The Media School

Lack of Diversity in Bloomington’s music scene inspires possible solutions

April 18th, 2019 by
Photograph by Jada Lucas

Aaliyah Hyde is a local singer for the band the Fat Pockets. She says Bloomington's music scene is male-dominated, but her band features two women leads.

Vocalist for the local band The Fat Pockets Aaliyah Hyde, along with other African American women artists, sent a video to IU Athletics. It was a cover of Destiny’s Child’s version of the National Anthem. Hyde said there aren’t different acts that are represented even in the university music space.

“All you see is like the older Jacob’s professor,” Hyde says. “And he’s a man.”

Those like Hyde who are a part of Bloomington’s music scene recognize a lack of diversity in terms of race and gender.

Hyde said the lack of diversity has to do with the fact that Bloomington isn’t a diverse community. In fact, she said the majority of the audience at The Fat Pockets’ shows are college-aged white students.

“It’s not surprising to me,” she says. “The university is not diverse and a lot of the people who live here are from the university.”

Tamara Lowenthal, the director of Facility and Volunteer Services for the Lotus Foundation, also said Bloomington’s music scene isn’t diverse, but the university does bring many residents to Bloomington from different cultures.

Even within the university, Hyde notices there is a lack of representation in several spaces outside of the music community as well. She said the lack of representation isn’t just evident in the music community. Her bandmates have noticed this in the college majors that they are pursuing.

Photograph by Jada Lucas

The Bluebird is a local venue that provides a space for local artists to perform. Hyde says it showcases a diverse range of acts.

“I do a music minor in Jacobs and even there you don’t see a lot of diversity studentwise that study music,” she said. “Then those who are just playing in Bloomington, I don’t think it’s very diverse at all.”

Although there is a lack of diversity, Hyde said there are a few black members in bands like Huckleberry Funk and Side Hustle. However, new bands with black leadership are up and coming.

To create spaces for more diversity, Lowenthal said the Lotus Foundation attempts to create more representation for other cultures. Diversity can be encouraged by presenting these different cultures on stage.

“It isn’t just about the music,” she said. “In their performances they’ll talk about what were my influences for this song. What national event are we responding to from our country that we are now singing about here for you.”

Twenty-one-year-old resident Sandria Sawyers said having this type of representation is crucial.

“Music is a big part of a lot of people’s lives,” she said. “The fact that it’s not as diverse, I feel like it could be a turn off to Bloomington.”

Sawyers said she also sees a lack of female acts in the Bloomington music scene, and she isn’t familiar with many of them.

“A lot of the bands are primarily led by males,” she said. “And we are women.”

Sawyers said festivals like Midway Music Speaks and The Lotus Festival are two ways in which the Bloomington community attempts to create spaces for more diverse musical acts.

“I feel like IU is so big in Bloomington. I feel like if IU did more to promote diversity, I think more people of color or ethnicities in general would take more of a risk of doing it [joining the music scene].” – Aaliyah Hyde, 21, Fat Pockets vocalist

Although there is a lack of representation, Hyde said a local venue The Bluebird contributes to creating a diverse platform for different racial backgrounds, and it also promotes different styles of music.

“Bluebird is like the hotspot for live music in Bloomington,” she said. “All the bands play there.”

However, Hyde said IU should play a bigger role in helping with diversity, since it has the most pull in the community.

“I feel like IU is so big in Bloomington,” she said. “I feel like if IU did more to promote the diversity, I think more people of color or ethnicities in general would take more of the risk of doing it [joining the music scene].”

Sawyers said the music industry nationally doesn’t create spaces for people of color and women.

Lowenthal said collaboration between artists could promote diversity, and a small change in a community can inspire big change on more of a national level.

“In some way, the things we do here, we will advocate for changes on a national level,” Lowenthal said. “But at the very least we can help build the community we want to see.”