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Music orgs mark a year since Blackout Tuesday

A number of music businesses and associations are marking the one-year anniversary of the Blackout Tuesday/#TheShowMustBePaused campaign, which turned social media dark on 2 June 2020 in solidarity with anti-racism protesters in the United States.

WME recognised the milestone yesterday (1 June) with a ‘day on’ of workshops and programming focusing on racial equality.

According to Deadline, the day – which was open to partners and clients of both WME and sister brand Endeavor Content – included a conversation between actor Michael B. Jordan, Endeavor chairman Patrick Whitesell and Rashad Robinson, president of civil rights group Color of Change, and a review of Leaving $10B on the Table, a study of Hollywood’s economic losses due to lack of diversity.

There was also a discussion about colourism in entertainment with YouTube channel The Grapevine and a film-focused workshop titled ‘Tools for Talent, Production Companies and Studios to #ChangeHollywood.’

Other booking agencies, including UTA, CAA, ICM Partners and APA, also similar events to mark the anniversary.

North of the border, Canada’s industry leaders will today sign the first ‘Declaration Against Anti-Black Racism in the Canadian Music Industry’.

“The eradication of anti-black racism requires a commitment to anti-racism”

The initiative, coordinated by BDRB (Breaking Down Racial Barriers), CIMA (Canadian Independent Music Association) and Advance (Canada’s Black Music Business Collective), will host a virtual declaration signing event today for industry figures to make public their commitment to anti-black racism. The event will include speakers Andrew Cash (president, CIMA), Keziah Myers (executive director, Advance), Ian Andre Espinet (co-founder, BDRB), David ‘Click’ Cox (co-founder, BDRB), Shauna de Cartier (president, Six Shooter Records), Steve Kane (president, Warner Music) and Erin Benjamin (president/CEO, Canadian Live Music Association), as well as performances from Jully Black and Shantel May.

“To build an inclusive Canadian music and entertainment industry, it is critical to address the anti-black racism that exists in the systems and working environments within which black music professionals and creatives operate,” the declaration reads. “The eradication of anti-black racism requires a commitment to anti-racism – an active, conscious and ongoing effort to work against racism: to acknowledge; to atone; to create mechanisms that dismantle systems which perpetuate racism, and to create actionable solutions with measurable outcomes.”

Supporters can also sign the declaration here.

In Brussels, Impala, the association of independent music companies, is “asking as many businesses as possible to use the anniversary as an occasion to contribute to the debate” by responding to its diversity and inclusion survey.

“This work is very deep, and it has to be thoughtful”

Helen Smith, Impala’s executive chair, says: “Impala is marking the first anniversary of Blackout Tuesday by taking stock of what has been worked on in the last year and calling on independent businesses to respond to our survey so we can build a picture of the sector and map best practices for the future. As from today, members can also sign up to our next diversity and inclusion training. We also publish our practical guidance for members, both companies and associations.

“Last year was a day of reflection, let this year be a day of both reflection and action. Let’s build a picture of our sector across Europe and help it evolve.”

Elsewhere, Vice reports that the three major labels – Universal, Sony and Warner Music – have paid out some US$37m towards charities and other organisations campaigning for racial equality in the year since Blackout Tuesday.

That amounts to around 16% of the total $225m pledged ($100m apiece for Warner and Sony and $25m by Universal), though the companies did not specify a deadline for the money to be paid out.

“We’re talking about literally generations of racism and systemic racism and power dynamics. This work is very deep, and it has to be thoughtful,” says Warner Music Group’s Yvonne Moore.


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UTA commits $1m to social justice causes

United Talent Agency (UTA) has announced a series of internal initiatives aimed at further increasing diversity and inclusion across the agency globally.

The actions – which are accompanied by a donation of US$1 million to organisations fighting for social justice – are the result of “efforts in recent weeks, led by leaders, colleagues of colour and allies across UTA, to have candid and thoughtful dialogue about the internal steps necessary to make meaningful and sustainable progress toward a more equitable community”, according to the agency, which has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London, Nashville and Miami.

Referencing the recent movement towards greater ethnic diversity in the music industry, UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer explains: “The past few weeks have shown that we must address the pace in which we’ve approached our diversity and inclusion efforts. It’s our responsibility to move forward with immediacy to ensure change happens, as a company and as individuals.

“I am incredibly grateful to my colleagues who stepped up and spoke truth to power. They are making UTA an even better place to work and helping drive true and meaningful progress well beyond our four walls.”

The $1m financial commitment will be provided over four years, and overseen by the nonprofit UTA Foundation.

“We are putting our stake in the ground publicly to hold ourselves accountable”

The new internal initiatives, meanwhile, include:

Additionally, Project Impact, which sees the agency close for a ‘day of action’ on community projects, will this year focus solely on issues of social justice and racial inequality.

UTA’s executive director of inclusion, Shanique Bonelli-Moore, says: “We believe diverse backgrounds and life experiences influence positive perspectives and great storytelling, yielding broader opportunities for our clients. Much of this work is already underway.

“It won’t all happen overnight. But we are putting our stake in the ground publicly to hold ourselves accountable and are implementing systems to sustain urgency as we pursue lasting change.”


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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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Thank you, Black Out Tuesday

Black Out Tuesday was created by Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang, the senior artist campaign manager at Platoon. Tuesday 2 June 2020 saw business as usual halt in solidarity for black lives.

The entire world was shaken by the inhumane loss of George Floyd. Sadly he is not the only one whose life has been stolen at the hands of police brutality and racism – there are hundreds more, including recent cases Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. This had an effect on the black community I personally have never seen in my lifetime. Over the last week or so, I have seen and felt a sense of togetherness and support for black people, which we deserve… it is about time.

