole, seem to look down on the music industry or, perhaps, hold the view that it is less deserving. Many in the music industry consider opera an irrelevance and an extravagance.

The reality is the music industry is vastly more complex, diverse and challenging than is often understood. It is also a reality that opera is accessible through multi-tiered ticket pricing and many opera companies are addressing their own diversity issues.

What are the key issues? How can both sides better understand one another and what does a satisfactory outcome look like?

THE FUNDING IMBALANCE

Not only is there a huge imbalance towards opera, but there is also a disproportionate amount awarded to the Royal Opera House in London specifically. During 2016 alone, the ROH received £28 million in Arts Council funding, which represents 20% of the ROH’s total income for that year. The remainder is made up of box office receipts, commercial income and other fundraising. This includes various charitable trusts and corporate backers such as Goldman Sachs.

By way of comparison, UK Sport fulfils a similar function to the Arts Council and also relies on a combination of public money and lottery funding. It is worth noting the spread of investment across the Olympic disciplines is much more even. Of the £265 million earmarked for the Tokyo Olympic cycle, rowing receives the most with £32 million, followed by athletics (£27m), sailing (£26m), cycling (£26) and swimming (£22m). Although medals success and underlying costs are a factor, the distribution of funds is far more even when compared to arts funding for music. Equestrian was further down the list with £15m, but imagine the uproar if Equestrian took 60% of available funding at the expense of other medal winning sports.

It is hard to see how the imbalance between opera, classical and other forms of music can be justified. Moreover, if funding were to be taken away from opera and distributed more broadly, how detrimental would that be? Supposing ACE funding for the Royal Opera House is cut in half, that would represent a 10% cut in its overall income. Can the ROH be challenged to go without or make up that funding elsewhere?

MOMENTUM MUSIC FUND – A CASE FOR GRANT FUNDING

In 2013, Arts Council England supported the launch of the Momentum Music Fund, administered by the PRS Foundation. Momentum was aimed at artists existing outside the major label system, unsigned or signed to an independent, and who could demonstrable a case for £5-15,000 worth of funding to give their careers tangible momentum at a crucial point.

The scheme has been a great success. Over 270 artists have been supported by Momentum and for every £1 invested £7.46 has been generated. Recipients are truly diverse covering a broad spread of genres with a strong BAME representation, making up 49% of grantees.

Over 3,800 artists have applied for Momentum funding since its inception. Five years after its launch demand and impact has never been greater. The recently published outline of Government’s creative industries sector deal, which encourages partnerships between government and industry, mentions the Momentum Fund as an example of good practice.

The frustration is that despite this clear proof of concept, including the quality and diversity of the artists supported and the match funding & income it has leveraged there appears to be little appetite from the Arts Council to continue its involvement in such schemes.

ATTITUDES TO INVESTMENT NEED TO CHANGE

A key challenge is how the music industry is perceived and how it perceives itself.

Culturally, a disproportionate level of attention is afforded to a tiny minority of major artists earning vast sums at the expense of the majority who do not. This contributes to long held assumptions within the arts establishment, government and the wider public that all paths through the music industry are paved with gold. They are not.

Within the industry itself, there has been a tradition of self-reliance. Labels and publishers, especially, pride themselves on their investment in new music. This is very true, but that investment only comes at a certain stage. Leading up to that point, artists and their managers typically funded themselves. Prior to the launch of Momentum, grant type funding for artists was very rarely considered as an option.

Attitudes are very different when it comes to sport. Even world-class athletes such as Mo Farah continue to receive grant funding from Sport UK. In Farah’s case, this is despite considerable endorsement income and a personal net worth rumoured to be £4 million. Grant type funding in sport began in the late 90s. Twenty years later, Great Britain can look back on Olympic glory over the past three Olympic cycles in Beijing, London and Rio across a range of sports. This was no coincidence.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Leading up to the publication of the government’s Industrial Strategy (Creative Industries Sector Deal) earlier this year, there was much debate about funding. Early funding gaps were evident across the creative sector and especially so in music.

For a new artist, releasing music has never been easier: the major streaming platforms are readily accessible to any artist. The principle sources of investment remain labels and publishers although other self-release options such as Seed EIS are available. What has changed is the time it takes to reach that level. A new artist may take several years funding their own releases and live shows during that time. Few new artists have the means to do this, especially those from less affluent backgrounds. This has created very real roadblocks in the talent pipeline as the industry has shifted from CD to download to streaming.

There is a clear deficiency in investment at the seed/ angel level. Unlike the tech world, there are very few mechanisms providing a return to the early stage investor while safeguarding the artist. An artist’s business structure, especially at an early stage, can be fluid and may not have all IP and activities sitting in one entity. Very few new artists could be considered “investment ready” in a traditional sense.

This is why grant funding is so important. It does not require equity stakes or convertible loans. It is simple and when targeted correctly, as Momentum has proven, can be highly effective. Grant funding can play a central role in growing a sustainable talent pipeline that fits the streaming age that is now upon us and ensure the industry picks more winners.

The disproportionate level of Arts Council funds devoted to opera does not seem fair or sustainable and it would seem this is recognized even within the world of opera. Meanwhile, the music industry has proven that grant funding can provide a significant boost to more popular genres and sustain a diverse pipeline of creative talent that works in tandem with existing commercial models. Making the numbers work is a bigger question, but there would seem to be a clear imperative to develop a fairer and more balanced approach to Arts Council funding for music.

