Episode from the podcastThe New Music Business with Ari Herstand

Repairing Racial Inequities in the Music Industry with Artist Manager Jonathan Azu

Released Wednesday, 17th February 2021
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Today we are re-running an episode. This is the first time we've ever done this. It's an episode that initially premiered last July with artist manager Jonathan Azu. This is in honor of Black History Month this month because Jonathan and I had a really illuminating conversation about how to repair racial inequities in the music business. We also discuss how our industry, at the executive level, is so white. Specifically in Billboard Power 100, there's only one black person in the top 50. Jonathan has some ideas as to why and how we can help repair those disparities.

Jonathan Azu is also a member of the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), which I spoke about last week with Dina LaPolt who is one of the founding members. Jonathan also recently launched the Diversity in Music. It is the first ever employment talent directory for underrepresented women and minorities in music.

Jonathan Azu is an artist manager for artists like Cory Henry, Luke James, Emily King, and Michelle Williams among others. He used to be the executive vice president and general manager of Red Light Management. He is also a two-time Billboard magazine 40 Under 40 power player. Over a year ago, he launched his own management company called Culture Collective.

A Forbes 2017 article outlined that hip-hop and R&B genres are responsible for 25% of all music consumption and over 29% of all on-demand streams across the United States. However, executives of color are still relatively scarce atop major music companies. The top 10 out of 10 on the Billboard Power 100 list are all white, and there's only two people of color in the top 50. Azu breaks this down on why he thinks this is and how to fix it because it's a problem.


Diversity in Music: https://diversityinmusic.org


Quick links:

3:14 - How Jonathan Azu and his artists have been doing since touring has been shut down
11:44 - What Azu's artists are doing in quarantine - how they are staying busy
14:59 - Artists doing live streaming events
17:47 - About Culture Collective and Azu's journey to get to where he's at today
28:01 - Advice to white colleagues asking for advice on curbing systemic racism in the music industry
34:27 - About The Black Music Coalition
38:09 - Lack of racial diversification in the Billboard Power 100 list
40:29 - Shifting internships to paid internships and going outside typical recruiting tactics - should there be mentorship programs?
42:12 - Would reparations be the correct route to approach racial injustices in the music industry?
53:02 - Are people losing interest in the black lives matter movement?
58:04 - Was having an all black roster for Culture Collective intentional?
1:03:59 - Azu's artist Emily King two Grammy nominations


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