David Mayeri began his career in the music industry the same way many of his contemporaries did: He started young and knew the right people. It was 1970, and the legendary San Francisco-based promoter Bill Graham was starting to produce shows at an old theater inside Berkeley (Calif.) High School, which Mayeri attended. Mayeri worked as Graham’s unpaid intern until he was offered a gig that paid $10 for 16 hours of work unloading, staging and repacking touring shows.
Mayeri worked for Bill Graham Presents for 35 years, eventually rising to COO before he left in 2004. He then founded the nonprofit Berkeley Music Group to operate the UC Theatre, a 101-year-old movie theater, in November 2012 and spent three years restoring it as a music venue called UC Theatre Taub Family Music Hall. Mayeri was ready to staff the building in 2016 when he noticed a lack of diversity in the applications he received.
"There’s a number of socioeconomic issues that can create barriers for individuals in live music," says Mayeri, including reliance on unpaid interns and low-paying entry-level jobs that make it impossible for candidates from low-income families to break in. "Many people in executive positions today came up through professional networks that are still very homogeneous and only reinforce the cultural barriers that young people face."