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Major US festivals reschedule as Coachella cancels

Goldenvoice’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Festival will no longer take place this April after being issued with a cancellation order by local authorities.

Cameron Kaiser, public health officer for Riverside County, California, tweeted late on Friday (29 January) that neither festival – scheduled for 9–11/16–18 April and 23–25 April, respectively – would be allowed to go ahead in light of the deteriorating coronavirus situation in the state, which passed 40,000 deaths from Covid-19 the following day.

It is the third time the festivals, which take place on the same site in Indio, in the Coachella Valley, have been called off since March 2020, when they were originally rescheduled for October, and then again to April 2021.

Aside from Glastonbury Festival in the UK, Coachella is the biggest international music festival to have cancelled its 2021 event, casting a pall over the summer festival season. It is unclear whether Coachella and Stagecoach, a country music event, will again attempt to reschedule for autumn or aim for a 2022 return.

Goldenvoice owner AEG has already pushed back one festival, the seven-day New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, to later this year: Jazz Fest, which normally begins on the last weekend in April will instead take place from 8 to 17 October.

“If Covid-19 were detected at the festivals, the scope and number of attendees would make it infeasible … to track those who may be placed at risk”

“It’s taking longer than we want, but we’ll all have our celebration when the time comes,” says festival producer Quint Davis. “Your health, along with the health of our musicians, food and crafts vendors, and all of the folks that work to make the magic happen, remains the priority as we plan the return of Jazz Fest.”

Also making the move from summer to the autumn months are a pair of Live Nation events, Bonnaroo (2–5 September) and New York festival Governors Ball (24–26 September), neither of which have announced a 2021 line-up, and Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival, which has applied for an event permit for the weekend of 10–12 September, as opposed to its normal July dates.

The decision to cancel Coachella and Stagecoach was taken over concerns that both festivals could have been super-spreader events for the coronavirus, according to the order linked by Kaiser. “If Covid-19 were detected at the festivals, the scope and number of attendees and the nature of the venue would make it infeasible, if not impossible, to track those who may be placed at risk,” it reads.

Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease specialist, predicted last month that indoor shows could return “some time” in autumn, depending on the pace of the US vaccine programme.

 


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Beyond Rhetoric: BAME execs on boosting diversity in live

The latest IQ Focus virtual panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Musiclooked at the lack of racial diversity in the live music business, as well as practical steps the industry can take to begin turning the tide.

Hosted by Live Nation International diversity lead David Carrigan, the session welcomed UK Music’s Ammo Talwar, Metropolis Music promoter Kiarn Eslami, ICM agent Yves Pierre, ATC Management’s Sumit Bothra and Earth Agency’s Lucy Atkinson to discuss the overwhelming whiteness of the concert industry, in the wake of the Black Lives Matter and #TheShowMustBePaused campaigns for racial equality.

Talwar, who leads UK Music’s diversity and equality taskforce, said that while the industry’s front-facing components are hugely diverse, its workforce is not.

In London, for example, over 40% of the population are non-white, he said, compared to around 18% in the UK music industry. At the executive level, he added, companies are still overwhelmingly staffed by “middle-aged, white heterosexual males”.

Comparing her own path into the business, Atkinson said she speaks to a lot of white men “who say they just kind of fell into this job, and that hasn’t been my experience at all. Even now, I still feel like I have to fight to get taken seriously as an agent.”

“A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”

On the artist side, Pierre pointed out that lot of artists aren’t allowed to “live” in traditionally white spaces – they have to start in a black/“urban” genre and then go pop or rock when they are already established. “We have to acknowledge that these artists exist and that there’s space for them,” she said.

Looking at practical measures to promote a more representative industry, Atkinson said: “A lot of conversations get really overcomplicated, but there are some very simple things you can do”: for example, the ‘Rooney rule’ in the NFL that requires at least one ethnic-minority candidate be interviewed for a job.

Speaking from a promoter’s point of view, Eslami described another simple change he has made on his shows – which, while not costing his employer any more, allows for greater investment in ethnic minority run businesses. “Every show we have has a budget, and one of those costs is catering,” he explained. “[I asked] why do we spend all our budget in supermarkets, when there are so many other caterers our there?

“It’s about looking at how we change the cash flow for these shows, whether it’s in catering, marketing or elsewhere.”

Pierre said it’s up to everyone in the industry to hold their own employers accountable when it comes to employing a diverse workforce.

“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation. We have to make sure that the companies we’re working for live up to those standards when it comes to racial diversity and gender equality,” she explained. “A lot of the time nothing gets done because you think someone else is doing it.

“Accountability is up to everyone in that organisation”

“If I want to see the change, I have to be part of that change. I have to hold my colleagues, and my bosses and partners, accountable.”

