Pride month has come to a close and discussions about Black Lives Matter seem to be dwindling in some circles on social media, but music industry activists like Mia Van Allen, Carla Hendershot, and Emily Yankana of the newly created Color of Music Collective will not let these issues to be forgotten or silenced.
Spanning across time zones and currently operating fully online, this collective emerged as a way to put the spotlight on the lack of representation of people of color and LGBTQ+ folks in the music industry. The group specifically works to amplify the voices of people who don’t often have a seat at the table. They host weekly Zoom panels featuring LGBTQ+ and POC in the music industry with the goal of inspiring and empowering a younger generation of music industry hopefuls.
Co-founder, Carla Hendershot explained the collective’s inception saying, “Mia approached me with the idea basically.” Hendershot continued, “We both have always gotten along pretty well because I am part of the LGBT community and Mia is a person of color, and we both have noticed that while there are people working in the industry who look like us or identify like us, they don’t always necessarily have a spotlight on them, so it’s kind of hard to meet people like that.”
Who are they?
The collective’s founder, Mia Van Allen, is a 21-year-old recent American University graduate with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. She has a goal to become an agent. Co-founder and panelist, Carla Hendershot, has a degree in Business with a music industry concentration and currently serves as an Account Assistant at FBMM in Nashville, Tennessee. Emily Yankana, the digital analytics manager of the trifecta, also graduated from American University with a Bachelors in Communications and works as a senior social media coordinator for a company called Carahsoft in Virginia. As a trio, they share a common drive for advocacy and a goal of diversifying the music business at all levels, by pushing for representation of all sexualities and races.
With the COVID-19 pandemic relegating many people to working from home or seeking employment, Carla stated, “We figured this would be a good time to try and start something like this, where we can help amplify the voices of people working in the industry… We know that a lot of our audience are in college or even high school, and we personally feel like if we had seen more people like us in the industry, we would have felt more like we can do that.”
What are their goals?
What sets them apart from other collectives pursuing similar goals? The answer boils down to specificity, and a focus on representation in all levels of the music industry. According to Mia, “We focus on a specific issue whereas most other collectives don’t. They choose issues like ‘woman in management,’ and Carla and I thought that was so broad. We wanted to focus on this very specific issue that was important to us.” Mia elaborated saying, “We wanted to amplify the voices of not only LGBTQ+ artists and artists of color, but also more people behind the scenes. So we want to hear from the photographer, the stylist, the booking agent, the manager, just basically everyone that makes the artist who they are. So yeah that’s something that’s a little more unique to us.”
According to Mia, a big issue they are interested in tackling is the use of the term “urban” to refer to categories of music like R&B, hip hop and jazz. She stated that “so far only Republic Records has switched the department urban music to hip hop and r&b. They’re trying to figure out a different name for it. But I guess they finally realized after over 40 years that it is offensive.”
Mia described how her own personal networking and applying experience in Fall 2020 influenced her perception. She explained, “I wouldn’t call it hiring discrimination, it’s just like they assumed things because of the color of my skin that I would be best suited for the urban department. I hate that word urban … I was actually really interested in rock.”
Due to current events surrounding the murder of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and countless other Black people at the hands of police, there has been a renewed interest in the Black Lives Matter Movement. People are also calling for more representation of people of color in brands, companies, and whole industries. Change is on the horizon, although the process and progress is slow.
Mia well described the shift she has noticed in the music industry. She stated, “You have competitors coming together and agreeing we need to see more people of color in the high level executive positions. So over the past two weeks, I’ve seen in the news that over 70 people in Universal who are people of color have been promoted. We have diversity and inclusion committees that we are now joining for different agencies. It’s a slow change, but I can probably see within the next 6 to 8 months a significant difference, especially with the hiring process.”
So, what next?
Color of Music Collective is currently looking to grow their staff a little more. Recently, the team has added Hannah Damico as their graphic design team leader. They are seeking more volunteers who are people of color or in the LGBTQ+ community for representation reasons. However, they are also open to guest panelists who are POC or LGBTQ+ with experience working in the music industry.
Volunteers make up different departments from outreach to social to digital analytics and production. That way the collective puts their interests and skills to good use. The collective hopes to be able to host live events once the pandemic ends. To contact the Color of Music Collective for more information, email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website: https://www.colorofmusiccollective.com/.
*Disclaimer: Some quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
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