The Color of Music
Our Editor-in-Chiefs Allana Campbell and Charlie Slan sat down and interviewed the wonderful team behind Color of Music Collective, and spoke specifically with the founder Mia Van Allen. Color of Music Collective is a collective focused on amplifying the voices of people of color (POC) and LGBTQ+ individuals working in the music industry. Their goal is change the lack of representation and diversity within the music industry.
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Saturdaze: Hi! We are so excited to be meeting with you today, thank you for joining us. To start off, can you please introduce yourselves?
COMC: My name is Mia. I am the founder of Color of Music Collective. I am a woman of color and the reason why I wanted to start this collective is because I had about 8 or maybe 10 internships/job experiences where I was the only POC (person of color). It really bothered me because I worked in so many different cities and it was upsetting that I didn't have any coworkers that were POC who I could relate to. I hadn’t found a place, at least yet, where I completely fit in. I wanted to start this initiative because I wanted to help people who felt the same as me.
Saturdaze: How do you organize your panels, and how do you get the word out?
COMC: We originally started [getting the word out about our panels via] social media. We also have a community outreach team, which is responsible for reaching out to colleges and college students about CMC. We do free networking panels over Zoom, where we have 4-6 panelists come on and share their stories. We have a specific theme [for our panels] every week that's focused on POC or the LGBTQ+ community.
Saturdaze: Your first panel was the topic “Navigating the Job Market in the Music Industry as a Person of Color and/or LGBTQ+ Individual”. Can you tell us a bit about the discussion? Was the panel what you expected?
COMC: I thought the panel was quite successful. I think the conversation about the discrimination within the hiring process as a POC and/or an LGBTQ+ individual was very rewarding. The conversation was very open and honest about what is looked for in a resume and common mistakes made. Simple resumes can go a long way especially for a POC who might have less job experience and more experience in a customer service position. I think that these free networking panels we host are super beneficial to young adults and those in the music industry and will lead to diversity (racial + sexuality-wise) being celebrated within the workforce.
Saturdaze: How can one get involved in the panels?
COMC: I personally feel like I have enough connections thus far where I can call my mentors and ask them to speak for the panel. They’ll usually say yes unless there’s a conflict in their schedule.
Saturdaze: How has the current political climate affected your collective? Have more people shown interest in your company due to recent activism?
COMC: Yeah, we have a digital analytics manager to see who is coming on our site, and if they relate to our mission personally. I think we've been growing social media-wise very very quickly. It’s so unexpected. We weren’t actually going to start the collective until midsummer. I was so internally angry and livid with the George Floyd incident that it kind of just extended the question of why did it take that video to spark a movement now? This has been going on for decades, and it's disgusting how that video sparked millions of people to come out and finally have these conversations about racism, and get more white allies to be on board and educate themselves. Within our entertainment industry, it was very frightening how just now people were having these conversations of “Oh! Urban as a genre is insulting”. I was so frustrated and I really wanted to use my voice and my privilege as a college-educated Black woman to give back and also educate others, or possible allies, about what we have to deal with daily in our industry. Since no other company, or a down-to-earth or sincere company like us, has started this conversation, people relate to us because we come across as more humble than Universal Records or Public Records Creative. Our numbers have grown extremely high. There has been an overwhelming outpour of support so far, and everybody wanting to contribute and get involved. So, we're just really thankful for everyone who’s come out and supported the cause, and for them to finally see themselves at the table as well.
Saturdaze: Wow, congratulations, that’s so exciting! Please describe your most recent panel.
COMC: The theme of the last panel was being an LGBTQ+ person in the Southern music industry. So we had an all LGBTQ+ lineup. We've had some panels where we’ve always welcomed allies, but for this particular topic, it felt necessary to have an entire LGBTQ+ lineup. There’s a definite need for diversity in the southern music cities like here in Nashville. The purpose of the panel was to discuss what it's been like being out [as an LGBTQ+ person] in the South. It was honestly a really necessary discussion. It was difficult to find enough people [to speak at] the panel compared to some of the other topics [we’ve featured]. The challenge of finding people who are out and proud in the Southern music industry has really proved how important it was to have this panel in the first place.
