According to Neilsen’s 2018 report on live music, more than half of all Americans attend some form of live music performance every year. With the rise of music festivals, independent street fairs, and even simply your neighborhood watering hole, venues are drawing more diverse patrons than ever before. Thankfully, even in pandemic times, live music has made its comeback and audiences are eager to get back to the show. With audiences growing and diverse listening on the rise, it behooves venues to consider how their spaces may or may not be fostering inclusion.
Here are four things your music venue can do to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment.
1. Have these conversations now--do not wait for a problem to arise.
A lot of music venues will invite artists with diverse talent, political messages, and fanbases that share similar values. However, many owners and venue managers wait for a conflict to happen before proactively broaching topics like gender neutral bathroom access, ID or vaccination entry policies, diverse cultural awareness, or sexual harassment. These topics can be challenging but they do not have to be impossible (or boring) to address! Experts like Better World Collaborative are here to provide recommendations and even facilitate conversations or workshops that can tackle these topics head-on.
2. Learn more about your audiences.
We live in the age of never ending access to music, artists, personalities, and audiences that are ready to consume complex and diverse sounds. Hip-hop venues can no longer afford to book only hip-hop artists and rock venues can no longer afford to just book rock artists. The modern music fan has a wider range of taste in styles and genres than ever before. According to a survey from Vice Magazine, 78% of young people reported that they could not be defined by one genre of music they listened to. With a wide range in diversity of styles we can’t assume the gender, race, ethnicity, ability, and other identities of listeners. As a venue, making assumptions not only means that you may be unknowingly creating an unwelcoming space for artists and patrons alike, you might also be missing out on new patrons and talent!
3. Solicit feedback from staff, patrons, and stakeholders.
Just like many venues wait until a conflict arises to create solutions, they also wait to ask for feedback. You may be thinking, ‘No one has said anything and I am confident I would have heard about it.’ While it may be true that if a major incident took place, you may eventually hear about it (especially as an owner or manager) but more often than not inequity, mistreatment, and harassment go unreported until they have metastasized. An easy way to avoid a smaller problem evolving into a full blown crisis, is facing the conversation head on. Companies like BWC can facilitate private and confidential interviews with your venue staff to gather information on company culture, values, and get the “real feel” of everyday operations. Opening the door for this type of dialogue sends a strong values message to your workforce and demonstrates your commitment to a supportive workplace.
4. Book diverse talent!
This might be the lowest hanging fruit and possibly the most obvious approach to inclusion. LGBTQ, BIPOC, and female talent face some of the biggest challenges breaking into a particular musical field, let alone getting booked. Even after they trudged through all the initial barriers, finding an affirming place to perform can be like a needle in a haystack. Venues have told us, “well no one reaches out, so how am I supposed to book them?” It’s simple. Do your homework and step outside your comfort zone. Diverse artists work hard to get their music out there but a smart talent buyer can work within the venue to diversify their rosters and find blind spots. Oftentimes, this can be as simple as reaching out to artists you already collaborate with and asking for recommendations or supporting live events in communities you have yet to reach. Booking talent that is diverse is a good step but making long-lasting and meaningful connections with the communities they belong to is even more critical. Venues (especially independent ones) often serve as community centers for many for many diverse communities--intentionality and connection should be front and center.
Whatever type of entertainment your venue offers, in 2021 we know that our diverse world is only getting more diverse and so are our venues and performers. We have an opportunity to get ahead of these conversations and create more equitable spaces--These are just four ways we can start!
Ready to learn more?
Contact Better World Collaborative today to schedule an introductory phone call, and learn how your venue can do more to support diverse communities.