Tiffany Red is a Grammy-winning songwriter and songwriter advocate who has written hits for Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia, Jason Derulo and Zendaya, among others. She is founder and executive director of the 100 Percenters, a 501 c3 organization with the stated goal of advocating “for all music creatives with a focus on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and marginalized creatives.” She has spoken at length about the challenges faced by songwriters; this is her second Juneteenth essay for Variety.
I think we can all agree that black culture drives pop culture. So why aren’t there more black senior-level executives leading the charge?
The most recent Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report states, “Looking at the nine major music companies (Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Cumulus, Audacy, Live Nation, AEG Presents) across categories (music groups, streaming, radio, live music and concert promotion), 100% of the top executives were white.”
Yeah, let that sink in. The reality is Black artists’ needs are different than our non-Black counterparts, but how can they fully be met without Black senior-level executives? Why is the Black voice missing from the board room?
Having Black executives in powerful positions in the music industry is essential to diversifying the business. I can’t help but think about where I am now and how I got here. I stand on the shoulders of some brilliant Black executives and managers, and I wonder if I would be in “The Room” if they didn’t walk me in themselves.
As my advocacy journey began, these were the people who saw my humanity when so many others didn’t, and gave me a chance. We need so much more of that. We need more Black leadership — more Black voices at the table who can speak from the Black perspective to help create new opportunities for us and protect our culture inside of this massive machine.
I know these are complex conversations. And yes, they make most of us uncomfortable, including me, but on the other side of these conversations is usually common ground and meaningful change if we take action and stick with it. The reality is everyone has inherent biases, which creates blind spots. But diversity and inclusion help inform us of those blind spots and allow us to grow and evolve — if we let it.
Representation plays a considerable role in which career path people choose and which doors are opened for them — or not. I don’t know that I would’ve been so inspired to use my voice for change in the music industry had it not been for music executive and activist Drew Dixon using hers. She’s a blueprint that I could see myself in. Drew represented me. She gave me permission in a way that no one did before to speak up for what’s right.
Where would I be if music manager Maria Lyons didn’t make that call that connected me to Sony Music Publishing chairman-CEO Jon Platt, the first head of a major publishing company to support the 100 Percenters and me? All three of these incredible people are Black.
In last year’s Juneteenth piece, I shared a few Black-owned businesses in music that I admire. This year I want to spotlight a few black creatives I admire who are behind some of today’s popular music:
• D’ Mile is the current pulse of R&B and soul. He won Song of the Year two years in a row at the Grammys, including this year for Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open.”
• Autumn Rowe became one of eight women ever to win as a producer for Album of the Year at the 2022 Grammys for Jon Batiste’s “We Are.”
• Mike “Hunnid” McGregor co-wrote many people’s favorite Lucky Daye songs, including “Over.” He has six on “Candydrip” alone.
• Varren Wade co-wrote many of Ella Mai’s best songs. He has seven songs on “Heart on My Sleeve,” including “Not Another Love Song.”
Cheers to these incredibly talented and successful black creatives.