The music industry needs to do a lot more to support LGBTQ+ artists like me - Mica Sefia

The music industry still has a long way to go when it comes to supporting upcoming LGBTQ+ artists like me. Over a third of LGBTQ+ musicians have experienced or witnessed discrimination based on sexuality at work, yet only 27 per cent of those reported it.

These are just some of the worrying stats in the Musicians’ Union’s (MU) LGBTQ+ Musicians Insight report, supported by the charity Help Musicians and record label, Come Play With Me (CPWM). But it doesn’t have to be this way.

With Pride celebrations taking place in Leeds and beyond later this month, LGBTQ+ issues are on everyone’s lips. However, lip service alone is not enough. Although there has been some progress in the industry, organisations should continue to look at how they can become better allies. It’s an important topic, and while many music venues and employers have policies in place to ensure this in theory, the experience of many LGBTQ+ musicians can tell a different story. There seems, at times, to be a clear gap between industry diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) design and delivery.

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Music is a big passion of mine – I live and breathe it. I’m not only a singer – I work at Leeds Conservatoire and as an Ambassador for Black Lives in Music. My roles mean I’m well embedded in the industry, seeing it and its issues from various angles. Music has been a major way of discovering who I am and gaining a sense of community. So, I’ll always find a way to perform; it’s where I’m happiest.

Mica Sefia is an independent music artist based in Leeds. PIC: Emilly ObengMica Sefia is an independent music artist based in Leeds. PIC: Emilly Obeng
Mica Sefia is an independent music artist based in Leeds. PIC: Emilly Obeng

However, the barriers LGBTQ+ artists face are enough for many to want to quit altogether. With more than two-fifths, 43 per cent, of LGBTQ+ musicians reporting poor mental well-being and 30 per cent reporting poor physical well-being, can you blame them? And with each person who quits, we somehow lose amazing talent with something to offer the industry. This is not on. Everyone who navigates the industry deserves to feel like they belong and deserve to be nurtured so they can succeed.

It's not all bleak since many players within the sector are fighting for an inclusive, fairer industry. CPWM comes to mind as an organisation always looking for new ways to support and nurture talent. The MU’s LGBTQ+ Member Network is another good example; it creates a space where artists in the community can connect and advocate for change. Mentoring and networking events are so important as an up-and-coming queer artist; every connection means something, and just one can change your career trajectory. CPWM, jointly with the MU, have created a recommendation list of 12 ways music venues and organisations can become more inclusive for LGBTQ+ musicians.

‘Inclusive’ is the key word here since diversity itself is not enough. Once LGBTQ+ artists are within spaces that they’re invited to, they will only feel properly welcomed and safe if work has been done to make a venue inclusive.

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Particularly for people like me, who have an intersection of identities, we don’t want to feel like an afterthought in your DEI policies. Some ways to avoid doing so include: collecting and monitoring diversity data, implementing inclusive language principles and investing in coaching and mentoring opportunities for LGBTQ+ musicians. These should have a specific focus on trans musicians, who the data shows are more vulnerable.

This Pride, I would urge venues and other music organisations to educate themselves and take the necessary steps needed to ensure the inclusivity claimed on paper translates into the lives of artists in the LGBTQ+ community.

Mica Sefia is an independent music artist based in Leeds.

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