(Live Nation Entertainment Executive Leadership and Board of Directors, 2014.)
Blues was invented in America, and so was Rap. Blues led to Rock n’ Roll; Rap transformed the entire landscape of modern pop music. Simply stated, without the African-American influence, American music would probably suck.
So why, if the influence of Black artists on music is so massive, are there hardly any powerful Black executives in the modern music industry?
Why are companies like Pandora, Live Nation, Apple, Spotify, AEG, Warner Music Group, SXSW, Clear Channel Communications, and Universal Music Group dominated by white executives, often from privileged backgrounds and educations?
Why do executives like Troy Carter and Chuck D always feel like ‘token Black guys’ at major music industry events?
Sure, you can rattle off the names of hyper-successful African-American music industry executives like Jay Z, will.i.am, and Carter, but those are exceptions that prove the rule. Because after meeting with hundreds of music industry companies and probably thousands of executives, attorneys, technologists, and investors while running Digital Music News, I can safely say that bumping into a successful Black music industry executive is a rare event.
And it’s way worse on the technology and live concert side, i.e., the biggest growth areas of this industry.
Let me take it a step further: off the top of my head, I can’t name one Black executive from Pandora, Live Nation, Apple, Spotify, AEG, or SXSW, just to pluck from the above list. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but for the most part, they are not in prominent, influential positions at these companies. And, sadly, there’s a distinct possibility there aren’t any influential Black executives on the payrolls at many of these enterprises.
But Spotify is Swedish, right? That’s the country of origin, yes, but the US is their biggest and most important market. And we have Black people here (but, not here).
Thank God this isn’t my father’s music industry, when the greatest, most creative Black artists toiled in poverty (while being mercilessly copied and exploited by white artists). When famous African-American musicians battled a tricky maze of racism and violent threats while touring America. When there were two types of radio stations, Black and white.
When someone like Jay Z couldn’t have possibly existed.
But comparing this industry to the industry of the 50s and 60s doesn’t really accomplish much. We’re out of the dark ages, sure, but there isn’t a dark face in the boardroom to prove it.
And if only the most extremely talented, insanely intelligent, and amazingly lucky Black executives are making it, then there’s still a big problem. In the music industry, in music technology, and America at large.
Written while listening to The Black Album by Jay Z.
Live Nation top executive team and board members. Top row (l to r): Michael Rapino (President, Chief Executive Officer and Director); John Reid (President, Live Nation Europe-Concerts); Alan Ridgeway (President, International and Emerging Markets); Ron Bension (President, HOB Entertainment); Jared Smith (President, Ticketmaster North America); Arthur Fogel (Chairman, Global Music and President, Global Touring); Simon Lewis (President, Live Nation Europe—Sponsorship and Concerts); Gregory B. Maffei (Chairman of the Board).
2nd row (l to r): Mark Yovich (President, Ticketmaster International); Joe Berchtold (Chief Operating Officer); Russell Wallach (President, Media & Sponsorship); James S. Kahan (Board of Directors); Eric Garland (General Manager, Live Nation Digital); Mark Campana (Co-President, North America Concerts); Bob Roux (Co-President, North America Concerts); John Hopmans (Executive Vice President – Mergers and Acquisitions and Strategic Finance).
3rd row (l to r): Michael Rowles (General Counsel and Secretary); Mark Carleton (Board of Directors); Peggy Johnson (Board of Directors); Jonathan L. Dolgen (Board of Directors); Ariel Emanuel (Board of Directors); Robert Ted Enloe, III (Board of Directors); Kathy Willard (Chief Financial Officer); Mark Shapiro (Board of Directors).