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Recording Academy, Color of Change Reveal #ChangeMusic Roadmap

Lean Mean Creative

The Recording Academy’s Harvey Mason Jr. and Valeisha Butterfield Jones flank Color of Change’s Rashad Robinson.

New guide outlines steps to "move the music industry beyond conversation … towards actionable racial justice."

The Recording Academy and racial justice organization Color of Change are announcing the latest step in their initiative to foster sustainable racial equity for Black creatives and professionals within the music industry. #ChangeMusic Roadmap is a guide designed “to move the music industry beyond conversation and intention and towards actionable racial justice,” states a release issued by both organizations.

Initially announced during the #ChangeMusic Summit presented by The Recording Academy and Color of Change in October, the #ChangeMusic Roadmap outlines several key routes for implementing change: invest in Black talent and careers; commit to transparent reporting of Black representation; align and partner with the Black community; promote civic advocacy and participation; and invest in Black safety. These steps involve supporting retention and training measures for Black people, conducting third-party and public-facing diversity audits and annually reporting pay disparities, contracting with Black-owned and Black-led businesses, partnering with brands that are in alignment with anti-racist social justice values and aligning with and supporting current calls reexamining the role of police in Black communities and addressing structural issues in the criminal justice system.

The complete roadmap can be viewed here.

"This moment offers an unparalleled opportunity to change patterns of exclusion and degradation and take action toward progress," said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, in a statement. The organization partnered with actor Michael B. Jordan and WME in July for the TV and film roadmap #ChangeHollywood. "To honor and amplify Black artists’ past, present and future contributions,” Robinson added, “the music industry must tear down the barriers that have been up for far too long. #ChangeMusic is our first step."

“We believe this #ChangeMusic Roadmap will be key to driving progress in the Academy and the music industry, said Harvey Mason Jr., board chair and interim president/CEO of The Recording Academy. “We won’t stop until the work is done. The Recording Academy and Color of Change invite our peers and partners to join us on this transformational journey.”

In the following interview, the Recording Academy’s chief diversity and inclusion officer Valeisha Butterfield Jones and Color of Change’s chief marketing and storytelling officer Rashid Shabazz talk next steps in the roadmap’s rollout and why it will play a vital role in implementing change across the industry.

Why will the roadmap be important in fostering change?

Butterfield Jones: There’s a need to go beyond performative action and really take measurable and bold steps to drive change. This roadmap is another tool for us to do that internally as an organization and then equip industry leaders and companies as well to make change happen. We’ve had weekly meetings over the last several months with the Color of Change team, who have been great advisors throughout the process. They shared a lot of best practices from their roadmap in TV and film with Michael B. Jordan that we were able to integrate for music. The number one thing for me in terms of our working together was learning that you can't change what you don't measure.

Shabazz: These two organizations coming together is a real opportunity as we build out this list of recommendations. We've seen the protests for racial reckoning and we know so much more still has to be done — particularly in an industry driven by Black music and Black talent. This roadmap is a way to drive increased equity through diversity inclusion; to ensure representation of Black people and people of color in decision-making positions while also branching out to focus on promoting civic and advocacy participation. This is an extension of the ongoing efforts of the Recording Academy and its Black Music Collective, combined with Color of Change’s history and leadership role in terms of advancing accountability around racial justice issues.

What are the next steps in this rollout?

Butterfield Jones: The first step for us was our own commitment. Then early next year there will be a lot of one-on-one outreach, calling on our industry peers, partners and colleagues and walking them through the roadmap, sharing with them the recommendations being put forward, the advantages and benefits of participating and our commitment to being on this journey with them. And we definitely want organizations like the #TheShowMustBePaused and the Black Music Action Coalition to sign on as advocates and endorse the roadmap. I say all the time that this work has to be done from the inside out. So it's looking in the mirror at ourselves, holding ourselves accountable, committing to these things, and then, hopefully, inspiring change through those conversations.

Shabazz: Our work with the Hollywood roadmap has been successful so we hope to bring that same expertise and learning as we start this rollout. We will be working closely with the Recording Academy to leaders and partners within the industry to work closely to implement the recommendations. We’ve been working closely already with a number of partners including Universal Music Group. It’s about holding conversations and networking to help drive awareness around some of the challenges and issues within the industry. We’ll also be launching an inclusion rider template, along with many other resources, in the new year.

Six months have elapsed since the June 2 call to end systemic bias in the music industry. When do you think actual change will begin happening?

Shabazz: While change takes time and we have a long way to go, we also need to acknowledge the work that’s already being done. Now we do have a Black Music Collective. Now we do have a roadmap. Now we do have a commitment on the part of Harvey, Valeisha and the leadership of the Recording Academy to dig in and be transparent. I don't think you can say those things were present even a year ago. Momentum and impact can be as rapid as the commitment that people put toward it. We can't give up the momentum. We have to keep this front and center. What we don't want to do is go back to business as usual.

Butterfield Jones: Change is now; we have to move urgently. And while it does take time, I think it starts with the tone at the top and getting those leaders and those boards to commit to making real change. For me, that would be progress now: to have leadership commitment and set that tone across every organization to drive equity for all underrepresented communities through this roadmap. It’s about moving with urgency while setting annual benchmarks and five-year goals —while also holding ourselves accountable — so that we know we're actually moving the needle, that change is in progress.