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Black Tour Directory founder aims to go global

Jenifer Smith, co-founder of Live Nation Urban’s new Black Tour Directory (TBTD), has revealed initial plans to expand the US database internationally.

In a Q&A published yesterday on IQ, Smith confirmed that the resource, which compiles Black professionals and Black-owned companies in the live music industry, will be gradually be opened up to pros outside of the US.

“As TBTD grows and expands its international footprint, the ideal goal is to include other professionals and businesses from around the world, as live events aren’t just US-based, it’s a global initiative as well. As professionals continue to discover, enquire and sign up, we will vet them and add them based on country, state, city and so on,” she said.

“As professionals continue to discover, enquire and sign up, we will vet them and add them based on [location]”

Smith also said it would be “great” to include other underrepresented groups in the database too.

“It’s all about diversity and inclusion. There was an initial overwhelming response to TBTD, however, we think it would be great to open it up and include other underrepresented groups and continue to build the candidate pool for live events, concerts, touring and festivals to increase representation within live events as whole,” she added.

Read the full Q&A here, in which Smith tells IQ about the inception of the resource, the feedback her and co-founder NyAsia Burris have received, and what the live industry needs to do post-pandemic to further diversity and inclusion.

The Black Tour Directory was launched last month in collaboration with Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee.

 


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The Black Tour Directory: “You can’t just talk the talk”

The Black Tour Directory arrives at a time when actionable work to promote inclusion and oust racial inequalities is more crucial than ever.

The database, launched last month by Live Nation Urban, lists hundreds of qualified Black touring professionals in the US – from tour managers to caterers – with the intention to bolster inclusivity and expand opportunities for Black professionals and Black-owned companies in the live music industry.

The new initiative is the result of a collaboration between NyAsia Burris, head of marketing for Live Nation Urban and Jenifer Smith, director of US concerts tour marketing at Live Nation, who tells IQ why her employer was the right company with which to launch the directory, how the it has been received, and what the global expansion of the resource will look like.


IQ: How did this year’s events – the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, the Black Lives Matter protests, as well as the pandemic – inform and facilitate The Black Tour Directory (TBTD)?

JS: These issues are complex and cannot be solved in one day. There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done by educating, decompressing, healing, and still having those necessary conversations even if they’re uncomfortable or hard to relate to. It’s been going on for so long, you become numb to it – but when George Floyd and Breonna Taylor died, it was like ripping a band-aid off an old wound that has never healed.

NyAsia and I created TBTD to help change that narrative and to inspire inclusion within our industry as there’s underrepresentation in the live industry for people of colour (PoC). I believe the question for us both was: what can we do to create change? NyAsia and I worked on TBTD together as a collaborative team effort that resulted in brainstorming an idea, fleshing out the concept and presenting it to Shawn Gee (president of Live Nation Urban), who loved it and was supportive throughout the process.

I believe this is our way of showing up, aligning our values through a resource of this stature, reflecting the change we want to see, and striving to create better opportunities for PoC. It’s important to diversify resources that create pipelines of opportunity.

You previously held positions at ICM Partners and AEG Presents. Why was Live Nation the right company with which to launch the directory?

Right now, we’re in a different climate based on the events that have transpired this year. I believe leadership starts at the top. When upper management at Live Nation shared their short- and long-term goals with the company, it showed the importance of leading by example, a key component in a leadership position. You can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk and actually do the work to advocate real change and inclusion. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re moving in the right direction.

“This is us showing up, aligning our values, reflecting the change we want to see, and striving to create better opportunities”

Are you collaborating with existing directories like Roadies of ColourDiversify The StageBlack Promoters Collective at all?

Each one of those organisations is great and amazing! We truly value, respect and appreciate the work that they’re doing. We support them in their efforts, as they support us in ours. We collectively want change, and the opportunity of inclusion. We all share a unified goal of providing an ecosystem that highlights talented and qualified individuals in our field and creating the resource for the industry to hire great candidates from who have the experience and skillset that’s needed.

Was there a conversation about whether to include other underrepresented groups in the directory too?

It’s all about diversity and inclusion. There was an initial overwhelming response to TBTD, however, we think it would be great to open it up and include other underrepresented groups and continue to build the candidate pool for live events, concerts, touring and festivals to increase representation within live events as whole.

Currently, TBTD only compiles US-based Black professionals and businesses, are there plans to roll out similar initiatives worldwide?

As TBTD grows and expands its international footprint, the ideal goal is to include other professionals and businesses from around the world, as live events aren’t just US-based, it’s a global initiative as well. As professionals continue to discover, enquire and sign up, we will vet them and add them based on country, state, city and so on.

“We must make sure that the gatekeepers doing the hiring [after the pandemic] are aware of the directory”

How will you develop the directory over time and ensure the initiative continues to grow?

