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It’s been a busy 16 months for the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC).

From issuing its first annual Music Industry Action Report Card to supporting The FAIR Act legislation in California, BMAC has formed multiple business partnerships and pledged support for various socio-political causes in its ongoing campaign to end systemic bias. The organization opened 2022 by establishing music industry mentorship programs for HBCU students with streaming platform Audiomack and, most recently, talent agency Wasserman Music. The latter — a three-week Music Accelerator Program in alliance with Tennessee State University — begins Monday (May 9). Along with other organizations, including the Recording Academy, BMAC is also part of a group developing federal legislation to prohibit the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court cases.

Named a 2021 Billboard Change Agent, BMAC was created in June 2020 by a coalition of more than 30 preeminent artist managers. Its eight-member board is complemented by a multi-cultural executive leadership council and an advisory board that includes Clarence Avant, Irving Azoff and Quincy Jones.

Ahead of its second anniversary and the release of its second industry report card in June, BMAC co-founders/co-chairs Willie “Prophet” Stiggers and Caron Veazey spoke with Billboard about sustainable versus performative change within the industry and the challenges that still lie ahead. Of the organization’s unflagging efforts, Veazey declares, “BMAC’s ultimate mission is to become obsolete.”

What noteworthy signs of sustainable change are you seeing?

Prophet: The bottom line is that systemic racism is an issue within America, and the music industry is a reflection of that. So, it’s going to take some time to unpack all of it and get to a point of true equality. Do I think it can happen? Yes. We are encouraged enough that we are still in the fight, gaining traction to really, for the first time, hold this industry accountable to do what’s necessary to make it more equitable. We don’t feel like our work is falling on deaf ears.

Veazey: It’s been frustrating to think about the progress we’ve made as Black people in this country some 50 years since the civil rights movement — only to watch what happened in 2020. It’s been like playing whack-a-mole: As far as we’ve come, we haven’t really come that far at all. However, we’re still pushing forward and people are listening. Even though others have gone back to business as usual, we’re still here reminding everyone that we can be and do better.

Prophet: That’s why BMAC was created because we knew there would come a time when this wouldn’t be as hot a topic; that a lot of things being done would be performative with no real change if there was no accountability. And that, in fact, is one sustainable change we have seen: companies establishing a real checks-and-balance system within this industry for the first time.

How much of the industry’s efforts feels performative versus actionable?

Veazey: I can’t give a ratio, but I will say every industry sector has made steps to make some sort of change. Now is it sustainable or performative? Time will tell. Some have been very aggressive in putting their human resources, time and effort where their mouths are and doing what’s needed. Others have slated funds to donate to worthy organizations. However, some of those have been fairly opaque about exactly where that funding goes while others aren’t making enough changes within their own walls. More than not, companies that we interface with have said, “We’re embarrassed to know that we have an issue but we’re committed to changing it.” That’s the first step in any 12-step program: acknowledging there is a problem. And it all begins with the leadership inside, from the CEO and board levels on down.

Prophet: It’s safe to say that we’re nowhere near where we need to be as an industry yet. Period. Let’s not play games. These are decades- and centuries-old issues that aren’t going to be solved in 12 or 24 months. The expectation wasn’t to solve these issues in that time frame either. But it was absolutely to move to a point where we understand that this is an issue we have to address, so let’s start unpacking it now and get to the root of why. Then let’s move on to what we can do to remedy it.

One of the best examples of an organization that has been able to achieve that is GLAAD. We met with GLAAD early on so we could strategize about how to bring the music industry to the table the way they’ve been able to do in Hollywood.

Our annual report card is one result of that strategizing. After the first one dropped, many people realized, “OK, this is real and something we’re going to have to deal with.” In fact, many people told us they appreciated that because the report card created an urgency again to push the agenda further to ensure the industry is as reflective of the society and consumer base that supports the business. It took GLAAD 30+ years to reach that level of urgency with its [LGBTQ+] initiatives. Clearly, BMAC isn’t looking to still be in existence 30 years from now. We want to get in, solve the issue and be out.

Veazey: BMAC’s ultimate mission, I always say, is to become obsolete. We won’t need a BMAC any longer if systemic racism within the music industry has been eradicated, right? And, yes, I’m aware of how lofty this sounds… but such goals are important.

What do you want from these partnerships with Audiomack, Wasserman Music and other companies?

Prophet: We have to prepare the next generation of Black executives, Black artists and Black creatives. What’s been missing, however, is access to knowledge, resources and opportunities. So, part of our focus is on creating pipeline programs to ensure that Black music executives of the future are given the same access as other cultures. Wasserman and Audiomack are just two of the several initiatives we’ve announced this year. In both of those cases, we’re working with HBCUs. We also have other programs and initiatives that we’ll be launching within the broader community because there are some of us that didn’t or can’t go to college but are just as creative and important to the conversation. That’s also why we developed the Rolling Loud partnership. We want to ensure we’re touching the generation that is going to ultimately bring about change as decision-makers over the next 10-15 years. That we’re meeting them where they’re at so we can bring this message straight to them. It’s the same energy that led the protests in 2020. We haven’t forgotten that energy and want to help guide that into various points of action.

BMAC’s allies include high-profile execs like Irving and Jeff Azoff, Dina LaPolt and Doug Davis. How do white allies impact BMAC’s efforts?

Veazey: Allies have always been important to the fight for change. They were important to us during slavery and the abolitionist movement, and also during the civil rights movement in this country in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. If we’re talking true change, we want everyone involved who is going to help bring that change about. And if those are our white brothers and sisters, we absolutely welcome them. And in terms of BMAC being a Black organization, certainly it is. It was created by Black people to benefit Black people working in all facets of the music industry and the board is 100% Black. But we also feel very appreciative and grateful for the solidarity of our non-Black friends and partners.

Prophet: From day one, Black people have been leading the fight for equality. It’s always fallen on us to do the heavy lifting on a problem we didn’t create. That said, this isn’t about BMAC versus white people. That’s divisive and among the tricks used to try and discount organizations like this. Anyone who cares about dismantling systemic racism and rebuilding the infrastructure should be joining this fight. I won’t let others discredit the tremendous amount of work our eight-member board has done, meeting two-to-four times a month strategizing, building and pushing this agenda forward — in addition to their day jobs and without any extra pay or bonuses.

We have partnerships with BESLA (Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association), in the same way we do with the Music Artists Coalition, Songwriters of North America, SAG-AFTRA and other groups who are fighting for equality in the creative community. Our board of directors, as Caron noted, is all Black but our executive leadership council, co-chaired by Shawn Holiday and Jeff Azoff, is multi-cultural, multi-gendered — all coming together to push a Black agenda that’s calling for equity, parity and inclusion.

If you could wave a magic wand to eliminate one key systemic obstacle right now, what would that be?

Veazey: More Black senior executives — with decision-making power. This is critical. Executives who have that ability are able to impact the creative community and the business at large by influencing focus, spending, investments and other priorities. If we’re not in charge of the money and where that spending goes, then we’re never really going to be able to implement the kind of diversity and equality that the entire industry needs.

Prophet: The complete redistribution of the wealth to the Black creators who have been and are being robbed, which has helped create the wealth gap in this country. That would be my ultimate get.

This content was originally published here.

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