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Youth Music fund aims to smash barriers to working in music industry

Youth Music has launched a campaign and a new £2 million Incubator Fund to pave the way for an alternative future for the ‘broken’ music industry and fix its ‘diversity deficit’. In its new report, A Blueprint for the Future, the national charity sets out a plan that is centred on cultivating the talent, energy, and passion of young people. It calls on the industry to follow suit to tackle longstanding inequalities in the music industry, brought into sharp focus by the Black Lives Matter movement and amplified by the coronavirus pandemic.
Over two years, the Incubator Fund, made possible by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, will offer grants of up to £30,000 to forward-thinking music industry employers to support the careers of people aged 18-25. The funding, which can be spent on wages and support, provides a tangible way for small, independent organisations in the music industry to thrive and collaborate with the next generation and the wider sector. The Incubator Fund also gives a lifeline to ambitious young creatives whom, along with creative industries, have been significantly hit by the pandemic.
A Blueprint for the Future report, published today, features the voices of 1,300 young people with plans to begin careers in the music industry. It showcases how, despite the overwhelming tenacity, determination, and entrepreneurial spirit in young people, current routes for them to move from education to employment are not fit for purpose. This further illustrates that the existing industry is seriously lacking in diversity, which is crucial to creativity and economic success. 
Addressing young people’s frustrations, it warns that two in three (66%) will be forced to forgo aspirations and take jobs in other sectors if they’re not able to break into music and sustain a financially viable career. Factors affecting whether young people get a foot in the door, gain meaningful experiences, and stay employed are gender, class, ethnicity, and geographical location. 
Key findings from A Blueprint for the Future include:
Women are less likely to be earning through music than men, and have less access to support to help them achieve success in the music industries
 Youth Music fund

  • People from lower income backgrounds are less likely to be earning through music, have fewer networking opportunities, and are less likely to have help or be mentored by people in the industry


  • People from Black, Asian, Mixed and Minority Ethnic ethnicities backgrounds are marginally more likely to be earning through music but gaining experience is harder, with less access to unpaid internships than people who are white 


  • Those in the South of England are more likely to be earning from music than the rest of England but, overall, people in England are more likely to be earning than those in Wales or Scotland 

With barriers often intersecting and issues magnified by the coronavirus lockdown, the report warns that thousands of young people are currently being driven out of the sector they love, or forced to go it alone outside the system. 
A Blueprint for the Future sets out a positive vision for change that’s centred on the power of cultivating young creatives across the music industry. Support of young people is said to be fundamental to avoid a narrow and homogenised pool of music professionals, and to ensure the industry is a thriving environment filled with diversity, creativity, and fresh ideas.
Matt Griffiths, CEO of Youth Music, said:
“The existing music industry model is broken and there’s a new one up for grabs. We must use the upheaval and challenges of 2020 as a springboard to hit reset on the music industry and fling open the doors. There’s never been a better time to map and follow a blueprint for the future and prioritise what’s truly important.”
In launching the Incubator Fund and A Blueprint for the Future, Youth Music is opening doors for a generation of ambitious music professionals. But with creative industries at risk in the wake of coronavirus, the charity is now calling for more to be done. 
Youth Music is urging the music industry to recognise the huge creative and commercial opportunities to be gained from nurturing talent, and to take responsibility for removing the barriers young people face. It is calling on music organisations, large and small, to take direct action to work with them towards a diverse and sustainable ecosystem by:

  • Reviewing and overhauling recruitment policies to promote diversity and inclusion
  • Reforming entry-level roles to ensure meaningful experiences, ending unpaid internships, and becoming a Living Wage Employer
  • Building long-term relationships with the music education sector and grassroots projects

Matt continued:
“For more than two decades, Youth Music has invested in music education projects nationwide supporting the next generation of young musicians. But time and time again, we’ve witnessed a stifling of young talent as career aspirations are cut short by unnecessary barriers and discrimination. 
“Music has always been a force for inclusion and revolution, helping us imagine a better future. This seminal moment presents us with a real opportunity to not only reflect but to act. We know there’s a deep desire for transformation across the grassroots of the music industries. By working together, individually and collectively, we can create the change that’s being loudly called for.”
Jamz Supernova, DJ and BBC Radio 1Xtra presenter, has shown her support for Youth Music’s campaign. She said:
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the kick-start experience of the BRIT School which is state funded. Out of college, I was on the Guardian Media scheme, I learnt my craft at Reprezent radio, and also did a paid internship at the BBC. These were invaluable boosters which helped me get closer to my dream.
“One of the things we don’t talk about enough across many industries is class and the lack of representation and accessibility. Community station Reprezent is a clear case of how an industry can be democratised. Through investing in young people, giving them access to equipment and a platform, they have created the next generation of exciting broadcasters and DJs. 
“We’re at an incredible time where real lasting change is on the horizon. Now is the time for the gatekeepers in the music industry to really act on what more they could be doing! Open more doors from grassroot positions right up to CEOs, invest time and capital in the next generation. Music is made for everyone so let’s make the industry a viable option for anyone.” 
Alexandra Ampofo (age 26), Founder of Women Connect & Acoustic Live and Promoter at Metropolis Music said:
“There are so many ways the music industry needs to change, from the representation of Black and Ethnic Minority groups, to transparency regarding how musicians actually get paid. I’ve seen so much talent cross my path and disappear due to a lack of education, resources and tangible opportunities. The inequalities of the industry have been highlighted, it’s now up to us to work towards an equitable space for everyone. Additional support for the next generation of music industry professionals and musicians, as part of the reform of the industry, should be paramount.”

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