Power Up is a pioneering, long-term initiative and force for change which supports 40 Black music creators and industry professionals. While strongly addressing anti-Black racism and racial disparities within the British music sector, participants receive a grant of up to £15,000, mentoring from partners, marketing and promotional support.
Shaped by seven focus groups, Keychange, and an Executive Steering Committee, Power Up’s annual programme’s aims include:
- Empowering and advocating for Black talent and industry professionals/executives
- Influencing policy from the top down
- Shaping the future of the music industry
As the deadline for Power Up’s Year 2 intake fast approaches, Estée Blu — a participant in the Black women in Music Focus Group — talks to music creators Gaika and Daniel Kidane as well as industry executive Hannah Shogbola, about their experiences on the groundbreaking scheme in its inaugural year.
Estée Blu: Talk to me about your experience as a Power Up Participant over the last year.
Gaika: I think the biggest thing for me is people trusting me to get on with it, deliver the work and for it to be good. For the first time I haven’t been made to feel weird because I have a mixed practice. With Power Up, there’s been a recognition in the validity of me wanting to do things that I never had from the music industry at large.
Daniel Kidane: As a classical composer it was nice to be in an eclectic group and environment with other genres. It’s been great to be a part of a community and to have that long term and sustained support network.
Hannah Shogbola: My experience has been nothing but positive! I feel that’s definitely because I’ve been able to be around like minded people, as well as being exposed to people within the music industry that I may have not crossed paths with before. Ultimately that has resulted in doing business together which has been hugely beneficial.
'When you have a certain amount of success as a Black Artist, we kind of accept things that are not right because you’re like, 'Well I make a living from my music,' or 'I get to tour and aren’t I lucky?''
What have been your biggest highlights?
Gaika: Doing a big exhibition at the ICA, that was based around a piece of music that I made with my collective Nine Nights. We formed during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, as we felt powerless and wanted to change some things in our sphere of influence and interest, which was music. Fast forward a year, we put on this exhibition that merged music with fine art, installations, video and sculpture, that focused on living rather than dying, the future and action rather than rhetoric. To see that realised has been amazing, and I don’t know that I would have done it without the support of Power Up.
Daniel Kidane: Since last summer things have picked up after Covid, so I’m appreciative that the industry is coming back. And as a result I’ve had works performed in places like France, America and the Nordic countries. Another highlight was attending the talks, gaining insights into how different fields operate and being able to use some of that in my own practice.
Hannah Shogbola: Being named in the Roll Of Honour for Music Week’s 2021 Women In Music Awards, was a huge personal achievement. Another highlight was my company DAJU programming panel talks and a networking session at the Roundhouse alongside Power Up organisers Ben, Yaw and Joe, which was great. Lastly, DAJU took over a stage at the Dubai Expo this year where we booked significant acts including a Power Up Music Creator. Those were a few real examples of professional accolades and projects that have had huge ties with this programme.
Why is the Power Up programme so important?
Gaika: To be real about it, I’ve spent a lot of time feeling gaslit by the music industry. I think when you have a certain amount of success as a Black Artist, we kind of accept things that are not right because you’re like, 'Well I make a living from my music,' or 'I get to tour and aren’t I lucky?' And you kind of forget that there’s an entire industry of music and it’s full of people who don’t have to work as hard as you. So the highlight of 2021 was definitely not feeling gaslit and being able to understand that you are not alone in your experiences.
Daniel Kidane: It’s important because it focuses on artists from a Black background who have historically been underprivileged or underseen. So it’s nice for PRS Foundation to shine a spotlight on an area where assistance is still needed. Also gaining access to people who work at organisations such as YouTube and Beggars Group and being able to put your burning questions to them.
Hannah Shogbola: We are still working within a hugely unbalanced and unfair industry, particularly behind-the-scenes in the music business. The statistics and figures surrounding Black women in senior roles are scarily shocking and that’s why this initiative is so important. Power Up is one of the leading programmes that brings future leaders into a space, helps them to learn new skills and grow their network.
'One of the things that we are particularly fighting for is for Black people to be positioned in senior roles and to be given those opportunities in an equal way.'
What is your hope for the future of Black British Music Creators/Industry Professionals?
Gaika: There’s strength in numbers, and having this group has put me at ease so much. So what I hope is that if you are Black and you do music, you’re connected to Power Up in some way. That’s how I think big changes will eventually happen.
Daniel Kidane: Hopefully with schemes like Power Up, it will open the minds of people who are working at the higher echelons of organisations and remind them that it’s not just certain artists that need to be looked after. There is a more diverse group of people that are out there and as the years go on hopefully there will be a more level playing field, where everybody has the same sort of opportunities. And there’ll be ways in and support for people from less fortunate backgrounds who have to graft and work their way to the top.
Hannah Shogbola: One of the things that we are particularly fighting for is for Black people to be positioned in senior roles and to be given those opportunities in an equal way. So one of my biggest hopes is that people within this group become the next big players within the music industry.
What is next for you in 2022?
Gaika: The work that I've done over the last couple of years is going to come out in April. Then I've got an album that will be released before the end of the year. A lot of exhibitions and I’m also working on a film score with my brother. And literally right now I’m designing a robotic sculpture that’s going into 180 Strand. It’s non-stop, so all the stuff is the answer!
Daniel Kidane: I’m writing a big piece for The London Symphony Orchestra, which is due to be finished in a few months. There’s lots of new exciting works and I’m also in talks with a publisher. So finally I’ll be getting published which is a long time coming! And it’s nice that it’s happened during my term on the Power Up scheme.
Hannah Shogbola: The next instalment of a music stream called Afro Future Sounds filmed at Abbey Road Studios, which celebrates emerging Afrobeats artists. It’s one of the first ever Afrobeats showcases that has been filmed at Abbey Road, so we basically made history! I’ve managed to work with a few Power Up artists and professionals in the last year which has been incredible, so I hope that the programme becomes bigger and bigger in the years to come.
Power Up’s Year 2 application process closes at 6pm on Thursday 17 February 2022. If you are a talented music creator who has reached a crucial tipping point, or a music industry professional/executive who has an established track-record, but may face barriers to progression based on race, please visit the PRS Foundation website for more information on how to apply for this year’s cohort.