When it comes to racism, British “tolerance” is not good enough

During a recent episode of The Pledge, writer and broadcaster Afua Hirsch raised the issue of closet racism. Her sceptical fellow (white) panelists, responded with a variety of set piece rebuttals including “I don’t see colour,” the eye popping “if its well intentioned it is not racism” and the most frequently used British rebuttal of all: Britain is the most “tolerant” nation in the world.

Afua took issue with the word “tolerant” and so do I. How often do we hear, in the context of discussing racism in the UK, “but we are the most tolerant nation in the world”? The rebuttal is passed around so freely but never challenged or understood. What do we mean when we say we are “tolerant”?

One can argue that on a personal level, just because someone is tolerated does not mean that person is accepted. It certainly does not mean that person will be treated equally. Think about what it means to say:

I tolerate you” >> “I accept you” >> “You are my equal

How do those words sound to you? Now think about that on a broader level. Think of where Britain is in our history. Think about the recently published government statistics that lay bare the extent of structural racism in this country: education, job prospects and criminal justice that illustrates very clearly people of colour are disadvantaged at every stage.

Tolerance may place Britain ahead of many other nations. The British are certainly not intolerant, but we tend not to display much emotion be it positive or negative, which begs the question, are we really that tolerant?   We can be polite, of course, but surely all this is just a starting point? It is a very British thing to sweep those things we do not wish to discuss under the carpet. I fear we do so with our racism.

Accordingly, structural racism and unconscious bias are rarely understood on a mainstream level, yet this is where the greatest challenges lie. Similarly, dog whistle racism often goes unchecked and unchallenged. The impetus for Afua Hirsch’s Pledge discussion was the overt racist comments from the girlfriend of the leader of UKIP, a political party that attracts mainstream media coverage despite the obvious dog whistle racism amongst its members.

The British often perceive America to be far more racist than Britain, because its racism is more overt, be it the actions of its police departments or the current occupant of the White House. Yet America is demonstratively more progressive in many respects, leaving Britain way behind.

In academia, Harvard University admits far more people of colour relative to America’s demographic make-up than either Oxford or Cambridge in the UK. Moreover, Harvard achieved this without compromising academic excellence disproving the notion that “affirmative action” meant lowering the bar. It does not. As David Lammy points out, Oxford and Cambridge could do the same, but have consistently failed to do so.

Whenever racism is discussed in the British media, and on television specifically, the format is typically:

EITHER one black person making the case to two, three, for or more white people all of whom hold an opposing view. Occasionally, there might be a white ally. Instinctively the ally may well be on the side of the black person discussing structural racism, yet very often the ally tries to be the peacemaker in what is often a heated discussion, hoping to defuse any unpleasantness with another set piece such as “but we have come a long way”.

OR the researchers manage to find several black and south asian participants who, conveniently and in the interests of good television, hold opposing views. This may be authentic insofar as a sixty year old dark skinned black man who lived through extreme overt racism in the seventies and eighties will have a different perspective to a mixed raced woman in her twenties grappling with unconscious bias, othering and dog whistle racism today. Such formats over simplify the arguments almost always without time to fully understand the nuances around these varying positions. A recent episode of BBC Big Questions is a case in point.

In contrast, American television news and talk shows will often utilize two or three black commentators speaking on a panel about race (or indeed more general subjects), be they pundits such as Angela Rye and Bakari Sellers or presenters such as Don Lemon, Van Jones or Joy Reid. British television is way behind. When Republican commentator Cory Lewandowski made racially charged remarks about President Obama during the 2016 presidential election, he was very firmly put in his place by more than one of his fellow panelists.

For such a “tolerant” nation, we British seem to be remarkably slow in addressing structural racism, unconscious bias and dogwhistle racism. Yet, seemingly “intolerant” America is way ahead of us. The uncomfortable truth is Britain still has a lot work to do.

Tolerating is OK. Britain can do that.   But we are not “OK Britain” we are Great Britain and we can do much better than OK. That means continually improving ourselves as a nation to ensure all our citizens, regardless of background, feel not just tolerated, but accepted and equal and to feel truly British and not merely Brit(ish).

 

For a more complete and beautifully written account of why we British should do far more than merely tolerate, BRIT(ish) by Afua Hirsch is an essential read.

 

Moderating at MIDEM

Here’s some footage of a panel I moderated at MIDEM on transparent rights management systems.

 

Copyright Summit – Building Transparent Rights Management Systems – Midem 2017

The recent months have seen the confirmation of a strong will from the music community to build comprehensive, transparent and simplified systems to manage music rights globally. This session will highlight who are the main players involved, what are the different initiatives launched and their models, as well as what we can expect from these developments in the future.
• Antony Bebawi, EVP Digital & Society Relations Europe, Sony/ATV (UK)
• Amos Biegun, Managing Director & Global Head of Rights & Royalties, Vistex (UK)
• Panos Panay, Co-Founder, OMI & Founding Managing Director, BerkleeICE (USA)
• Jean-Noël Tronc, CEO, SACEM (France)
• Lucie Caswell, CEO, Featured Artist Coalition (UK)
• Moderator: Andy Edwards, Board Director, Music Managers Forum (UK)