“It’s time to do things differently,” agreed Eslami. “People often think, ‘If something’s not broken, why fix it?’, but we’ve all had a three-month time out and realised that now is the time to think about how we can do things differently in future.”

Bothra said ATC is looking at changes it can make to hiring processes to promote greater diversity.  “For us as a management company, for example, we have to be aware that it’s incumbent on us to look in new places to find people,” he explained. “We can’t just go to the same recruitment agency, the same school, and do the usual thing, because that’s not going to make any difference at all.”

“The professionals are out there,” added Talwar. “We’re just not looking in the right places.”

“There are tons of kids who don’t know that an agent exists, or that there’s a management position, or a social media aspect of this,” said Pierre, emphasising the importance of getting the word out about the live industry to underrepresented groups.

“I think we have to expose people to these things, so they can understand there’s a whole workforce behind these artists and something for them to do beyond just being an artist or a producer or writer.”

“The professionals are out there. We’re just not looking in the right places”

“Before I started at Metropolis I didn’t even know a promoter was a job,” added Eslami. His advice, he said, is that “it doesn’t take long” to offer advice and mentorship to young people from disadvantaged groups. “There are 365 days in a year, and if you spare one or two” of them you can really make a difference, he said.

While the current zeitgeist feels like a “watershed moment” for diversity, real change needs to be about more than words – it’s got to be a “root-and-branch approach” that tackles “systemic” issues, said Talwar.

He added that he’s “just as interested in the block in the middle” – the one that stops industry professionals of colour attaining leadership positions – as the one that stops ethnic minorities getting into live music in the first place. “Where are the next CEOs, the next chairmen?” he asked.

Carrigan concluded by saying the conversation had been “a long time coming” and expressed his wish that debate will go on in future. “These conversations about race in the live music industry are not common, which illustrates the need to continue the conversation,” he explained.

Given the importance of the conversation continuing, future IQ Focus panels will revisit the topic in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can watch back yesterday’s session on YouTube or Facebook now.


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Leading music execs launch Black Music Action Coalition

Over 30 top artist managers, agents and other US industry executives have formed a new advocacy group, the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), to address systemic racism within the music industry and in society at large.

The coalition was inspired by and formed in alliance with #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which was started by Atlantic Record’s Jamila Thomas and Platoon’s Brianna Agyeman, and which prompted the Black Out Tuesday initiative.

BMAC is currently run by an executive committee that includes founding members Ashaunna Ayars (founder of the Ayars Agency), Binta Brown (founder and CEO of Fermata Entertainment), Jamil Davis (co-CEO of the Revels Group), Shawn Holiday (co-head of Urban Music at Columbia Records), Courtney Stewart (CEO, Right Hand Music Group) and Prophet (CEO of 50/50 Music Group Management).

The coalition is also guided by an advisory board consisting of industry veterans Clarence Avant, Quincy Jones, Irving Azoff and Ron Sweeney.

In a similar vein to the Black Music Coalition in the UK, which consists of leading Black promoters, managers and label executives, BMAC has sent an open letter to the heads of music companies, setting out a plan for change.

“We created BMAC to address long standing racial inequities in the business, the financial impact of those inequities for both Black artists and executives, and ways we can work with you urgently to solve these problems,” reads the letter.

“We created BMAC to address long standing racial inequities in the business”

“We are encouraged by recent efforts by Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music, Apple, YouTube, BMG and other industry participants. However, we know that more needs to be done and we must do it together.”

The coalition states its highest priority is to meet with company CEOs “to mutually develop a plan to address the deeply rooted systemic racism in our industry”.

Another key issue is ensuring the coalition has “a voice in determining how funds designated to fight racism are allocated”, given that “so few companies in the music industry are run by Black people”.

“We must work together to put a plan for change in place with you within the next 30 days. BMAC intends to hold you accountable, and will keep track of the music industry’s efforts to clean up its own house. There is a lot of work for us to do, and we look forward to doing it together.”

Artists including Roddy Ricch, Lil Nas X, Mary J Blige, Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, Pharell Williams, Travis Scott and Post Malone have shown their support for the letter.

The BMAC letter can be read in full here, along with a list of artist signatories and industry partners.

This week’s IQ Focus panel, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, will look at the problems of systemic racism within the live business and discuss what needs to be done to make the industry a more diverse place. To set a reminder for the session on Thursday head to the IQ Magazine page on Facebook or YouTube.

Photo: Frank Schwichtenberg/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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Black music executives set out standards for industry

A collective of Black music executives in the UK has sent a letter to heads of companies including Live Nation, Universal Music Group and Spotify, laying out five “immediate calls to action” to tackle structural and systematic racism within the music industry.

