Unfortunately, that doesn't yet mean queer-identifying musicians themselves; as i-D explored last year, LGBTQ pop stars still face many obstacles. But according to industry data and new polling numbers presented during the 2016 Music Business Association conference — held this week in America's country music capital, Nashville, Tennessee — the LGBT community is becoming a pretty powerful commercial driver.
Billboard reports that participants in one conference panel, "Accelerating Acceptance: Music and the Importance of LGBT Fans," found that members of the LGBTQ community are: "more passionate about music than the general population," "spend more money on music [48% more, to be precise] especially digital and streaming," and "[are] more willing to invest in wireless devices that allow them to play music." Over 60% say they "can't imagine their life without music."
The panel was organized as a response to active legislation pending in Tennessee that would permit therapists and counselors with "sincerely held beliefs" to refuse treatment to LGBTQ groups — legislation many in the state see as not simply discriminatory, but also regressive. "When we planned this event in Nashville, there were no legislative issues with the state of Tennessee," the Association's openly gay president Jim Donio told Billboard. "Even though that has changed, and not for the good, we're here because this convention provides a perfect forum to highlight how music serves as a unifying force around the world. It brings people together, regardless of who they are."
Though Tennessee's disastrous bathroom bill was defeated earlier this year, similar legislation is presently pending throughout the country and in North Carolina, it passed. So in addition to exploring the LGBTQ community as a consumer base (and an under-marketed-to one at that, Billboard notes — ugh), the "Accelerating Acceptance" panel also considered how important it is for music industry power players to advocate for LGBTQ rights and freedoms.
According to a Harris Poll of 1,400 people conducted just last week, 60% of Americans are more aware when a musician stages a protest, "more than any other form of organized protest, including federal government legal intervention and sports boycotts." That's the same amount of respondents who say they support musicians who advocate for LGBTQ issues, like Beyoncé and Lara Jane Grace. Though Bruce Springsteen canceled his concert in North Carolina following HB2's passage, the pop queen and rock goddess did play their scheduled shows, using the occasions to speak out about discrimination.
Earlier this year, GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis staged a press conference in Tennessee, calling upon musicians to speak out against the state's anti-gay bills and stressing that discrimination is bad for business. "Nashville is America's music capital, and the companies, artists, and allied businesses here alone contribute more than $9.7 billion to this state's economy," she said. "I am here today to call on the music industry to stand with us, alongside television networks and film studios who stood with us in Georgia, in a united front against discrimination."
Though we still have a long way to go in making music a more equal space for queer-identifying artists, the LGBTQ community should start recognizing its purchasing power and demanding an industry that reflects its own diversity.
Text Emily Manning
Image via Flickr Creative Commons