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Black Music: Locked out of the Mainstream with Keith Harris OBE

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The third in a series of inspirational talks uncovering the stories behind how people in the music industry have overcome their biggest challenges, and what can be done to recover, respond and rebuild after a crisis.

During this online in-conversation, influential artist manager Keith Harris OBE will discuss the challenges faced by black artists and their managers in the 80s, and how he found alternatives to the mainstream routes to market.

Who it’s for

As part of our work to address both the gender gap and the regional divide within the music industry, this session is aimed at:

  • Early and mid-career music industry professionals – this can range from independent self-leaders to employees of small, medium and large companies
  • Women and gender minorities
  • People based in or from the North of England

Session overview

Keith has worked in the music industry for over 40 years as a promotions manager, and is one of the best known artist managers in the UK and one of the most high profile black executives in the business, having represented artists including Stevie Wonder, Junior Giscombe, Omar, the late Lynden David Hall and more.

In the 1980s Keith worked with many black artists who confronted huge barriers that limited their ability to fulfil their career potential. For example artists who had number 1 records in the USA but couldn’t get played on UK radio, and the entrepreneurs who were forced to operate a parallel “black music industry economy” of pirate radio, shops and events outside the mainstream industry structures. 

In conversation with Remi Harris MBE, Keith will discuss:

  • Examples of the external barriers that black artists and industry operators faced at that time and what they did about them 
  • How the black music industry economy operated and the challenges of that for people looking to establish a sustainable business
  • Why the current ‘grime generation’ of black british artists (the children and grandchildren of that earlier generation) have been able to use technology and entrepreneurship to break apart the barriers

The discussion will be followed by an opportunity for you to ask questions.

Practical info

We’ll be using online video software Zoom, so please ensure you have downloaded the app on a desktop or mobile ahead of the session. We will email you a link to the meeting room closer to the date.

We’re committed to supporting and meeting the needs of people with learning difficulties or disabilities. Please let us know if there is any additional assistance we can provide to help you access this session.

If you have any questions please contact us by emailing info@brightersound.com

About the speakers

Click on the photos to read more about each speaker…

Brighter Sound’s Leadership Programme is one of 18 projects nationally to receive investment through the Arts Council’s Transforming Leadership fund, a £7.1million investment into leadership development to ensure that cultural leaders are appropriately skilled and diverse.