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Harbourside Artist Management launches Disability Empowerment Programme

By | Published on Tuesday 11 January 2022

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Bristol-based artist management company Harbourside is launching a new initiative aimed at increasing disabled representation in the music industry.

With support from Youth Music, the Disability Empowerment Programme will see Harbourside recruit a young music manager with a disability, long-term health condition or neurodiversity into a paid internship position. The company says the manager will then work with “a selected band or artist who identifies as the same”, with both manager and artist fully supported by the Harbourside team, plus funding is in place for an EP release and accompanying marketing campaign.

The new programme follows a survey undertaken by Harbourside last year of almost 150 music industry people who identify as having a disability or long-term health condition.

In that survey, 71% said their impairment or condition is non-visible and, of those people, 88% revealed they ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ disclose the impairment or condition to those who they work with, often because of concerns that doing so will impact on their careers. 69% of that subset admitted that choosing to not disclose their impairment or condition had put their health and safety at risk.

The Harbourside study also considered previous Arts Council research that found that only 1.8% of music industry professionals identify as having a disability, compared to the UK population average of 18%. Of those surveyed by the management company, 90% agreed that the lack of visibly disabled people in the music industry contributed to under-representation in the sector.

79% said a lack of opportunities at a youth level were also a factor, while 73% cited the music industry’s reputation for demanding long working hours from its employees, and possibly not providing the flexibility required by disabled workers.

Harbourside’s Ben Price hopes initiatives like the Disability Empowerment Programme can help address the issues identified by the Arts Council and his own study. “We identified a problem in our consultation last year”, he says, “now we’re doing our bit to try and solve it. It won’t be a short journey, but the Disability Empowerment Programme will hopefully help to improve the number of disabled people working in the industry both on stage and behind the scenes”.

“I have spoken to so many people who see the music industry as an inaccessible place for them to work”, he adds. “We want to change that perception and show that there can be opportunities if employers are willing to make reasonable adjustments to improve accessibility in the workplace”.

Details of how to get involved in the programme are available on the Harbourside website – info for the management intern opportunity here, and info for the artist opportunity here.