Why Are The #BritsSoWhite?

While all eyes have been on the Oscar nominations with eyebrows raised and Twitter fingers on the trigger with yet another year of nomination snubs leading to the trending , the 2016 Brit Award nominations might have slipped under the radar and gone unnoticed for it’s all-white list of nominees.

While the lack of diversity in Hollywood has spurred the launch of a new initiative A2020, the current Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs reacting to this years Oscar nominations in Deadline, simply said “We have got to speed it up.”

For a year that’s been dominated globally by a continuing media infactuation with all things Drake, Kendrick and Kanye, the recognition for British “Urban” acts has been nothing short of underwhelming – and we’ll be getting into that ‘word’ a little later. For now we need to really dig into why there’s such a widening disconnect between non-white artists and The British Music Industry. This year only 1 non-white British nominee has been listed – Naughty Boy (and yes I’m not counting Little Mix), with the remaining nominations for non-white artists in the International Male Solo category for Drake, Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd and The Best International Group for Major Lazer.

The question remains then, are there no non-white artists releasing music in the U.K in 2015 that stack up against the numbers or the quality of the other white nominees? Looking back at the Mobo Awards in 2015, the nominations list ended up having to incorporate a range of unsigned British artists releasing music independently, in order to give a truer reflection of ‘music of black origin’ in the U.K. So if the criteria for the Mobo’s isn’t about having a studio album release, the chart numbers or a major label deal – do the Brits still reflect the true nature of the British Industry?

While some industry bodies may continue to insist there are no diversity issues in the Music Industry, looking at the 2016 Brit Award nominations we need to examine where the disconnect is taking place. While the Mobo Awards has gone into it’s 25th year, should we be asking what the picture would look like if there were no MOBO Awards?

With artists like WSTRN and Stormzy certified silver with their chart singles; Krept and Konan debuting at No.2 in the U.K Album charts; JME independently releasing ‘Integrity’ and charting the album at 12, and the Section Boyz hitting the top 40 with their debut and no label – are we simply reaching or is there a #problem?

Looking back at the Top 40 biggest albums of 2015, there were no British non-white artists whose albums charted in the Top 40, the most streamed songs of 2015 reveals 25% of the singles are from non-white artists all of whom are international and this is mirrored in the Top 40 biggest singles of the 2015. Stormzy may have proved that he can chart a single top 10 with the power of his fanbase and without radio support – but what is it going to take to really break the ceiling? 2009 may have been hailed as a breakthrough year for British Grime, but looking back how far did we really break through?

Performing arts businesses cannot be said to be ethnically diverse

According to the Creative Federation diversity report in 2015, “while only 6% of the sector from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, performing arts businesses cannot be said to be ethnically diverse.” The issues are not only on the ‘front end’ of the industry but also behind the scenes and that’s not about an A&R issue. Executives up and down the chain as well as across the sector need to reflect and consider if non-white British artists are receiving the same support and exposure on radio and tv across the board. It’s not enough to hide behind U.S international artists to claim diversity, without nurturing homegrown talent. This takes the conversation right back to a David Bowie interview with MTV which has re-emerged recently, where he questions the channel on its lack of support for Black artists.

British festival turnouts and sold out gigs like Skepta and JME headlining the Brixton Academy have proved in the last year that there is an insatiable appetite for these artists from British fans.

So what more will it take to ‘speed it up’ and get diversity on the table – seriously? If the only lasting image of seeing British Grime artists on the Brit Awards stage is behind Kanye West, then we remain in a dire state of affairs.