– Pollstar Live!
Moderator Jai Thomas of Diverse Representation appears with speakers Valeisha Butterfield Jones of the Recording Academy and Rashad Robinson of Color Of Change during the Pollstar Live! Rainmaker panel “Inclusion Riders In Live Entertainment” Feb. 8.
During the summer of 2020, millions of U.S. citizens took to the streets to protest in support of Black Lives Matter and show their anger over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others. As the country reflected on itself and its actions, the music industry was no exception and began to get to work.
Valeisha Butterfield Jones, Co-President of the Recording Academy, spent the day of the music industry blackout in June 2020 to make a game plan for the Recording Academy on how they can provide more opportunities for not only Black artists, but all Black industry workers. She reached out to Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change, to help her come up with a plan.
“In the summer of 2020 when many people thought the best we could do was clap outside our windows, people of all races took to the streets,” Robinson said during Pollstar Live!’s “Rainmaker I: Inclusion Riders In Live Entertainment” panel, which was moderated by Jaia Thomas, founder and CEO of Diverse Representation. “People made commitments inside of the business, government, and cultural institutions. We wanted to develop roadmaps as words mean nothing without action. Color of Change gave institutions a path to meet the clear statements they were making.”
With Change Music, Change Fashion, Change Innovate, the organization aims to help People of Color make connections and build their way into the industry. Color of Change is making that happen by helping companies create inclusion riders.
“There’s so many unwritten rules as it relates to what happens in our cultural spaces,” Robinson continued. “From who gets hired from the mailroom to the C-suite. The inclusion rider is a written rule. It’s a structural framework that puts benchmarks and numbers behind diversity. Tracking and accountability. Not only what’s happening on the stage, but what’s behind the stage. How companies are going to recruit talent, live in the next era. We would much rather people deal with us on the inclusion rider side than on the side of running an activist campaign because you’re not living up to the expectations. We want to hope and focus on making real change, and we can do this in a partnership.”
The Recording Academy had been the first major awards show two implement the inclusion rider. Jones pointed out that companies prioritizing having inclusivity within their workforces actually wind up seeing a 20% growth in their investment.
“[Being held accountable] starts at the top,” Jones said. “Not only making a commitment, but a public one. The Recording Academy made it publically so. And it’s not too late to have courage and make a change. For the Recording Academy to be 64 years in and a new phase, it’s not too late. Do the work in a very real way.”
Jones made sure to point out that doing the work to take steps is difficult, but significantly worth it.
“You can’t do it alone,” Jones said. “This is work. Hard work. Business leaders have their noses down doing the work, being responsible for driving revenue. You have to be honest about where we are in cycles of business. Figure out and identify the right partners. Partners who understand the business. Difficult decisions will be made. But you guarantee your company and business will remain more competitive.”