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FEMALE ARTISTS ADDRESS RACIAL ISSUES IN U.K. BIZ

Four black British female artists—Nadia RoseRay BLKAlexandra Burke and Misha B—have spoken out about experiencing unequal opportunity, racist remarks and mistreatment in the music industry in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement protests.

Rose—who was once signed to Sony label Relentless and has since launched her own imprint—said that as a black artist, she has felt marginalized. Speaking on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch program last week, Rose said: “My situation at Sony wasn’t the best. I feel like we were constantly bumping heads. I didn’t feel very understood in that infrastructure.

“I feel like my white, especially male, counterparts were favored a lot of the time in that building. There were hardly any black employees there and it’s like if they see you’re a black artist, they are going to put you with the black A&R.

"But if [that A&R] is already dealing with two other black artists, they are just going to be like, ‘Oh the workload is too much for me,’ but they don’t want to give you to anyone else. To me, it felt very poisonous. It wasn’t good for my mental health. I wasn’t releasing the music I wanted to release and it was just a very uncomfortable time.”

Island signing Ray BLK noted the existence of institutionalized racism and “consistent reinforcing of European standards of beauty” as the reason why she is one of very few notable black British females in the music industry. In an editorial for Music Week, she explained: “British racism, for the most part, is covert. Black people have been saying there’s colorism in the industry and nothing has changed.

“It’s not the fact that there aren’t black or dark-skinned women available or talented enough, I meet them all the time. It’s just that record labels, publishing companies and festival bookers don’t think they deserve attention.

“In this music industry, a lot of people listen to music with their eyes instead of their ears. If they feel like your look is not palatable with the general public or the majority, that being white, they don’t want to give you a chance.”

Burke, who won The X Factor in 2008 and went on to sign with Syco, weighed in on the debate via a video on Instagram posted on Friday. She said that after winning the show, she was told by a label exec who promised to sign her that he could no longer take her on because "I already have one black artist, I don't need another." She’s also been told, “‘You can’t have braids, you can’t have an afro, you have to have hair that appeals to white people so white people can understand you better.’

“I got told to bleach my skin. That was something I refused to do because it’s absurd to me someone can say to someone, ‘Bleach your skin so you can look whiter.’ Still, to this moment, it breaks my heart.”

Another X Factor contestant, Misha B, said she’s been the victim of racial stereotyping after being branded as a bully on the show and in the media. Speaking on Instagram, she said the show "created this narrative of me being over-confident because I'm black.” She added: "I know that I'm not the only one who has heard those words - feisty, mean. These are common words people use to describe black women. I was aware that they were going to throw this angry black girl narrative at me.”

In 2018, BAME (black, Asian, minority ethnic) workers represented 17.8% of the British music industry, according to a report from UK Music. While that’s higher than the 12.8% total representation for the U.K. population as a whole, it’s significantly lower than the 30% of BAME individuals who make up the workforce in London and the South East, which is where the majority of the music industry is based. 

 

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