From Yinka's head...

Put your Black life in music – NOW.

Nobody liked *Colin.

What made things particularly ironic was he was such a nice guy.

Colin was sales manager in a company I worked for in the 90s, and back then (I don’t imagine it’s any different now) sales was hard.

Horrid

Put it this way: if sales were a girl she’d be the little one from the nursery rhyme: when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.

Which brings me to Black Lives in Music (and, yes, you’d be quite right to ask what any of this has to do with BLiM).

To answer that question, I need to give you a bit of background for context. Here’s a quote from their website’s ‘About’ section:

‘Talent is distributed evenly, opportunities are not!

Black Lives in Music addresses the current inequality of opportunity for black people aspiring to be artists or professionals in the Jazz and Classical music industry…

Representation matters, we need to take action together and create a level playing field for everyone to have an equal chance to succeed…’

While this extract flags people working in Jazz and Classical, make no mistake: this affects every Black person working in music in the UK.

UK Gospel: Sheltered

Where you pitch your tent on this will be directly influenced by your experience and relationships in the UK music space.

I think we’re relatively sheltered in the UK Gospel music scene – because we’ve had to bootstrap our way to any successes we’ve found over the years. (Caveat: I admit this is a broad generalisation and I’m sure it’ll be challenged by many).

As a result we have an hyper-insular and comparatively self-sustaining marketplace (such as it is).

Awkward

However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t uncomfortable, inconvenient, awkward, monolithic, elephant-in-the-room questions that need asking, like:

  • How come there aren’t any Black-owned major media organisations in the UK Gospel space?
  • Why aren’t our biggest radio and TV stations in Black hands..?

Like I said: awkward.

Racism

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting there’s anything untoward or underhand going on.

The underlying structural and socioeconomic issues that brought us here are complex, and the easy draw of the racism card is the least nuanced, least intelligent answer to the question.

What gets measured…

What it does do is bring us nicely back to Black Lives in Music. And funny enough: Colin.

One of the reasons people didn’t like him was because he had this saying: ‘what gets measured gets done’.

When mid-month numbers started showing our month-end sales target was fast becoming a myth, he began by asking what everyone’s current priorities were.

And that was uncomfortable.

Why?

Well, we were all bonafide experts in our relevant spheres and could fully justify whatever projects we were working on. And typically those justifications would be sound.

  • However, the fact still remained that we were adrift of our team target
  • And if we didn’t hit it, the company didn’t make money
  • And if the company didn’t make money, we didn’t get paid, talk less of earning any bonuses

So: nobody liked Colin‘s essentially neutral, spotlight questions:

  • What are you working on?
  • Does it directly help us hit our target this month?

They were annoying, self-evident truths that required we temporarily park whatever priorities negatively impacted the bottom line, no matter how much fun or interest we might have had in them.

Allegory and parable

Don’t read too much into this story: I’m not telling it as an allegory for Black music in the UK.

  • It’s not even a parable with hidden meanings to be deciphered by the favoured few
  • What I want you to take away is this: what gets measured gets done

You need to *do something*


And that’s what Black Lives in Music is trying to do: start with a qualitative and quantitative baseline – a measurable catalyst for proper and lasting change, if you will.

  • This is about your story: hard data that reflects the reality of our shared, lived experiences in Black music here in the UK
  • You can argue with anecdotes, but it’s virtually impossible to ignore evidence that data provides

‘You can argue with anecdotes, but it’s virtually impossible to ignore evidence that data provides..’

To quote Colin:

  • What gets measured gets done

So if any of this has inspired you in some way to be part of creating a compelling narrative that will genuinely and empirically shape the future of the lived professional music experience in the UK, you need to *do something*.

  • Tell your story by taking the Black Lives in Music survey (link below)
  • Do it now
  • Get your Black life in Music
  • I’ve done it, and it doesn’t take that long to complete at all

There are only 4 days left (I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks)

*Colin is his real name 🙂

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Black Lives in Music

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