Kwame, Kira Puru + more share changes they'd like to see in the music industry
This morning, Kwame asked how the music industry should change. In the comments, came some incredibly spot-on replies.
For those unsure about the inner workings behind their favourite artists, let us just say this - the music industry, generally speaking, in a pigsty. There have been studies on studies on studies about different facets of the music industry and how it can be bettered, and in the face of COVID-19 exposing how fragile and uneasy the industry actually is, people are talking how they could better use this time for change, and ensure the industry that comes out of the other end of this whole situation is more well-rounded and reflective of the people it aims to aid and elevate.
Kwame is someone that's been especially vocal, using his platform - his music, his social media, and realms beyond these - to draw attention to problems that have arisen through his time as a musician. "Normalise honest commentary in the Aus music industry," he tweeted in August, and that's something he's thrived to do throughout much of his career thus far. He's drawn attention to issues of racial diversity and bigotry from major labels right through to radio, using every opportunity that shows itself to not just pinpoint places that need change within music, but also to emphasise those who think and act similarly; those that reflect a more welcoming and inclusive music industry that honestly, has been a long time coming.
Earlier today, Kwame posted an Instagram story: "If you could change 1 thing in the Australian [music industry], what would that be?"
The post took off, and so he added it to his main Instagram feed, where people were quick to add their own comments to what they'd like to see, amongst insights and actions from Kwame himself.
"We need more Women, Black, Indigenous, First Nations & POC people in higher positions of power," he began. "Let’s change the unfair treatment of women in the industry." As triple j Hack investigated back in March - like they do every year - there's a mammoth gender gap in many facets of the music industry, and even if those are slowly closing in some areas, it's still evident elsewhere. Take the ARIA Awards for example, which had 35% female, trans or non-binary nominees, and two of the women that ended up winning (the only two females of colour, it's worth noting) - Sampa The Great and Kaiit - had their acceptance speeches cut out from the telecast in favour for advertising.
"Let’s put an end to the bro-code in this industry," he continues. "Why do labels here have women in the industry signing non-disclosure agreements keeping them away from speaking on the sexual assault they suffer from within the industry?
"I’m far from being perfect, throughout high school I said and did some things that were atrocious, I’m truly humbled, grateful & honoured to now be surrounded by people who challenge me, pushed for me to be better & held be accountable for all my foolish ways. I continue to educate myself every day and will continue to do right by anyone, regardless, race, gender, sex, religious beliefs. I am one with the people."
He makes another point about Indigenous musicians, and the way they're often categorised down further and emphasised in headlines. "lLt’s refrain from ‘Indigenous [insert genre here] why are those of that community becoming a sub-genre?" He asks, while HANDSOME - a musician we've talked about a fair few times over the years - provides a great example: "Why is First Nations music a category nomination in 'Best World Music' for the ARIA Awards?"
The floor then opens to others, who share some brilliant insight and responses in the comment section.
Kira Puru, someone who often does a lot of heavy-lifting in her efforts for inclusivity and diversity in the Australian music industry, breaks down changes she'd like to see as a performer and worker within the music space, saying she'd like to see "festivals dedicate entire stages to emerging acts or commit to booking emerging acts throughout the day instead of racking them at the start of the day as a gesture." Continuing, she says she'd love "a mandatory quota for local acts for every major local festival," on top of that - something that could prove incredibly beneficial to Australian musicians hurt by COVID's effect on touring, even when international borders re-open.
Continuing, Kira Puru also explains that she'd like to see "a body or hotline to report industry professionals who abuse/harass/bully/assault people to and the suspension of all known abusers from roles of authority," something reflected by comedian and ex-triple j host Gen Fricker. "Would love to see abusers and their enablers getting kicked tf out of the industry," she says. "Personally, I think it’s a combo of people wanting to protect their own interests/relationships and massively underestimating the intelligence of audiences."
As a musician often spotted on festival lineups (and, as we've found, often the only female musician of colour on these lineups), Kira Puru offers more insight into the festival world: "Cultural Inclusivity and Accessibility riders for every venue, major festival and industry event to support and protect BPOC and disabled folks in attendance," she says - much-needed considering the volume of racial and cultural bigotry often found within Australian festival crowds. "[Also] cultural sensitivity training and sexual harassment training for every single person working at major record labels, major festivals, key touring venues, radio and tv."
Meanwhile, triple j host Bridget Hustwaite offers insight based off trends she's seen in her time presenting throughout the last few years, and beyond that as a female in the music space. "More women and POC/black/indigenous people in power," she says. "Less prejudice toward artists and bands in pop because they have a strong female or queer following which is then deemed as illegitimate. Stop making women in music feel like they can’t have both career and baby or that they have an expiry date. More inclusive festival line ups. No more influencers at the ARIAS or people who actually makes a fuck all contribution to the Australian music landscape."
The list of suggestions go on. As an independent musician, Muki - someone who is sure to be amongst Australia's pop future - writes about the opportunities for independent artists like herself, and how signing to a major label is often seen as the path to success. "More opportunities for indie artists (who choose to not sign their life away to labels) on radio, festival line ups, DSPs [editor's note: DSPs = streaming music services, like Spotify and Apple Music]," she says. "I would also like to see more transparency at label. Are they giving everyone a fair chance? Or do they sign and dash just to fill a quota?"
Unearthed's Dave Ruby Howe plays into radio quotas - "Too many on the list but let’s start with protecting emerging artists from shonky deals and money-gauging sharks, and how about commercial radio back local artists and meet the 25% local quota they continually miss," he says - while R&B musician KAMALIZA dives further into streaming services, and monopolies in music: "More support from DSPs (Apple/Spotify/Youtube etc) for independent artists," he wishes. "I continue to see the bulk of support given to artists that have major label deals or major distribution. In some cases, these major label artists have been new with no prior material yet are getting plugged into 3-5 playlists whereas hard-working indies are lucky to get one."
There's a lot of brilliant comments on the entire post (which again, you can check out here). Consider it must-reading for everyone in the Australian music industry, or those just interested in the beast that powers their favourite acts.