UPDATED: Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino posted an open letter to employees across the world promising greater diversity in the years to come, along with a $10 million investment to “focus on developing, promoting and hiring Black and underrepresented talent.”
With 2025 as a target date, the document pledges to double the overall percentage of Black leadership across U.S. divisions and to attain a minimum of 30% racially and ethnically diverse leaders in the U.S. and a minimum of 40% overall, to achive 50% gender diversity to develop more tours from Black, Latin and other underserved groups, and to dedicate more of its annual $2 billion to Black and minority-owned vendors.
The company also commits to “amplifying social justice causes” via “utilize[ing] our global platforms to increase awareness and engagement for artist causes” and, once concerts are back at scale, to “develop our own programs and initiatives that artists, brands, and fans can tap into, including championing voter registration on-site at venues and online as part of the ticket-purchase experience.” Internally, it says it will “be providing anti-bias education training, tracking our diversity data globally, facilitating ongoing pay equity analysis, tying our goals to leadership compensation, and establishing an Equity Accountability Board led by different leaders from across the business to govern and influence our goals.”
“Recent events in the U.S. and around the world have sparked overdue reflection on racism and discrimination in our societies, as well as here at Live Nation,” Rapino writes in the letter, which was posted on July 9 but shared with media on Tuesday. “As the leader in live music, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to amplify the conversation around anti-racism and Black Lives Matter in order to be a part of the solution. We are committing to take steps to ensure that everyone in our community – employees, artists, and fans – is valued, respected, and treated equitably.”
Notably, the letter was posted on the same day Live Nation Entertainment was sued by a furloughed executive claiming race and gender discrimination, although the plan is far too detailed to have been conjured as a response. In the lawsuit, furloughed employee Candace Newman claims that she was retaliated against for complaining about race and gender discrimination in the workplace, then cut loose with coronavirus-related staff reductions cited as the excuse.
“This case epitomizes the issue at the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement — systemic racism,” the lawsuit contends.
In the suit, which was filed July 8 in L.A. County Superior Court, the attorneys for Newman, who is Black, contend that although “over half of the Live Nation artists are Black,” the company “fosters a toxic work environment of harassment, discrimination, and retaliating against employees, like Plaintiff, who complain about a lack of diversity and race discrimination in the workplace.”
The lawsuit alleges “wrongful termination in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act” as one of its claims. But, in a response provided to Variety, Live Nation says that’s baseless because Newman hasn’t actually been fired.
“We were surprised by Ms. Newman’s claim of wrongful termination, as she is still an employee at Live Nation,” the company said in its statement. “With concerts on pause due to the pandemic we unfortunately had to implement furloughs across our company, most heavily impacting our concerts division, but our furloughed staff are still valued employees, receiving healthcare and other benefits.”
Live Nation’s response said the company “cannot comment on specifics of the lawsuit while in active litigation; however, we would like to be clear that any allegations of bias and discrimination in Ms. Newman’s claims are completely unfounded. Live Nation is fully committed to being an anti-racist and equitable organization and we continuously strive to foster an environment where employees feel comfortable and empowered.”
To say that 2020 has been a challenging year for Live Nation and the live-entertainment industry is an understatement of epic proportions. As explored in this week’s Variety cover story, the live music industry — the financial engine of the music business, which Pollstar had projected would generate $12.2 billion in box office this year — was flattened by the pandemic in a matter of days. All major concert tours and festivals have been scrubbed or postponed indefinitely; layoffs, furloughs or pay cuts have hit every major live entertainment company. Pollstar has since estimated the concert industry could lose as much as $9 billion in 2020 alone — and that figure doesn’t include the losses of income by musicians, technicians, dancers and others in its sprawling supply chain.
Live Nation has battled not only the loss of nearly all revenue, as thousands of concerts have been postponed or cancelled, its stock has been buffeted and it has been hit with layoffs and furloughs; the company’s top executives have taken pay cuts and Rapino will forego his $3 million salary this year; it has been lambasted over changes in refund policies by Ticketmaster, which it owns. But the company has fought back hard with efforts ranging from stabilizing its stock price to launching a $10 million fund to aid touring staff impacted by coronavirus to focusing on drive-in concerts as one holding pattern until normal concerts can return.
