Ivors Academy CEO Graham Davies has spoken to Headliner ahead of next week’s Ivors Awards about the work the organisation has been doing over the past 18 months and its ongoing drive for diversity and fair payment for artists.
Since a major rebrand and strategic refocus over two years ago, which saw BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) and its awards – the Ivor Novello Awards – come under the Ivors Academy umbrella, the organisation has redoubled its efforts to support its membership of creators.
From closing the gender and ethnicity pay gap, to ensuring the amount of lost or misallocated royalties (estimated to be in the region of half a billion pounds) find their correct home, the Ivors Academy has been busier than ever.
Now, just days away from the return of its in-person awards bash (September 21) after an all-digital affair last year, Davies reflects on what has been one of the most challenging periods in its history, as well as the positive steps that have been taken to ensure the organisation is more effective in its work than ever before…
How has the Ivors Academy been coping with the pandemic?
It’s been an interesting journey. When the pandemic hit, we were coming into the second year of our new strategy with our new brand and lots of growth and ideas, but we’re a small team and the pandemic has been a unique situation for us.
As a small organisation that relies heavily on doing live events – particularly the awards taking place next week, which we’re very excited about – to have a major disruption to those things causes major upheaval for us.
Our members were hit massively by the pandemic, so we were facing big challenges, but I’m incredibly proud of the response. It has been the making of the organisation and is giving us some very strong momentum coming out of the pandemic.
We went to remote working within the organisation, but we hadn’t been using Zoom to interact with our members before the pandemic. So doing that has been fantastic. Our members are much more engaged in terms of geography but also fitting into people’s day.
Our community of members have busy lives, even with the pandemic, so to be able to jump onto calls with them has been a great thing and will be the future for us.
The key thing was considering whether to scale back and look at furlough and perhaps take a safer line, or to jump forward and say this is a moment when our community needs us more than ever, in terms of supporting musicians and lobbying government. It’s been a tough time but great to see that we’re making some positive steps forward.
You mentioned that it’s been a couple of years since the Ivors rebrand. What impact has that had on the organisation’s work?
I joined what was BASCA (British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors) around three years ago and BASCA as a trade association had existed for 75 years, and was a very honourable organisation. It was very much the campaigning arm, and then we had the Ivor Novello Awards as quite a separate thing.
When I joined, we had just had elections for a new board. So, we sat down and said ‘what are we doing and where is this going’? The heart of it all is to bring the community of songwriters and composers together, to raise their voice and improve the situation for them.
We were also seeing how the industry was changing, with streaming opening up lots of different models. There was lots to be done but what we were worried about was that lots of people didn’t know who BASCA were. And you want to use your biggest assets to make as much impact as possible.
So while BASCA wasn’t that well known, the Ivors was very well known within the industry, and exceptionally well loved. So for me it was an obvious thing to bring everything together under the Ivors banner. We have seen significant increases in our reach and impact, and the plan and strategy is to keep going and increase beyond that community in the music industry and extend into the public domain.
The other thing that the rebrand was about was modernisation for the organisation. Our membership has not been where we wanted it for a long time, so we want to increase members in the organisation and to update the brand, the image and who we are about.
We’ve done a lot of work around diversity and inclusion, not just in terms of the social justice aspects of ensuring the industry is fit for purpose, but also us as an organisation. We have to start with ourselves and make sure we are as inclusive as possible. And there’s been a lot of work we needed to do there.
It’s been a really positive period; the whole organisation has really responded to this modernisation initiative. We have gender parity on the board for the first time in 75 years, we have significantly increased our ethnicity and disability representation, we have an LGBTQI+ group which is doing research into representation in the industry.
We’ve not just said we want to do these things, we’ve actually taken action.