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Native Instruments responds to claims that it failed to deal with racism concerns raised by employees

Native Instruments
(Image credit: Native Instruments)

Native Instruments has responded to claims from ex-employees that it ignored concerns they raised around issues of racism. In a post on LinkedIn entitled “Committing to do better,” NI’s CEO and co-founder Daniel Haver said: “racism goes directly against our values and what we stand for”.

On Blackout Tuesday earlier this month, NI was one of many companies to voice support for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying: “We stand in support of equality, justice and humanity for black communities everywhere. Without you there would be no us. Your lives matter. Your voices matter.”

In response to this, Jessy Halison, a former NI QA Engineer who worked at NI between 2015 and 2018, posted on LinkedIn to say: “I just couldn't stay silent when Native Instruments is trying to paint a portrait of a supportive brand.

“We speak about the brand who released a campaign with the N-Word, despite warning and calls in from their (black and brown female) employees. Who lied to them, by saying they would amend it not to be racist and conscious about the impact, but released it nevertheless without changing a single thing. Who didn't protect said-employees from racist comments on discussion channels when the subject was brought up, who told them that they would have no issues advertising artists using other slur names. Who never apologized to them.

“I should know, I was one of them. This whole thing was traumatic for me, and my friends. So let me "lol" to their external communication. They are not able to stand for their black and brown employees internally (despite really driving forces from some employees), and never committed to support the #diversityandinclusion initiatives we were working to put in place.

“We don't need and we don't want your performative allyship. Apologize sincerely first, really do better. Acts speak more loudly than your empty words, and trust me, they speak volumes!”

The campaign being referred to dates from 2017, when NI worked with DJ N-Fox, whose stage name contains a racist term.

"It's still as painful now as it was then”

Halison’s claims were supported by Soraya Brouwer, a former Senior Artist Relations Manager at NI, who said: “The Native Instruments headquarters in Berlin released a campaign featuring DJ N-fox despite many warnings from BIPOC employees and white allies to not release it, as the messaging around it was severely lacking. Whilst these discussions were ongoing, some of our white colleagues freely used the n-word when referring to the said campaign. Black employees were gaslighted by senior members of staff. I still think about this often, and it's still as painful now as it was then.”

In response to these and other concerns that were raised, Daniel Haver posted his “Committing to do better” post, which says: “First, Mate Galic [NI CIO and President] and I want to clearly express that racism goes directly against our values and what we stand for at Native Instruments. It’s our goal to create an inclusive workplace with equal treatment and opportunities for all - no matter their race, gender, age, physical ability, beliefs or sexual orientation.

“A few days ago, several current and former employees of Native Instruments publicly raised concerning accounts of their experience working at NI, in particular relating to a marketing campaign that was deeply hurtful to them. We truly appreciate and welcome them sharing this openly and transparently. 

“At NI, we often feature and celebrate artists in our content and on our social media channels who are innovating music. Three years ago, we published a series of videos about a group of Black artists from Portugal doing unique work with our products that we wanted to highlight. One of the artists in the group adopts a stage name that includes an offensive term. At the time, some members of our team raised legitimate and thoughtful concerns about this, but nonetheless we made the decision to proceed with the campaign.

"We need to be active in the fight for equality and inclusion, and that starts with taking a hard look at our ways of working, our culture and our decision-making." Daniel Haver, Native Instruments CEO and co-founder

“We believe strongly that artists have the right to choose how they express themselves. But our actions here not only ignored the feedback from our employees, but also the history and context of the pain these terms cause. We now understand that this was a mistake and that it made our own team - especially our BIPOC employees - feel unvalued, unseen and excluded. We have removed the content from all of our channels, and apologize to all of our employees (past and present), followers, and customers. As the leaders of the company, we take full responsibility to learn from our past mistakes.

“We need to be active in the fight for equality and inclusion, and that starts with taking a hard look at our ways of working, our culture and our decision-making. At this moment, we are focussing on listening to and discussing actionable next steps with our team. We will remain transparent and share concrete next steps in due course about the actions we are taking to ensure an inclusive, respectful environment for our staff and broader community.”

Jessy Halison has since released a further statement to Mixmag, saying: “I've read Daniel Haver's statement. It does not encapsulate the gravity of the situation. We received a similar internal statement in 2017. The conversation was never about whether the artist was or wasn't allowed to express themselves freely. It was whether Black people at the company were allowed to freely express themselves, and be recognized and respected by the company. It was about Black and Brown employees not being at the receiving end of racism in their workplace.”

Halison says that several of her questions, which were raised in the original LinkedIn thread, remain unanswered, while Soraya Brouwer still has concerns, too: "The statement by Daniel Haver is deeply disheartening as it doesn't address any of the questions we asked him,” she told Mixmag. “We asked for accountability, and we got none.”