For me, Black Out Tuesday was a day of reflection and homage, and an opportunity to encourage a profound, uninterrupted level of education within our respective organisations. We used the opportunity to have an open dialogue, amplify black voices, address imperfections in our own policies, and discuss next steps towards tackling prejudice, discrimination and the outright racism black people are forced to endure.

Without this day, a lot of us wouldn’t have been able to gain the attention of our non-black counterparts; we wouldn’t have been able to open the dialogue with the same altitude of poise and tenacity.

Failure to address these key issues makes you complicit

So, what are the next steps?

The issues have been identified – now it’s time to present the facts. Where are your ethnicity pay gap and employee satisfaction reports? If they don’t exist, now is a good time to populate that data and work towards a safer space for black employees. Data is an extremely important tool and necessary for change.

If you have the capacity to roll out anti-racism training, do so. Educate where possible, and call out racist behaviour, because failure to address these key issues makes you complicit.

If you’re reading this and you’re an executive, a business owner, a manager, a CEO, a founder or anything in between, please ask yourself, “What can I do to spark change? What can I do to make sure my company policies reflect the black square I posted on Tuesday?”

This isn’t a gimmick: systemic and institutionalised racism affects people’s lives, and you have a duty of care.

This is a battle we have been fighting since the beginning of time and will continue to fight until there is real change. If Black Out Tuesday taught me anything, it’s that there is strength in numbers.


What else can you do?


Jane Elliot: Blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiment
Jane Elliot, an anti-racist activist and educator, devised this experiment following the assassination of Martin Luther King.

BFI collection: Black Lives
Portraits of public and private lives against the shifting social climate of 20th-century Britain.

BBC documentary: Will Britain Ever Have a Black Prime Minister?

Unfiltered with James O’Brien: Akala deconstructs race and class

BBC documentary: The Secret Windrush Files



Reni Lodge: Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race

Afua Hirsh: Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

Ibram X. Kendi: How to Be an Antiracist

Ijeoma Oluo: So You Want to Talk About Race

Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism

Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness



Black LGBTQIA Therapy Fund

Support RECESS

Women Connect
A collective creating safer, all-inclusive spaces, good fortune and equal opportunities for women and non-binary folks in the creative industry.

Black Ticket Project
Award-winning initiative creating cultural access points for black young people.

Exist Loudly Fund to Support Queer Black YP


This article originally appeared in issue 90 of IQ Magazine (July 2020). Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.

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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BTS, Big Hit donate $1m to Crew Nation

K-pop stars BTS and its agency/management company Big Hit Entertainment have put US$1 million towards Live Nation’s Crew Nation fund, matching a donation the band made earlier this month to the Black Lives Matter movement.

According to statement obtained by Variety, the donation is one of the largest artist donations submitted to the Crew Nation fund so far.

Live Nation set up the Crew Nation fund in April to support touring and venue crews through the coronavirus pandemic. The live entertainment giant pledged $10m to the fund, comprising of an initial $5m donation and a commitment to match tth next $5m donated by artists, fans and employees.

At the start of June, Live Nation announced its Crew Nation Presents concert series in Madrid, which will see €1 from each ticket sold donated to the fund.

“We are aware that a lot of communities need help due to Covid-19, and we wanted to support the music industry crews by making a donation”

“If it weren’t for Covid-19, we would have been happily touring across the world with many of our live concert crews by now,” comment BTS, who recently performed in the most-attended paid live stream in history, peaking at 756,600 concurrent viewers.

“We are aware that a lot of communities need help due to Covid-19, and we wanted to support the music industry crews by making a donation. We hope to meet again on stage very soon.”

Earlier this month, BTS helped raise over $2m for Black Lives Matter, in the week following the music industry’s Black Out Tuesday initiative. The band committed $1m and encouraged fans to collectively match their donation using the #MatchAMillion hashtag, with the fanbase ultimately raising around $1.3m.

The boyband was set to embark on its mammoth Map of the Soul tour in April.


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WMG announces $100m social justice fund, IPO price

Following Black Out Tuesday yesterday, Warner Music Group (WMG) has announced a US$100 million fund to support charitable causes “related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism”.

The fund – jointly financed by WMG and the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the charitable foundation run by WMG vice-chairman Sir Leonard Blavatnik, whose Access Industries is the group’s majority owner – will support individuals and “organisations strengthening education, and promoting equality, opportunity, diversity and inclusion” in the music industry, according to WMG.

Along with the other two major labels, Universal Music and Sony Music, and all major live music industry companies, Warner Music was supporter of #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which saw the music business come to a halt for on 2 June in solidarity with those protesting for racial justice.

Steve Cooper, CEO of Warner Music Group, says: “This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice, and that help those in need across the music industry.

“This fund will support the extraordinary, dedicated organisations that are on the front lines of the fight against racism and injustice”

“Our advisory panel, which will draw from a diverse cross-section of people from our team and the wider community, will help us be very thoughtful and accountable in how we make an impact. We’re determined to contribute, on a sustained long-term basis, to the effort to bring about real change.”

Today (3 June) also sees WMG’s return to the stock market after nine years, with a previously announced flotation (IPO) on New York’s Nasdaq set to raise nearly $2 billion from the sale of 77m shares for $25 apiece. Blavatnik purchased WMG for $3.3bn in 2011.

In addition to its labels and publishing arm, WMG has multiple live music interests, including concert discovery platform Songkick, Finnish promoter Warner Music Live and management company Umbrella Artists Productions, which it owns with German promoter FKP Scorpio.


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