Majority of black music artists and professionals have faced racism in the industry, Black Lives In Music survey finds

A new study from Black Lives In Music has found that the majority of black artists and music professionals have faced racism and discrimination in their careers.

The survey is the largest ever to focus on data from the first-hand experiences of black musicians and music industry professionals. It shows that most of those interviewed experienced direct or indirect discrimination, overt racism and microaggressions.

Fighting assumptions about what music they should make and lack of opportunities were regular occurrences. 40% of entertainers said they felt the need to change their appearance, with that figure rising to 44% for black women, who also face an average of £459 per month lower income than their white counterparts. Black women and people with disabilities had the greatest impact on their mental health, and overall more than a third of respondents believed their mental health had declined since starting a career in music.

The study reveals how 88% of black music professionals agree there are barriers to career progression, while only 49% have music-related qualifications, compared to 69% for white artists. Three-quarters of those who took the survey were dissatisfied with the music industry’s support for black artists. Only 38% derive their entire income from music, compared to 69% of white artists and well over half of black music creators saw white contemporaries promoted before them, despite being more qualified.

“We see black artists dominating the charts and making money, but [race and racism] still affects the careers of these artists and the careers of black executives working behind the scenes,” said Sheryl Nwosu, attorney and president of the Black Music Coalition. “It is unfortunately the bad business of racism. It’s bad business not to see the person in front of you as an equal, to not see the person in front of you as worthy as anyone else.”

“I always say you have to be obsessed with music and super passionate to have a career like that,” said singer-songwriter Estée Blu. “Otherwise it makes no sense, especially for a black woman who is darker in complexion. In this country, we just don’t see visibility for women who look like me.”

The Black Lives In Music report is now available to read in full, and includes several recommendations, such as the creation of an anti-racism support service for the music industry. Last year, The Recording Academy, which administers the Grammy Awards, and Color of Change launched the #ChangeMusic roadmap, aimed at creating racial justice within the organization and the music industry at large.

In May, Black Artist Database expanded its platform to include a number of initiatives aimed at helping people find, contact and directly support Black-owned businesses and artists in the music industry.