The pressure to diversify lineups is coming from multiple angles: public expectation is increasing on programmers to book more inclusively, and talent themselves are putting inclusion riders in their performance agreements.
Demand for better representation is not going away.
What Can You Do?
Hold Up The Mirror.
What do your lineups look like?
If your programming skews heavily male or heavily white, for example… why do you think that is?
If your genre is 100% male, either you’re not looking hard enough or your genre sucks.
Examine Your Assumptions.
… when it comes to why you choose to book acts that are majority white or majority male.
- If the genres you work in are homogenous – why do you think that is? Is one kind of person simply inherently more talented? Or is it more likely that there are conditions that encourage or discourage certain kinds of people from participating?
- Dig into your ticket sales data. Do you notice any changes to your buyer demographics when you program differently?
- If you’ve never programmed differently… how do you know what impact it has on your sales?
- Ask yourself what your purpose as a promoter is: Are you here to make money? To connect people to new music? To build community? All of the above? Then ask yourself what kind of responsibility you have as a gatekeeper of culture.
Remember: Conventional wisdom, more often than not, is just convention.
Cast the Net Wider.
- Make a conscious effort to consider acts that include talent from under-represented groups. Yes, there is a supply-side component to the problem, but it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario. Building a strong talent pipeline requires people to see themselves represented on stage.
- If you’re not finding fresh talent in the usual places… make an effort to look outside those circles.
- A minimum benchmark is commit to seriously considering a certain % of acts who aren’t in your usual programming demographic. Get more hats in the ring for consideration and the rest will follow. (This is also a helpful hiring tactic when it comes to your crew & production team.)
- Ask the agents you work with regularly who else they have on their books who may be part of under-represented groups.
- If you’re serious about wanting to know about new artists who perhaps don’t have agent representation, make it easy for them to get on your radar. Is it easy to find contact info for your booker? Are you encouraging people to do so?
- Explicitly encourage artists from under-represented groups to participate during any open calls for submissions, talent searches, or competitions. Recognise that certain kinds of people have been historically excluded and made to feel unwelcome in a lot of music spaces, so you need to make a little extra effort to convince people that they ARE welcome. For example: instead of soliciting entries/demos/submissions by saying “This is open to everyone!” try “This is open to everyone, and we really encourage artists from the BIPOC community and women / gender non-conforming folks to apply!”
- If you’re only being approached by the same kind of performers, make yourself known and accessible to the communities you’re trying to reach by being visible and public about your intentions – speak on panels, be vocal on social media.
- Build relationships with people in those communities to get your word out to them. You can start with acts you already know who have connections, and ask them to help you spread the word about support slots, competitions, or other booking opportunities.
The Facts2020 survey and anecdotal evidence indicates that the more diverse your programming team, the more diverse your programming. Get better representation in your decision-making rooms and on your leadership teams.
Check Your Culture.
Codifying your commitments to your priorities, value set, and expectations of everyone you work with is a helpful anchor point to revisit on a regular basis as well as a lens you can apply to tricky decision-making situations.
- Make inclusivity and diversity part of your organisation or event’s value statement.
- Implement a Code of Conduct to help make your workplace (on- or off-site) inclusive, and therefore support attaining and retaining a diverse team.
Support the Talent Pipeline.
We know there is a legitimate supply-side issue across most (not all) genres. Intentionally and proactively offering opportunity to acts from under-represented groups is one way to support that pipeline, but there are additional actions you can take as a promoter or organisation as well:
Offering opportunity to acts from under-represented groups is one way to support the talent pipeline, but there are other ways that you can help.
- Ensure you aren’t falling victim to unconscious bias by limiting the expectations of success you have for acts who look different from the rest of the genre.
- Support artist development initiatives.
- Get involved in mentoring or internship programmes that specifically target underrepresented groups.
- If you can’t provide work experience, you may be able to contribute in other ways – e.g. providing space, equipment, networking connections, etc.
Get informed about why representation is important.
FIND NEW TALENT
A starting point for finding more diverse acts.
Resources for developing organisational values and priorities.
SUPPORT THE SCENE
Find out about artist development initiatives.
A starting point for hiring a more diverse cr3ew.
Put your commitments to diversity and inclusion in writing using policy or a Code of Conduct.