Saturdaze: Do you guys know what your next panel is about? And if so, can you give us a little sneak peek?
COMC: For our next panel, we’ll be talking with touring and marketing assistants from a range of really amazing companies like CAA, Def Jam, Atlantic Records and more! We think it’s really important to highlight the work of young people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals across all levels of the [music] industry, which is why we’re focusing on assistants for this event. It's an especially important conversation because assistants are the future leaders of the music industry. The panel takes place on August 10th at 7pm ET/4pm PT and you’ll be able to register [to attend the panel] on our website!
Saturdaze: What does success look like in your industry, and what would success look like for Color of Music Collective?
COMC: At least at this point in time success in the music business is, not in an insulting way, but it’s white privileged men who were born in the industry of entertainment. So, that means that they've had either a parent or a relative who kind of helped navigate that career for them. It's very rare personally where I find someone who hustled in the 80’s or 70’s era who just worked for it, and got to their place by themselves. Many of my mentors are white men, but they are people who came from nothing and really worked their way up to the success that they have today. However, even they know that it is a huge problem, which is why they put so much time into womxn and people like me who actually give a shit who want to aspire to that level someday. I think people are trying, it's just we need more white cis males to support and uplift the community and look out for those hustlers. It's really sad how I've come across so many people in this community online who’ve reached out to me and asked to set up a phone call. They tell me after that they haven’t met anybody like the people on the panel, meaning people who have come from nothing.
Saturdaze: Would you like to talk a bit about the LGBTQ+ side and what Color of Music Collective thinks success looks like in that community?
COMC: When doing research and outreach to find panelists we've realized that not many LGBTQ+ people who are working in music are showcased. Not trying to be negative, but just trying to find people who are out in the industry, we have come across the same names pretty often. Even though it's a statistical fact that [LGBTQ+ people in the music industry] exist. The collective effort of everybody in the world working to make actual changes right now is actually beginning to change the world. Maybe that's an optimistic viewpoint, but we definitely feel like we are seeing actions taken by companies, such as diversity task forces, that were not in place before. That will hopefully show a positive change in the music industry and in other aspects of the workforce. You can't blame people for [wanting change within our society] when it's been less than a month since you could legally be fired for your sexual orientation. We’re really hoping that with that Supreme Court decision, changes will be seen in our communities. We hope that our communities will take action so that each workplace reflects a percentage of gender identification, orientations, and races of the actual population in the city or country. For example, if 20% of the population is African-American in the city, then 20% of people in the company should be African-American.
Saturdaze: How do you see Color of Music Collective growing in the future?
COMC: We would really like to host in-person panels, but obviously post COVID. We just love the idea of hearing people's stories in person and being able to witness who they’ve become. It’s always so rewarding to have the opportunity to go up to the speaker in person and say why you were moved, and why you hope to continue the conversation further one-on-one. We just think that will be really beneficial for everyone, especially because you're more likely to get a response in person than email. Hopefully, within the next year, we can see this transformation happen. It just really depends on the current COVID landscape.
Saturdaze: Thank you so much for meeting with us. Do you have any parting words?
COMC: Yeah! We think it’s important to meet with people like [Saturdaze Magazine], and people who also believe in our mission and what we do. It’s our focus to continue to educate everyone on what POC individuals and LQBTQ+ people have to go through daily. It's so hard right now, especially during our current political climate, to even think about a positive direction for all of our communities. But, we feel like now is finally a time where you're going to see a difference. We just want to use this platform not only as education on the music business but also advocacy for POC and LGBTQ+ individuals. Lastly, I'm really looking forward to what we have coming up at the end of this month and next month. We should have announcements pretty soon, and we’re just hoping that we can continue to grow. We think that as horrible as this pandemic is, it’s forced us to focus on the current climate and changes that need to be made. If there's a silver lining to all of this it's that we are all actively making changes to better the future for everyone. Thank you for having us!
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Get in Touch with Color of Music Collective!