Diversity vs Inclusion: The Music Industry



We will be discussing the future of diversity in the electronic music industry with a leading panel at Brighton Music Conference. In the build up it felt right to share some thoughts and explore how this complex issue could be tackled.

The changing role of brands

Large corporations are constantly addressing their policies and processes but the problem spans all industries and music is no different. The past year has seen the diversity conversation reach new heights and now brands like Smirnoff are taking a stand and using their budgets to ensure they aren?t ignoring the problem.

“Diversity in the electronic music community has been a topic of discussion within the industry, and a passion of SMIRNOFF for quite some time,” said Justin Medcraft, SMIRNOFF Global Senior Brand Manager. “It’s quite astonishing to us that last year only 10% of electronic music headliners were women. When you look at other communities such as the African American community and the LGBTQ community, you find a similar lack of representation throughout the industry. That needs to change and we hope to put forth acts that do so this year and moving forward.”

Smirnoff Sound Collective is a great example of a brand noticing a real problem in society and using their position to make a difference. It?s the perfect blend between CSR and marketing.

Diversity vs Inclusiveness

In broad terms, diversity is any dimension that can be used to differentiate groups and people from one another. It means respect for and appreciation of differences in ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, education, and religion.

Inclusion is a state of being valued, respected and supported. It?s about focusing on the needs of every individual and ensuring the right conditions are in place for each person to achieve his or her full potential. Inclusion should be reflected in an organisation?s culture, practices and relationships that are in place to support a diverse workforce. In simple terms, diversity is the mix; inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

Intersectionality: Diversity isn’t as simple as race, gender or age

Intersectionality is a term that was coined by American professor Kimberl? Crenshaw in 1989.

The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.

These pillars all need to be addressed as we collectively tackle the issue.

Race, Sexuality & Gender: electronic music has always been a very inclusive culture but recently the rise of EDM and the general commercialisation of the scene has caused a wide-spread issue of inequality around race, sexuality and gender. These 3 are the primary focus for most diversity conversations and rightly so.

Age: Another important factor to creating a more balanced music scene is based around age, specifically involving younger people in the process and giving them an opportunity to learn and grow from an early age. We?re helping the Association for Electronic Music on their Education policy which is aimed at ensuring the next generation get the support they need as early as possible.

Ability: mental and physical disabilities are usually ignored when discussing the idea of diversity however this lack of representation means our music scenes can?t be enjoyed by everyone. Forward thinking clubs find ways to ensure anyone in a wheelchair can also appreciate the dance-floor but it?s not just the physical spaces that need to evolve.

Music production also has a big problem, specifically how accessible it is for anyone with physical or mental disabilities. We?re constantly looking at new ways to make music accessible and one amazing example was the Giant 303 we setup at Junction 2 Festival. It showed how important it is to create ergonomic products that can be enjoyed by everyone and we believe music tech companies have to also start thinking about their role in this.


We spoke to the Association for Electronic Music to hear their thoughts on the topic.

What can we do to promote diversity and inclusiveness in the industry?

From festival line-ups to safe spaces in clubs, panel speaker choices to choices made by employers in Electronic Music, AFEM seeks to ensure that diversity is taken seriously and all aspects of our scene & industry are inclusive, safe, progressive and respectful.

So far AFEM?s approach has been to raise awareness on this theme via panels & sharing relevant articles and messaging on social media.

However, this year we are gearing up to activate a specific ?Inclusion & Diversity? working group for AFEM members, chaired by Maria May from CAA, which will look at creative ways to effectively promote an open and inclusive mindset.

What roles do brands play in promoting diversity?

Brands have a significant role in this since their marketing & messaging often have extensive reach. A simple example – if more DJ tech marketing campaigns featured images of female tech users, this could be a progressive step.

A grassroots movement

Over the next few weeks we will be discussing other aspects around diversity/inclusiveness; building our knowledge and sharing what we?ve learnt about it. We?ve realised the best way to solve this problem is to work together, learning from those who are trying to make a positive change in order to avoid unfortunate cliches and pitfalls.