Repairing Racial Inequities in the Music Industry with Artist Manager Jonathan Azu

Today's episode was recorded live in Los Angeles in my guest's, Jonathan Azu, backyard. This was the first in-person interview I've done since the coronavirus shutdown and we've all been locked in quarantine. But Jonathan has a beautiful backyard where we could safely social distance, so we set up there. It was nice to be in the physical presence of somebody for once. I've missed that so dearly.


Jonathan Azu is an artist manager for artists like Cory Henry, Luke James, Emily King, and Michelle Williams among others. He used to be the executive vice president and general manager of Red Light Management. He is also a two-time Billboard magazine 40 Under 40 power player. Over a year ago, he launched his own management company called Culture Collective.


We talk about how he shifted his business model now that live touring is shut down. We also talk about how the music industry can be more racially diverse and equitable, specifically how music companies can address the racial inequalities that exist at an executive level but really all levels.


A Forbes 2017 article outlined that hip-hop and R&B genres are responsible for 25% of all music consumption and over 29% of all on-demand streams across the United States. However, executives of color are still relatively scarce atop major music companies. The top 10 out of 10 on the Billboard Power 100 list are all white, and there's only two people of color in the top 50. Azu breaks this down on why he thinks this is and how to fix it because it's a problem.


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Quick links:


4:20 - How Jonathan Azu and his artists have been doing since touring has been shut down

12:50 - What Azu's artists are doing in quarantine - how they are staying busy

16:05 - Artists doing live streaming events

18:53 - About Culture Collective and Azu's journey to get to where he's at today

29:07 - Advice to white colleagues asking for advice on curbing systemic racism in the music industry

35:33 - About The Black Music Coalition

39:15 - Lack of racial diversification in the Billboard Power 100 list

41:35 - Shifting internships to paid internships and going outside typical recruiting tactics - should there be mentorship programs?

43:18 - Would reparations be the correct route to approach racial injustices in the music industry?

54:08 - Are people losing interest in the black lives matter movement?

59:10 - Was having an all black roster for Culture Collective intentional?

1:05:05 - Azu's artist Emily King two Grammy nominations


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