Rapino’s letter follows in full below:
AN OPEN LETTER FROM CEO MICHAEL RAPINO TO LIVE NATION EMPLOYEES AROUND THE WORLD:
At Live Nation, our mission has always been about bringing people together to share experiences and to unify them through the universal language of music. Despite the fact that we remain physically distant, this fundamental part of who we are is as important as it has ever been. We can only be successful in this mission if we address inequality and injustice at every level of our organization.
Recent events in the U.S. and around the world have sparked overdue reflection on racism and discrimination in our societies, as well as here at Live Nation. As the leader in live music, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to amplify the conversation around anti-racism and Black Lives Matter in order to be a part of the solution. We also recognize the need to expand our efforts across race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and other underrepresented groups.
We are committing to take steps to ensure that everyone in our community – employees, artists, and fans – is valued, respected, and treated equitably.
We commit to increasing diversity at every level of our company. This will start at the very top with our Board of Directors, where we plan to nominate more Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and women candidates as we strive towards having at least 30% of our directors be diverse by 2025. When it comes to our leadership representation (Director and above), we are setting representation goals on a country-by-country basis in order to acknowledge local dynamics and best serve each region. In the United States, we plan to have doubled our Black leadership representation, and to have increased our overall racially/ethnically diverse leadership representation to 30% by 2025. We’ll be investing at least $10 million globally over the next two years as we expand and launch new programs focused on developing, promoting and hiring Black and underrepresented talent as we work to bring our overall employee population to parity across race and gender in every country. This will include expanding Future Nation, formalizing mentorship programs, building career training and coaching opportunities, growing scholarship offerings, developing pipelines for more diverse hiring, and other efforts.
We commit to putting diversity center stage at our events around the world. As the biggest economic driver for artists, we want to ensure live music continues to unlock opportunities for equity and prosperity, and we will keep taking steps to broaden the range of artists we promote around the globe. Over the past 10 years, we’ve invested over $300 million in music business ventures that empower Black artists and entrepreneurs. We will continue developing and investing in more music ventures, as well as festivals, tours, and programs that empower Black, Latin, female and other underserved groups as they continue to shape the future of music and culture. Additionally, our 100+ festivals will strive to present more diverse lineups, including more artists from underrepresented races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and genders.
We commit to increasing our spend with Black and minority-owned vendors. We spend over $2 billion each year on staging and sourcing for shows, with a supply chain that spans the globe. We can use this spending power to drive economic empowerment and help grow small and disadvantaged businesses. In the future, we will look for opportunities to support minority-owned business wherever possible, from stage lighting companies to our 401k investment managers, and more.
We commit to amplifying social justice causes. Music has the power to shift perspective and drive change, and many of the artists we work with are at the forefront of the social justice conversation. Last year we helped bring concerts to over 40 countries and 100 million fans, and we vow to utilize our global platforms to increase awareness and engagement for artist causes. Once we are back to doing shows at scale, we will also be able to develop our own programs and initiatives that artists, brands, and fans can tap into, including championing voter registration on-site at venues and online as part of the ticket-purchase experience.
We commit to holding ourselves accountable. To ensure our words turn into action, we will be providing anti-bias education training, tracking our diversity data globally, facilitating ongoing pay equity analysis, tying our goals to leadership compensation, and establishing an Equity Accountability Board led by different leaders from across the business to govern and influence our goals. With ongoing accountability, we believe we can become a more actively anti-racist organization.
This is a movement, not a moment. Rest assured these actions will continue to expand and evolve over time – especially when our concerts and revenue begin to ramp back up. Racism and inequality are systemic problems, and we must make this an ongoing dialogue in order to drive real, lasting change. Our ultimate goal is to be as representative as the communities and artists we serve. The core of our business is promoting, and we are committed to improving our promotion of diversity within our company and the world at large. I am confident that this will make us an even stronger team.
Stay safe, and please continue to make your voices heard.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Live Nation Entertainment