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Universal Music Partners With USC Think Tank to Boost Diversity in Music Industry

USC professor Stacy L. Smith's think tank is rebranding as the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and has teamed with Universal Music Group to include music in its examination of representation in the…

USC Annenberg professor Stacy L. Smith‘s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, well known for its rigorous studies on representation in the film and television industry, is evolving to include a music focus. The think tank is rebranding as the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and has teamed with Universal Music Group to include music in its examination of representation in the entertainment business.

“‘Diversity’ is just too small of a word,” Smith, who will remain founder and director of the newly named initiative, tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Focusing on ‘inclusion’ more expansively fits the focus of what we’re trying to accomplish — [identifying] who is calling the shots from the C-suite all the way through all aspects of distribution and exhibition of artists’ work.”

Smith added that calling the group an “initiative” is deliberate: “We don’t want to set up as a center or an institute, because that sounds like we’re permanent. The goal is to eradicate this problem and move on to something else.”

Universal Music Group is partnering with the initiative to launch its Music Coalition, the seeds of which were planted in conversations between Smith and UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge in summer 2016.

“The goal of the initiative is to create measurable change for representation of women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups in the music industry, as well as other underserved communities across entertainment,” said Grainge in a staff memo shared with Billboard. “As the first music company to join this important initiative, we are demonstrating our desire, as the industry leader, to accelerate efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within UMG and the broader music business. My hope is that, over time, more and more members of the music community will join with us in this vital effort.”


“We’ve been on a listening tour, doing interviews across the music industry to understand the unique levers, obstacles and opportunities for women and underrepresented ethnic groups across four key silos,” Smith says, explaining that the coalition, supported by the Harnisch Foundation and Clif Bar Family Foundation, will examine the state of representation at record labels and publishing companies, agencies and management companies, recording studios and venues, as well as among artists and musicians.

“The launch of this project comes at a critical moment for women in music,” WME partner Samantha Kirby Yoh, who oversees the agency’s East Coast music team and has been advising the initiative, said in a statement. “While we have made progress, we still have work to do and my hope is that this study will encourage further dialogue about how we continue supporting women in our business at all levels, from artists to executives.”

Kirby Yoh, along with Universal Music Publishing Group chairman and CEO Jody Gerson, are among more than two dozen entertainment executives to form a board of advisors for the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The full list is below.

As with the overall initiative, the Music Coalition will release studies throughout the year, with an initial report expected in February. “Our hunch is that music might lead inclusion efforts and serve as a wonderful platform to show film, television and digital how easy it is to move the needle by adopting solutions based on research to create strategic change,” says Smith.


Also coming in the first quarter of 2018 is the initiative’s first study focused on mental health portrayals in film, an expansion of its examination of disability representation that began in the last couple of years.

“The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is a leader in addressing inequality in entertainment and by expanding their work to include examinations of mental health in storytelling and inequality in all aspects of the music industry, its work will continue to be the gold standard,” Willow Bay, dean of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said in a statement. “Combining its track record of excellent work with Dr. Smith’s innovative solutions, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will be a true force for industry change.”

USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Advisory Board:

Cinny Kennard, executive director, Annenberg Foundation

Leah Fischman, board chair, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative

Ivan Bart, president, IMG Models

Tena Clark, founder, CEO and chief creative officer, DMI Music & Media

Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, head of strategic outreach, Pearl Street Films

Julie Ann Crommett, vp multicultural audience engagement, The Walt Disney Studios

Kelly Edwards, head of talent development, HBO

Amy M. Emmerich, chief content officer, Refinery29

Jody Gerson, chairman and CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group

Donna Gigliotti, president, Tempesta Films

Karen Horne, senior vp programming talent development & inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios

Jennifer Justice, president corporate development, Superfly

Samantha Kirby Yoh, partner/music agent, WME

Kalpana Kotagal, partner, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC

Franklin Leonard, founder, The Black List

Gary Lucchesi, president, Lakeshore Entertainment; president, Producer’s Guild of America

Alana Mayo, creative executive

Hannah Minghella, president, Tri-Star Productions

Mauricio Mota, co-president and executive producer, Wise Entertainment

Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Thao Pham, vp community, Clif Bar & Company; executive director, Clif Bar Family Foundation

Gina Reyes, director content development, Story House Entertainment, Univision Communications

Brenda Robinson, director business development, Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP

Carla Sacks, founder, Sacks & Co.

Cathy Schulman, president and CEO, Welle Entertainment; president, Women in Film Los Angeles

Nell Scovell, TV writer/creator

Phil Sun, partner/agent, WME

Lynette Howell Taylor, founder, 51 Entertainment

Julius Tennon, president development & production, JuVee Productions

Jacki Zehner, chief engagement officer, Women Moving Millions; president, The Jacquelyn & Gregory Zehner Foundation