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At Music Biz Awards, Bebe Rexha and Kane Brown Push for Greater Diversity

While gratitude was a theme in all the acceptance speeches at the 2019 Music Biz Awards in Nashville on Tuesday, change was a major element of at least two of them.

For Bebe Rexha, winning the Breakthrough Artist Award meant empowerment. The singer — whose smash collaboration with Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be,” was one of biggest hits of the past couple of years — began her speech by acknowledging the anxiety that she and many other artists feel. “Artists are so insecure and we’re so f–ed up, but I guess that’s the catch. You have to be kind of crazy that’s what helps to make great record,” she admitted.

But her tone turned serious when she concluded her speech with a vow to elevate women in the music industry. “We need more women in the music business that are executives,” she said to cheers, reciting statistics (from a USC Annenberg study) that female executives are paid 30 percent less than their male counterparts, and that 86 percent of songs on the radio in the U.S. are by male artists. “That needs to change. I will be letting everybody in this room know that one day, I will be running one of the biggest record labels,” she said.

She then apparently threw some shade at former Epic Records chief L.A. Reid, who left the company amid sexual-harassment allegations in 2017 but has been building his new label, HitCo. She rolled her eyes as she said, “Just like L.A. Reid has built his brand, I will be that female version of it because women deserve a chance and I will make a space for them. I will be the top of the music business and women will be equal to all the f–ing men — I love you men, but we need more f–king women in higher spots, so pay them extra, give them time, respect them,” she continued. “Some of the people that have told me so many incredible things have been women and they’re the ones who have always taught me the most important information that I know. So I will be seeing you in the future when my artists win this award.”

Fellow Breakthrough Artist recipient Kane Brown, who recently collaborated with R&B singer Khalid and dance-music producer Marshmello, used the accolade as a way to acknowledge those in the industry breaking down both racial and genre barriers for country artists. “When you go to my shows, everybody looks different — they don’t look like they’re supposed to be in the crowd, so it’s a cool feeling,” the singer, who is biracial, told Variety on the red carpet. He reiterated this statement during the ceremony, thanking his wife Katelyn, the Sony Nashville team and “everybody in this room that ever gave me a chance and is opening doors for other people who don’t think they belong in country music,” he said.

Brown’s label head, Sony Music Nashville CEO Randy Goodman, received one of the night’s highest honors with the Presidential Award for Outstanding Executive Achievement. Goodman was a key player in relocating Music Biz to Nashville in 2015, working with former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean on the Music City Music Council in an effort to better integrate the music industry into downtown Nashville’s business scene. While accepting the award, Goodman turned to Brown and his labelmate Luke Combs, who performed an acoustic set of his hits “Beautiful Crazy” and “She Got the Best of Me,” saying it’s a privilege to work with such artists. “You give meaning to our work,” he said.

“Honored” and “grateful” are two words Giles Martin used to describe how his father, the late, legendary Beatles producer George Martin, would feel about his induction into the Music Business Association Hall of Fame. Giles currently serves as head of Audio & Sound at Universal Music Group, but worked alongside his father to produce the Beatles’ 2007 Grammy winning album “Love” as well as other recent Beatles projects.

“I think he was unique, in that half of being a record producer is psychology and you have to get the best out of the artist in the room at the time,” Martin said. “What he was really good at was opening the door to creativity, so I think that what he brought to [the Beatles] was an endless possibility of creating great art beyond just being a pop band.” He mentioned that it was Martin’s idea to add a string quartet to “Yesterday,” even though Paul McCartney was hesitant at first. “He introduced them to sounds that they wouldn’t have heard and explained how music could be shaped and colored in ways that they wouldn’t have imagined.”

The night’s top honor, the Chairman’s Award for Sustained Creative Achievement, went to Peter Frampton, who announced in February that he’s been diagnosed with inclusion body myositis diagnosis (IBM), an inflammatory disease that causes weakening of the muscles. The diagnosis has prompted Frampton to record four albums since October and curate the “Peter Frampton Finale” farewell tour this year. The veteran rocker expressed gratitude for the career he’s had, even in light of his illness. “It’s not my choice,” he said of the disease, “ and it’s not been an easy past couple of months. [But] I really am the luckiest guy because my passion for my music has kept me going through many years of ups and downs and whatever’s been thrown at me, coupled with the many mistakes that I’ve made,” he said. “But it’s all part of this life dream.”

Other honorees at the 2019 Music Biz Awards include singer Darius Rucker (Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award), The Orchard co-founderRichard Gottehrer (Outstanding Achievement Award) and Richard Storms and Alyana Alderman of Record Archive (Independent Spirit Award).

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