Songtrust was founded by Downtown Music in 2021, and since then, the Downtown family of companies has grown to include CD Baby, FUGA, AdRev, and more. While these companies have distinctive roles within the music business, they’re all aimed at administering and monetizing songs and recordings for their clients - without owning any copyrights themselves.
When #TheShowMustBePaused movement launched Blackout Tuesday a few years ago to promote action and awareness of the historical inequity in the music business affecting Black and BIPOC creatives and employees, Songtrust’s parent company took immediate actions, internally and externally, in response.
One of Downtown’s responses was to promote and support the formation of Employee Resource Groups, which are employee-led and -run groups, supported financially and with personnel hours by the business, for historically underrepresented groups to find community among other members of the groups and allies, as well as to engage in activism and education in the broader company.
While they’re rooted in the racially motivated reforms of the 1960s — something their earliest adopter, Xerox, has celebrated in recent years — ERGs have taken on a new, long overdue level of urgency in light of the nationwide protests surrounding George Floyd’s murder. Downtown Music’s first ERG, Black Power in Music (BPM), has spearheaded transformational actions at Downtown since 2020, including recruitment and hiring changes, civic engagement, and programming and events. BPM’s more than 30 members have also participated in everything from speaking engagements to broader education and wellness initiatives.
In the following interview with their executive board, we discuss BPM’s everyday work efforts and long-term goals within Downtown Music, its family of companies, and the industry at large.
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF BPM?
BPM’s mission is to support the professional development of Black employees through leadership programming and networking; challenge racial inequity through community engagement and charitable giving; and attract and support prospective and new Black employees through recruitment and outreach.
WHAT SPECIFIC ISSUES, PRESSURES, AND CHALLENGES WAS BPM FOUNDED TO ADDRESS IN THE WORKPLACE?
BPM was founded to work with company leadership to create a more inclusive, aware, and socially active working environment with the ultimate goal of making Downtown Music a model institution in music and beyond.
THE MUSIC INDUSTRY HAS A HISTORY OF UNDERVALUING BLACK CREATORS, AND HISTORICALLY LEADERS WITHIN THE INDUSTRY HAVE LARGELY BEEN WHITE MEN. HOW DO GROUPS LIKE BPM WORK TOWARD GREATER OPPORTUNITY FOR BLACK EMPLOYEES IN MUSIC?
BPM has worked with Downtown's leaders to establish a paid internship program, recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday, and analyze potential pay gaps.
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE ARE THE MOST MEANINGFUL CHANGES THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AS A WHOLE — OR INDIVIDUAL SEGMENTS OF THE INDUSTRY — NEED TO MAKE IN THE SHORT TERM TO BETTER SUPPORT BLACK CREATORS AND PROFESSIONALS?
Education. It's a bit easier now because there is so much more available on the internet. Resources are out there and a lot of people are paying it forward; access to information is easier than it has ever been.
WHAT IS THE GREATEST CHALLENGE TO EQUITY THAT CURRENTLY EXISTS FOR BLACK AND OTHER BIPOC MUSIC INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS?
One of the greatest challenges to equity for Black music industry professionals is opportunity. BIPOC professionals are often overlooked in the areas of recruitment, hiring, and promotion practices.
FROM A PERSPECTIVE INSIDE THE INDUSTRY, WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE MOST LIKELY WAYS IN WHICH BLACK CREATORS ARE MISLED OR EXPLOITED IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS?
One of the likely ways in which Black creators are being misled and exploited in addition to a lack of education is if they are lacking an effective manager or lawyer on their team.
WHAT ARE BPM'S PLANS FOR 2022, AND WHAT DOES THE GROUP HOPE TO ACHIEVE?
BPM hopes to continue to facilitate strategic and empathetic communication around DEI and HR matters. Our focus for this year includes company hiring and promotion practices, training, and allyship.
For more details about Downtown Music and Songtrust’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts, and BPM in particular, please check out its look back at the first year since Blackout Tuesday here.