On announcing changes to their award categories in late 2021, The BRITs said a move to gender neutral best artist awards was intended to celebrate artists “solely for their music and work, rather than how they choose to identify or as others may see them, as part of The BRITs’ commitment to evolving the show to be as inclusive and as relevant as possible.” However, 2023 shortlists reveal a visible lack of diversity in big categories such as Best Artist (UK).
Renewed calls for R&B to be given its own category
Furthermore, the Best Pop/R&B category has come under fire for lacking R&B artists, partly caused by grouping these already broad genres under one award. This is also a diversity issue given the historically Black roots of R&B as a genre and it has led to renewed calls from R&B artists for the genre to be given its own category.
The issue has been linked with broader conversations about diversity within industry and awards, with regards to recognition and celebration of Black British artists working in genres of Black origin. Artists and fans have argued that there are enough British R&B/hip-hop acts for it to have its own award.
Lack of gender diversity shows structural inequalities in the industry
On the gender issue, The BRITs put it down to eligibility, arguing that there were less eligible women and non-binary artists available to shortlist from, and it has elsewhere been noted that the voting panel itself was gender balanced.
This evidences how the industry is not a level playing field for women and non-binary artists, and that education and career development stages are crucial in generating a more diverse pool of eligible artists for these awards. The lack of eligible women and non-binary artists this year only shows that there are structural inequalities in how the industry supports and nurtures artists.
We need more action to ensure genuine diversity from the talent pipeline
Naomi Pohl, General Secretary of the MU said:
“The industry is still very much skewed and lacking in diversity as the BRITs shortlists highlight. In order for the industry to be truly diverse, we have to tackle a range of issues from harassment to safety for gender minorities, to unconscious bias, racism and ableism.
“As long as positions of power in the industry are occupied primarily by white men, we will continue to see a lack of opportunities for anyone who doesn’t fit that profile.
“While I’m sure the intention behind the gender-neutral award categories was positive, sadly it was too soon. We need more positive action in order to ensure genuine diversity from the talent pipeline, including schools and music colleges, up to award-winning featured artists.”