Kwame leads discussion calling for changes in the Australian music industry
Yesterday, October 6th, Sydney’s Kwame took to social media to ask a very important question: If you could change one thing about the Australian music industry, what would it be? First asking the questions in his Instagram Story before shifting it to a post in his feed to facilitate greater discussion, Kwame asked the question after sharing thoughts about how to change the imbalance of power seen all over the industry, which lies mostly with straight, white, old men. Asking how do we get this to change and how do we get more women, more First Nations people, more people of colour, and more diversity across the board into positions of power, whether he realised he was about to or not, what followed was a vital, timely and important discussion in his post.
With many people generously providing multiple suggestions about what they believe should change, industry figures like the incredible Kira Puru, triple j’s Bridget Hustwaite and Dave Ruby Howe, and many others all contributed to the post, as well as Kwame himself.
“We need more Women, Black, Indigenous, First Nations & POC people in higher positions of power,” Kwame wrote. “Let’s change the unfair treatment of women in the industry,” he also commented, before asking, “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?”
Going one step further, Kwame also shared acceptance of his own behaviour in his past, writing, “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 everyday and will continue to do right by anyone, regardless, race, gender, sex, religious beliefs. I am one with the people.”
Elsewhere, Kira Puru shared a few changes she’d like to see implemented, including “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,” and, “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,” among many others. Puru‘s comments alone could serve as a roadmap to a better, safer and more inclusive industry for all, which comes as no surprise given her consistent heavy lifting in calling out the many ways the industry repeatedly fails many of its members.
Bridget Hustwaite, host of triple j’s Good Nights, offered her own insights, saying she’d want to see “More women and POC/black/indigenous people in power. 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 lol she doesn’t even go hereeeeeee.”
Further into the post, comments can be found from triple j Unearthed‘s Dave Ruby Howe calling for “protecting emerging artists from shonky deals and money-gauging sharks,” and for commercial radio to increase support for domestic artists, HANDSOME calling for artists becoming “THE tastemakers rather than relying on gatekeepers telling us who will lead the way,” Muki discussing the need for “more opportunities for indie artists (who choose to not sign their life away to labels) on radio, festival line ups, DSPs,” and Kamaliza proposing “more support from DSPs (Apple/Spotify/Youtube etc) for independent artists,” among many other suggestions.
In what wasn’t a planned post or discussion, Kwame‘s actions saw a coming together of many different elements and facets of the greater Australian music industry, proving that while many, many discussions happen about how we all need to “do better,” change is still absolutely required. In the aftermath of the global Black Out Tuesday in which the music industry paused to reflect on how to better support its artists of colour, and as we as an industry remain very much still in the dark as to how to navigate the impacts of COVID-19, this post is very timely and necessary indeed. Here’s hoping those who actually need to read it do so, soon.
Words by Emma Jones
Image: Zain Ayub