On The Next Generation In The Biz & The ‘Need To Stand For Something Greater Than Themselves’

Young people entering the music business are passionate about combining their enthusiasm for music and doing good. In this photo volunteers register attendees to vote as Erykah Badu and Phony Ppl perform during BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! at Lena Horne Bandshell at Prospect Park in New York City on Aug. 5, 2022. Photo by Roy Rochlin / Getty Image

Most would argue that the best thing about this industry is the magic of the live show and that we all get to play a small role in bringing the music to life. And then there’s all of the meaningful relationships the business is built upon. But high up on the list are the young people who are breaking into the business while making the industry and the world a better place.

While the current generation of leadership has taken this industry to unprecedented heights in terms of touring, technology, production, fan experience and revenues that would have seemed implausible a generation ago, there is still so much to be done – from creating more opportunities for women and people of color to continuing to make touring more sustainable to tackling the mental health crisis in the business.

Millennials and Gen Z youth may sometimes get a bad rap for being self-centered but, for most, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Young folks have proved that it’s cool to care and take action.

Take, for example, punk rock group The Linda Lindas – with members ranging in age from 12 to 17 – who made a name for themselves by speaking out against racism with a viral video of the band’s performance of “Racist, Sexist Boy” at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Then there’s 19-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, who just wrapped one of the hottest tours of 2022 and used her time on stage on multiple occasions to stand up for abortion rights. Plus, she also donated a portion of platinum ticket sales from her “Sour Tour” to charity organization Women for Women International, which helps women survivors of war and conflict.

For many college students taking on internships in hopes of making it in the music business and young people diving into the industry with their first professional roles, making a difference is often woven into how they approach the job.

“This generation, right now this group of college-age students is looking at every business, including the music industry, that we’re all responsible in some way. And if you have a voice in the music industry, that voice is amplified like any song. And why can’t doing good get amplified? So discussions of mental health, the government, and the environment are all very hot topics for young people right now,” says Kevin Lyman, founder of event production company and brand strategy firm Kevin Lyman Group, who has taught classes at University Of Southern California’s Thornton School Of Music for the last few years since Warped Tour concluded its final cross-country run in 2018.

Lyman has long advocated for combining music, education and philanthropy – including Warped Tour’s annual Volunteer Day and his Unite the United Foundation, which has raised more than $1 million for various non-profits – and he’s continuing to spread that message via his classes.

Kevin Lyman pictured with some of his students from USC.

“Do good and do good business. I think they can go hand in hand,” Lyman says. He explains that he works with roughly 100 students a year who produce their own concerts, in which each event has a philanthropic aspect.

“Most of them do it without being coerced (laughs) or coached to integrate causes into their events. … By doing little things each day as part of growing your business and your brand, you can integrate this into everything you do each day.”

Lyman adds, “Everyone is understanding that you just can’t take a passive approach. You better stand for something – they all believe they need to stand for something greater than themselves. … Do not discount this group – the youth right now, they’re smart. And if companies were smart, they would really engage them in the conversation. Include your interns in higher level conversations than you normally would and you will learn from them.”

This week’s issue of Pollstar is highlighted by our 2022 Impact: NextGen list, celebrating 20 of the best and brightest young talent this industry has to offer.

Pollstar spoke to folks in the industry who are working with youth like Wasserman Music’s Rae Grabowski, who got her start in the industry working with student activities in college and is now booking the college market. Jamie Loeb, Vice President of Marketing at Nederlander Concerts; and Aisha Collins, Senior HR Director for Live Nation’s Concerts and Touring division. Tour production veteran David ‘5-1’ Norman, who serves as president of non-profit Well Dunn, also discuss how college committees and internships can open doors for those hoping to make it in the biz.

Veronica “V” Fuchs shares their story about working with Well Dunn and becoming a production assistant on Tame Impala’s tour with a guest post (click here to read).

And, of course, no conversation about the next generation would be complete without speaking with Barbara “Mother” Hubbard, who at 95 is continuing to help young people via her American Collegiate Talent Showcase (ACTS) Scholarship Fund. As Hubbard says, to paraphrase Whitney Houston, “these young people are our future.”