The Black Lives Matter movement this summer demanded that the music industry self-examine its practices and how it, like many other industries, perpetuates systemic racism in America. In response, major labels made promises to diversify their structures, specifically in corporate and executive positions, as that is where representation is most lacking. Some have taken the extra step to hire an inclusion officer to ensure these changes actually take place. However, one of the major sectors of the music business, the touring industry, has faced less scrutiny in the news, despite being just as exclusive as the music business’s other sectors. That’s why Noelle Scaggs, singer in the well-known Neo-soul, alt-pop band Fitz and the Tantrums, created her initiative “Diversify the Stage.”
Scaggs, a black woman in a band of white men, started this initiative as she time and time again realized that she was the only woman of color on tour, on stage and off. The touring industry operates mainly via word of mouth, with jobs found and offered mainly by one’s network, which perpetuates the exclusion of women and minorities who already have a tougher time getting their foot in the door. This is why, as Bill Reeves, a veteran production and touring manager and co-found of the advocacy group of Roadies of Color United, explained that most white pop acts don’t tend to hire black crew members. Additionally, he’s witnessed that typically, Black acts use black crews early in their career. However, once they hit a wave of mainstream success, the touring crews become all-white “like magic.” But mostly, Reeves states, is that even the touring managers and artists who want to hire a diverse crew just don’t know where to find diverse members.
That’s why one of Diversify the Stage’s main plans is to create an online directory of a diverse array of touring managers, booking agents, producers, coordinators, tech professionals, etc. This will provide companies and artists with a place to find a wide variety of candidates to hire. Scaggs’ initiative is currently working with other initiatives with their own directories, like Never Famous, Live Nation Urban, and She is the Music, to further expand its directory. Additionally, Diversify the Stage has a mentorship program that brings young people that belong to minorities into the music business, giving them hands-on, real-world experience in the sector in an attempt to combat the gatekeeping nature of the industry. Partnering with the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation, Diversify the Stage is giving a series of master classes to 20 young women of color, who will then be placed in apprenticeships in the music business to further foster and grow their careers.
Besides the plans in place for the initiative, she calls for already established musicians to use their influence and fight for hiring more diverse crews, because artists themselves have the platform and power to put pressure on the touring industry to take action. Ultimately, she just wants this initiative to actually create change, and not just to keep “having the same conversation a year or two later.”
For more information, visit the source article at the New York Times website.
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