The City of Toronto and Slaight Family Foundation Make $2 Million Pact to Support Black Music Industry Professionals

You are here

Toronto has excelled at seeing hometown Black Canadian heroes like Drake, The Weeknd and Tory Lanez dominate the pop music world at home and abroad.  But now The City of Toronto and the Slaight Family Foundation have struck a $2 million partnership to support the entry, retention and advancement of Black professionals in Toronto’s music industry, each committing $1 million over the next four years. Seed money will go to Advance, Canada’s Black Music Business Collective, which will then oversee initatives, as part of an advisory group.

"One of the mandates of the Slaight Foundation is to support the creative arts in this country and, in doing so, help expand the vital Canadian entertainment industry, whether it be in front of the spotlight or behind boardroom doors,” Gary Slaight, president and CEO of Slaight Communications, said in a statement. “The Advance program will provide support for young Black entrepreneurs in all aspects of the music industry: record labels, management companies, agencies, publicists, artists and producers. The Slaight Foundation is proud to help assist this necessary and beneficial Canadian initiative.”

To loosen the entrenched whiteness of Canadian music industry management and CEOs, the City and the Slaight Family Foundation will each commit $250,000 a year through to 2023 to support Black talent development in the local music industry.  The partnership will provide seed funding for the newly-launched Advance, Canada’s Black Music Business Collective.

"Serving as a unified front for Black people working within all sectors of the Canadian music industry, Advance creates conditions for long-term success by addressing racial equality and inclusivity through four areas: Advocacy, Mentorship, Community Outreach and Business Development and Entrepreneur," Advance says on its website.

The private-public sector partnership will also research "racial discrepancies" in the Canadian music industry, offer mentorship and internship programs for Black talent, with placements to begin in 2021, and a pilot initiative to support Black managerial talent development via community training partners. Master classes on music industry career development are planned for emerging Black talent.

“I am proud that our city will be partnering with the Slaight Family Foundation to provide critical funding to help support the advancement of Black professionals within our thriving music industry,” Mayor Tory said in his own statement “This announcement represents significant and tangible steps towards real change that will help address an ongoing gap within our city’s music industry. I want to thank Slaight Family Foundation, Advance and Universal for partnering with us and for helping us provide opportunities for Black professionals in our city. The time to invest and create change is now as we work towards confronting and eradicating anti-Black racism within our city.”

Universal Music Canada is among the major businesses that have stepped up to support Advance as it looks to hold the industry accountable in the Black Lives Matter era.  “The advancement of Black professionals in Canada’s music sector is an essential and long-overdue priority. Universal Music Canada is proud to serve as an industry partner of this initiative. We look forward to working alongside Advance and welcome others from across the Canadian music and corporate communities to join in supporting this important effort," Remedios, chairman and CEO of Universal Music Canada, said in a statement.

An advisory group, including representatives of the Slaight Family Foundation, Advance and the City, will oversee the four-year partnership.

“The advancement of Black professionals in Canada’s music sector is an essential and long-overdue priority. Universal Music Canada is proud to serve as an industry partner of this initiative. We look forward to working alongside Advance and welcome others from across the Canadian music and corporate communities to join in supporting this important effort," Vivian Barclay, a music publishing executive and a board member of Advance, said in her own statement.

Meanwhile, CIMA — the Canadian Independent Music Association — has been hosting a 10-part online panel discussion series every Tuesday afternoon called Breaking Down Racial Barriers. And today Warner Music Canada announced the hiring of artist Jeffrey “LordQuest” Nuamah to the A&R team.

During an appearance o the CTV special Change & Action: Racism In Canada back in June, Colombian-Canadian singer-songwriter called out the three major labels in Canada:   “Sony, it's 90 employees but only eight are Black; at Warner, it’s 86 employees, only seven are Black; and at Universal, — I'm personally signed to Universal, but I'm going to be completely open about this — 175 employees, 11 Black people.”  She then added, “Out of those Black people, none of them are in executive positions or leadership positions, except one, Vivian Barclay at Warner Chappell [publishing] — one.  She's the general manager. In the music industry in Canada — one. That's not acceptable.”

In a piece for FYI Music News, the numbers weren't far off: Warner’s staff total is slightly less than what Reyez’ quoted, 82, not 86, seven of whom are Black, including publishing’s Barclay; Sony, while not providing a specific figure, said the number of employees who are Black is higher than what was stated. Universal would neither verify nor correct Reyez’ numbers, explaining, “To protect the privacy of our employees, we do not publicly disclose this information” but “remain committed to implementing best practices to ensure diversity at all levels of our organization.”

Marki

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.