TBTD offers companies who are seeking to diversify their staff an additional resource to pool new, diversified and qualified candidates. One of our main goals is to communicate that music is universal. If a candidate has a professional skill set in one particular genre of music, that doesn’t negate the functionality of the job and their experience can be applied across all platforms, no matter the genre.

It’s also about doing actionable work, where we’re partnering with schools, organisations and foundations to educate the next generation under us about the opportunities behind the scenes in live events.

What kind of feedback in the resource have you received from the live industry, and Black professionals, so far?

We received positive feedback and support from the live community. Industry colleagues have been encouraging and helpful in more ways than one, from offering mentorship to the upcoming generations, creating pipelines for paid apprenticeship to people providing additional resources, individuals and companies that should be included, and more.

The live sector is fairly dormant due to the pandemic, how can the industry take advantage of this downtime to take action and further diversity and inclusion? What would you like to see happen next?

Once the pandemic is over and live events are back to scale, these jobs will reopen quickly and there will be a need to fill these positions. So first we must make sure that the gatekeepers and the people doing the hiring are aware of TBTD and are able to explore this list of qualified candidates.

Directories of this nature are a great tool to ensure and offer possibilities to talented and experienced groups of people that are sometimes overlooked or not even on companies or crews’ radars.

Visit The Black Tour Directory here.

 


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Live Nation announces Black Tour Directory

Live Nation Urban has launched The Black Tour Directory, a one-stop portal listing hundreds of qualified Black touring professionals.

The industry resource was developed to bolster inclusivity and expand opportunities for Black professionals and Black-owned companies in live music, alongside existing resources Roadies of Colour, Diversify The Stage, Black Promoters Collective.

The database lists contact details for tour managers, production managers, sound engineers, lighting experts, stage and set designers, stage managers, techs, travel agents, caterers, tour accountants, bus companies, security staff, and more.

“When Jenifer Smith from Live Nation Concerts and NyAsia Burris from my team came to me with this idea, I thought it was genius and absolutely necessary,” says Live Nation Urban president Shawn Gee.

“There are several amazing resource groups that exist like Roadies of Color, Diversify The Stage, Black Promoters Collective and many others, and we all have one common goal, to make sure once live entertainment returns at scale, there are more opportunities that exist for Black people, and all underrepresented groups of people, throughout the touring industry, particularly in technical and production positions.”

“Our common goal is to make sure once live entertainment returns at scale, there are more opportunities for Black people”

Jenifer Smith, Live Nation director of tour marketing, says: “I felt it was important to create accessibility to people of colour that specialise in these fields in order to help diversify live events beyond the stage.

“As a Black woman working in the music and live events space for over 12 years, I understand the importance of representation within the industry. Using our platform as the leading promoter in the world, Live Nation has the ability to help change the narrative and to provide a powerful resource for the industry.”

The Black Tour Directory enables festivals, producers, promoters, vendors, and venues to live up to an industrywide promise of inclusivity with a straightforward solution to diversifying the road once and for all.

The directory was discussed during a roundtable interview with a number of respected voices from the industry. Backstage with Crew Nation comprised Curtis Battles [Founder, CEO of Curtis Battles Production], Tina Farris [Founder, CEO of Tina Farris Tours], Victor Reed Sr. [Founder, CEO of Global Event Production Network], and Michael “Huggy” Carter [Founder, CEO of MCG Productions]. The video can be watched here.

 


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Femme It Forward: LN Urban hosts all-female events

Live Nation Urban has announced the launch of Femme It Forward, a multi-format series of all-female curated line-ups, spotlighting the women of the entertainment industry, both on stage and behind the scenes.

The events series will see a host of live shows by legacy artists and emerging acts including Cardi B, City Girls, Jorja Smith, Ari Lennox, Jill Smith, Teyana Taylor and Mahalia, with more to be announced.

The multi-market initiative will also include immersive activations, panel discussions and comedy shows.

“Since our inception in 2017, Live Nation Urban continues to create opportunities for emerging and established urban artists – both on the stage and behind the scenes,” says Heather Lowery, Live Nation Urban vice president of talent and touring.

“It is fitting that we honour the future of music and its continued steps on the path to inclusion”

“This past year has been an exceptional one for women in music and entertainment, and with the incredible contributions of women, it is fitting that we honour the future of music and its continued steps on the path to inclusion,” adds Lowery, who will chair the Black Women in the C-Suite panel, held at the Broccoli City festival on April 26.

Live Nation Urban focuses specifically on hip-hop, R&B and gospel, putting on events including Broccoli City festival in Washington and Philadelphia’s Roots Picnic festival. The company is headed by Shawn Gee, a founding member of management consortium Maverick and manager of hip-hop group the Roots.

Tickets go on sale for the inaugural event series on Friday 19 April at 10 a.m. EST, exclusively on the Live Nation website.

All Femme It Forward shows will donate a portion of proceeds from ticket sales to charitable organisations that support the advancement of women.

 


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