USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative & Universal Music Expand Partnership To Study Racial Inequality In Music

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USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and Universal Music Group (UMG) have announced an expanded partnership to study racial inequality in the music business. In the coming months, the project will evaluate the entire industry to determine systemic racial inequalities and provide recommendations to address the issues and change the system.

Together, the parters in the study will examine, “all facets of the industry – major and independent music companies, labels and publishers, digital platforms, radio and live promoters; as well as artists’ teams (including managers, agents, attorneys and publicists) – to determine the extent to which people of color are excluded from leadership positions,” according to Billboard.

“There are currently gaps in access and opportunity for people of color, especially Black executives, in the music business” said Dr. Carmen Lee, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative faculty member and lead researcher for the study “Beyond placing a spotlight on these discrepancies, we must illuminate how the lack of people of color in key roles thwarts inclusion throughout the industry. I am eager to lead the charge, flanked by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and in partnership with Universal Music Group, a company with a proven track record for change.”

The new study follows the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s deep dive into gender disparity in the music industry, launched in 2017 and conducted annually. The study’s findings that only 2 percent of music producers and 3 percent of engineers/mixers across popular music are women ignited an industry-wide commitment to solving geneder inequality, as the Recording Academy launched Women in the Mix in 2019.

Earlier this month, UMG formed its Task Force for Meaninngful Change (TFMC), co-chaired by UMG executive VP/general councel Jeff Harleston and Motown Records president and Capitol Music Group EVP Ethiopia Habtemariam, to fight for equality, justice and inclusion. The announcement came shortly after the music industry’s “Black Out Tuesday” and widespread protests against racism and police brutality following the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. UMG also established a dedicated $25 million “Change Fund” to back the Task Force’s research and recommendations.

“We look forward to our continued work with the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative as we work to advance diversity and inclusion in all corners of the music business,” Harleston and Habtemariam said in a joint statement. “We are committed not only to improving UMG’s performance, but also to fostering real and sustainable change across the entire music ecosystem. We know that music can do better and believe that, informed by research and data, change can be most meaningful and constructive.”

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