The letter builds on Black Out Tuesday last week, which saw the global music business down tools in solidarity with anti-racism protestors in the US and in order to reflect on what steps need to be taken to address racism in the industry and wider society.



Following on from the demonstration, which was promoted through the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, executives from Metropolis Music, the Music Managers Forum (MMF), Ministry of Sound, Sony Music, UMG, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, and more, have come together under the #TheShowMustBePausedUK initiative and newly formed Black Music Coalition to call for immediate changes at the UK’s biggest live and recorded music companies.

“The music industry has long been a microcosm for [racial] injustices and they continue to play out within the companies you lead”

Directed to “chairman, CEOs presidents and music industry leaders”, the letter calls on companies to implement mandatory anti-racism/unconscious bias training; commit money each year to Black organisations, educational projects and charities in the UK; implement career development for Black staff to ensure greater representation at senior management level; replace the term “urban music” with “Black music”; and establish a dedicated equality and diversity task force.

“It is a widely shared belief that the music industry has long been a microcosm for these injustices and they continue to play out within the companies you lead, companies which we are a part of,” reads the letter.

“Your public statements of support throughout the recent times were impassioned and we appreciated them, but we now want to drive forward tangible changes, giving power to that show of support.

“We expect that these long overdue steps will be implemented in a comprehensive manner to translate your empathy into a legacy of lasting change and we look forward to working with you to ensure that this happens.”

The letter can be read in full below, along with a list of signatories:

 


Dear Chairmen, CEOs, Presidents and Music Industry Leaders,

The past few weeks and months have been filled with visceral and overwhelming emotions of frustration, grief and sadness following the violent and untimely deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in America and what the circumstances of their deaths repeated to us about the position of Black people, the value of Black lives and livelihood and of the pervasive stain of racism in our society.

As the Black community mourned, many of us working in this and other industries tried to adopt our usual coping mechanism of suppressing our trauma caused from witnessing the disregard for Black life, but this time was different, we found and find ourselves unable to do so.

For far too long, the global Black community have faced racial injustice, inequality and disenfranchisement across all aspects of society and here in the UK, is no different.

As Black British people, we know of and have seen members of our community overpoliced, brutally treated and die at the hands of institutionally racist police forces and recount for example the deaths of Sarah Reed, Rashan Charles, Mark Duggan, Sean Rigg and many more. Simply put, the UK is not innocent.

Further, we are all facing an unprecedented global pandemic caused by the Coronavirus yet still, it is Black and Brown members of society who are being disproportionately affected e.g. Public Health England COVID19: Review of Disparities in risks and outcomes study shows that Black males in the UK are 4.2 times more likely to die from a Covid- 19 related death than white males. Throughout this public health crisis, racism also continues to rear its head; we witnessed a blatant indifference to Black lives most recently, in the case of Black front-line key worker Belly Mujinga, who was made to work in a public facing position despite her bosses being aware she had underlying health conditions, consequently died from Coronavirus having been assaulted by a white male. The investigation into her case was swiftly closed by the police and only reopened following immense public pressure and a peaceful protest in London.

The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of Black people

These situations illustrate the ways structural and systemic racism creates poor outcomes for Black people and the Black community at large.

The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of Black people for many generations but overall, we feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same Black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues. We feel that as an industry, we cannot continue to benefit and profit, whilst continuing to ignore the issues of the community we benefit and profit so much from, issues which affect far too many of our artists in one way or another.

In the US, Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas launched #TheShowMustBePaused initiative and their mission was clear – to give us all a moment; a moment to pause, to exhale and find some solace. Here in the UK, the message resonated with many of us Black executives and as a result we launched #TheShowMustBePausedUK, coming together to discuss what permanent change we needed to bring about within our beloved industry.

Coming together and talking about the events outlined herein and our shared experiences, caused us to relive the many instances of injustice, racist comments and marginalisation across our lives including in our experiences within this industry. It is a widely shared belief that the music industry has long been a microcosm for these injustices and they continue to play out within the companies you lead, companies which we are a part of. As a result of the passionate and thought-provoking conversations over the last week; the consensus is clear – the time for change is NOW.

The consensus is clear – the time for change is NOW

As the leaders across the UK industry, who stood in solidarity with us for #BlackOutTuesday, publicly declaring your support and commitment to change, here are our immediate calls to action:

Your public statements of support throughout the recent times were impassioned and we appreciated them, but we now want to drive forward tangible changes, giving power to that show of support.

We expect that these long overdue steps will be implemented in a comprehensive manner to translate your empathy into a legacy of lasting change and we look forward to working with you to ensure that this happens.

Signed,
The Black Music Coalition, The Show Must Be Paused UK, and on behalf of Black executives from Warner Music Group, Sony Music, Universal Music Group, BMG, Live Nation UK, Spotify and MMF.

 


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