Grime stars face ‘persistent discrimination’ by live music venues, MPs warn

Grime artists face persistent discrimination by music venues, police and local councils over unfounded fears of violence at live events, MPs have warned.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee uncovered evidence of “persisting prejudice” against grime and urban music artists, “risking the future of one of the UK’s most exciting musical exports.”

Drill fear

The warning follows reports linking the aggressive rap music genre drill, with a wave of gun and knife violence in London.

Last year, a judge issued a court order banning five drill rappers from recording new tracks without police permission.

The MPs found that grime MCs were being “unfairly targeted” by the Metropolitan Police through a controversial risk assessment form, called 696, which asked if “a particular ethnic group” was likely to attend a show.

The form, which effectively shut down grime events in the capital for a decade, was abolished in 2017.

‘institutionalised racism’

One witness told the Committee that “institutionalised racism” continues to exist. Local councils are “failing to support urban music, with venues demonstrating unfounded concerns over licensing.”

Rapper Dave has the UK's number one album
Rapper Dave has the UK’s number one album (Official Charts Company)

Hip Hop artist ShaoDow cited a club cancelling a gig at short notice when it discovered his style of music over concerns it would lose its licence if the performance went ahead.

Other rappers had faced similar experiences.

Grime under attack

Rapper Giggs was forced to cancel shows due to form 696, which required music venues to obtain the criminal backgrounds of artists who performed at their establishments. Until 2009 it also required them to declare the ethnicity of their expected audience.

South London rap duo Skengdo x AM were convicted of breaching an injunction that banned them from performing drill tracks that named particular places, events or people, or that could be understood as distressing or violent. The pair were sentenced to nine months in jail, suspended for two years, in January.

In May 2018 thirty music videos were removed by YouTube at the request of the Metropolitan Police. One of the groups affected, 1011, were hit with an injunction that meant they had to obtain police permission before recording new music.

The Wireless rap and urban music festival, headlined by Stormzy last year, was granted permission to return to its north London venue, on the strict condition that performers do not swear or “play obscene songs.”

The Committee called for cross-departmental action by Government to develop guidance for licensing authorities, police forces and music venues on risk management to ensure that urban music acts are not unfairly targeted.

‘shocking prejudice’

Damian Collins MP, Committee chair, said: “It’s shocking to hear that grime artists are continuing to face prejudice, which risks hampering the success of one of our most successful musical exports.”

The call comes as rapper Dave demonstrated the resurgence in Britain’s urban scene, topping the album charts with his debut Psychodrama, racking up 23m streams, a UK grime record.

Viagogo boycott call

The report into the UK’s Live Music industry took the unusual step of advising the public “not to buy or sell tickets” through the controversial resale site, Viagogo, “until it complies fully with consumer law.”

Already subject to an enforcement order by the competition authorities over its listings, Viagogo’s “misleading sales practices” had “caused distress for too many music fans for too long,” MPs said.

Google has also “repeatedly allowed tickets to be sold in breach of UK consumer protection law,” they warned.

The report called for business rates relief to help struggling grass roots live music venues, facing closure.

“Urgent action is needed if the live music industry is to continue to make a significant contribution to both the economy and cultural life of the country,” said Mr Collins.



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