BMAC, USC Annenberg Release Diversity Reports And Find Music Industry Lags In Equity Promises

Black Music Action Coalition
– Black Music Action Coalition

Just more than a year after what came to be known as “Blackout Tuesday,” the Black Music Action Coalition and USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative released their research into the status of underrepresented people in the music industry – and both found it wanting.

The BMAC report card examined record label groups, The Recording Academy, streaming services, live music and touring, and country music, issuing letter grades from Excellent (E) to Unsatisfactory (U). 
“To those companies who have made the greatest strides over the past year (and beyond), thank you and please keep going. To all of our companies, we have work to do, and we look forward to continuing to do this work with you until we have achieved the objective of a just, fair and equitable business.” BMAC co-President Binta N. Brown says of the report.
In the live sector, no company earned an “E” grade from BMAC. Live Nation earned a Satisfactory (S) grade. Cited as “Needing Work” (N) were United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency, ICM Partners, and WME. AEG and Paradigm scored U marks, in the latter case with the caveat that a change in ownership with the acquisition by Casey Wasserman and transition to Wasserman Music bears watching.
Pollstar reached out to all companies graded for reaction to the BMAC report card. 
A spokesperson for Wasserman Music said: “We cannot comment for Paradigm; but Wasserman Music is actively and presently working with BMAC, launched the new agency with a Color of Change partnership and has fully adopted Wasserman’s DEI practices, programming and policies. There is work to be done and we are reflective, committed and making progress.”
BMAC cited Live Nation’s diversity plan containing benchmarks, noting it is “measurable and actionable, and includes a much-needed increase in Black staff and board members.” It also praised Live Nation Urban’s launch of its Urban Tour Directory, a vetted directory of Black tour professionals and companies. 
The organization praised UTA for its inclusion initiatives, and its $1 million pledge to social justice causes, but registered disappointment that information regarding how the money is being disbursed and to whom has not been forthcoming. 
ICM Partners is hailed for naming Robert Gibbs Head of Music, a first for a major agency, for encouraging new hiring practices and creating a new HBCU internship pipeline. “However, Black representation is still far too low,” BMAC says.
CAA scores well for launching diversity initiatives, making its annual Amplify Diversity event a racial justice town hall, a PSA campaign, and appointing co-heads of Cultural Business Strategy. “But there’s no specific music focus, which earns them a lower rating for the purposes of this survey,” BMAC reports.
For its part, WME launched a multi-point plan for inclusion in partnership with Color of Change but BMAC notes that it is focused on TV and film while the organization would “like to see music-focused directives.” 
When it comes to who profits from the work of Black artists, the USC Annenberg report clearly shows the music industry as a whole has a long way to go in terms of diversifying its executive ranks. 
The study found that while 43.8% of established music artists are Black, only 4.2% of chief executives across 70 companies, 8.5% of senior team members across nine major companies, 11.1% of agents for established artists and 30.8% of managers for established artists are Black. In addition, among A&R execs at three major and 28 independent companies, 21.2% are Black, as are 11.9% of publicists.
While the study says that Blacks make up 14% of the American population, live music’s representation falls woefully short of proportionality. At the CEO/Chief/President level, only 2.4% are Black; of executive or senior vice presidents or general managers, 3.3%; VPs and department heads have the most Black representation at 3.6%.
“The lack of inclusion in the music industry is not the problem of one company or one sector. It involves the entire community of artists, executives, agents, managers, publicists, distributors, and even the audience,” the report concludes. 
“Thus, creating a more inclusive industry requires the insight, input, and effort of all…. This report seeks to provide organizations with the opportunity to do more than perform inclusion – we hope to see companies and people throughout the music business put effort and intention into making the industry one in which everyone can thrive.”