Canadian Musician - May / June 2018 - Page 9

FIRST TAKE More Inclusion, More Opportunity, MORE MUSIC By Andrew King, Editor-in-Chief A post by an industry acquain- tance – and especially a few of the replies beneath it – caught my attention a few weeks ago. The post read that she, per- sonally, would no longer be supporting shows without diversity inclusion (mean- ing bills without a single female-identified or visible minority musician in any of the participating acts). That was it. Some of the comments it spawned were … disappointing, to say the least. Unsurpris- ing if you’ve ever used the internet before, but disappointing nonetheless. To be clear, we’re not talking about any- thing to do with the law, government, or even private business. This was one person sharing an autonomous decision on a per- sonal social media profile about where and how they choose to spend their money. What started as someone wanting to take a small but notable course of action to set an example and, trivial as it might seem to some, spur some positive change in their local scene quickly turned into debates ranging from an artist fearing losing a po- tential show for not being “diverse enough” to accusations of her attitude being “elit- ist,” “reductionist,” and “racist” to, of course, someone lobbing the clichéd “snowflake” insult. Maybe most concerning in my opinion, though, was one user who posted the top 10 international singles at the time along W W W. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N . CO M with the various performers’ (perceived) ethnicities to make the point that “white men, technically … are GROSSLY UNDER REPRESENTED” on the chart, and basically, that the original post was foolishly looking to address an issue that doesn’t exist. Typically, identifying a social issue is easy – in this case, that opportunities (and support and encouragement) for certain groups of people to make and perform music are, for reasons usually more sys- temic than individual, often limited. Find- ing ways to address said issues at various levels – personal, communal, national, etc. – is inevitably and vastly more challenging. I’m of the opinion that equality is not oppression, and thus working towards equality in good faith shouldn’t be consid- ered oppressive. I do see how someone potentially being denied a performance opportunity at no fault of their own, as some would consider a result of the widespread adoption of the original post’s intent, could feel they them- selves had been treated unfairly. I also see how promoters looking to maximize their ticket sales would book acts purely on draw and popularity, and how based on the demographics of their market and related factors, that would in- evitably skew white and male in many cases here in Canada. But then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. How will we ever shake the status quo and encourage members of underrepresented groups to make music and get in front of people to perform it if they’re not seeing people who look like or identify with them under a spotlight? Opportunity breeds opportunity, and ensuring people feel welcome and encour- aged to participate in any given space or creative pursuit is sure to inject new ideas and influences into it to the benefit of all involved. How we go about doing that is up to us and up for debate. I’d like to think it’s one we’re all open to having. Like some of the other commenters from the original post, I agree that we can and should aspire to be a society where such decisions and actions aren’t necessary – that we are truly all treated equally under the law, our social structures, and most importantly, by one another. But in fact, we’re nowhere close to that. And so we’re left to try and make a dif- ference on a micro level – to be the change we want to see. Sure, we should be open to questions and maybe even criticism about such choices in hopes of gaining more support to move those needles harder and faster, but the bottom line is we’re not going to make any progress on fixing – or maybe entirely rebooting – any flawed sys- tems without acknowledging them, sharing ideas, and trying things out. Regardless of one’s personal attitudes or political affiliations or general world views, the idea of engaging in thoughtful debate about whether certain issues exist and how we go about addressing them should be one that’s welcome across the board. In- creasingly, though, amidst this remarkably divisive time, what could be opportunities for discussion and learning and collabora- tion become opportunities to hurl insults and burn bridges. I encourage and support my industry peer in her decision, even though it’s not a hard line I’ll draw myself. Those are my choices. I have, however, found other ways to try and encourage people to be cogni- zant of the realities of our industry, what contributes to those realities, and how our choices and actions fit into that. If we truly love music and the industry that supports it – our industry – we should welcome the thought of more people tak- ing part and adding their voices to the mix. Making sure that happens is on us, and ide- ally, always up for thoughtful and respectful discussion, whether that’s on Facebook, at our various conferences and gatherings, or out in our respective scenes. CANADIAN MUSICIAN • 9