Inclusion riders: Can they work in the Canadian music industry?

21 June 2018

The past year has seen an unprecedented amount of debate regarding sexism, racism and society's unbalanced power structures in general. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the entertainment industry has been singled out as a particularly egregious area of inequality and discrimination.

In her best actress Oscar acceptance speech, Frances McDormand declared that "we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed," and left the audience with two words to consider: "inclusion rider."

According to a press release from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, an inclusion rider is "an addendum to an actor/content creator's contract that stipulates that stories and storytellers should look like the world we actually live in – not a small fraction of the talent pool."

An inclusion rider would stipulate that characters in film should reflect the world in which we live, which includes 50 per cent gender parity, 40 per cent inclusion for people of colour, 5 per cent LGBTQ, and 20 per cent disabled.

The ability of inclusion riders to combat the equality crisis in film relies on A-list industry talent demanding change. A-listers with clout can make demands in their talent contracts, particularly those who work on the biggest projects. The concept of "riders" is perhaps most commonly associated with tour riders, where musicians specify their requirements for practicalities on tour such as security and insurance, and they may also demand certain luxuries during the tour.

Expanding on the traditional rider, A-list actors can add an equity clause or inclusion rider into their contract, which would stipulate that underrepresented or marginalized groups be represented on a project, both in front of and behind the camera. Were a studio to breach the rider by failing to make good-faith efforts to hire a cast and crew that reflects society's actual diversity, the actor's contract would be breached - which could have serious financial and reputational consequences for the studio.

At Canadian Music Week 2018, data was presented that demonstrates that inequality is also prevalent in the music industry. For instance, the majority of musicians at music festivals are male and white, few women hold technical positions in the industry and record producers are usually male. A call-to-action was issued to industry members to continue to address this issue and create large-scale systemic change.

In support of this movement, we question whether musicians can leverage their influence in order to demand change in the music industry - in the same way it was suggested actors can effect change in the movie industry.

In our view, inclusion riders can be employed by A-list musicians in this manner. Musical talent can negotiate clauses in their contracts with record labels, music publishers and touring companies that require diversity as a fundamental pillar of their projects; for example, this could include a requirement that the key personnel who work on these projects reasonably reflect the diversity of the world in which we live.

However, inclusion riders should not be the only tool used in the music industry to precipitate diversity and equity changes. To this point, we note the important contributions from Keychange - an organization that has obtained commitments from at least 85 global music festivals, including 10 Canadian festivals - to achieve gender parity by 2022.

By demanding diversity and equity through inclusion riders and other means, musicians and other key players can wield their wattage to change the traditional structures of power within the music industry - which we expect will lead to a more tolerant, creative, and profitable space for all. 

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