Over the weekend, Universal Music Group chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge announced the company would convene a social justice task force in the wake of nationwide protests prompted by the May 25 killing of George Floyd. On Thursday (June 4), the company detailed a first course of action for that task force in a memo sent to staff and obtained by Billboard.
Dubbed the Task Force for Meaningful Change, the group will be co-chaired by UMG executive vp, general counsel and Def Jam interim chairman and CEO Jeff Harleston and Motown Records president and Capitol Music Group executive vp Ethiopia Habtemariam, with 30 other UMG employees serving as members.
“Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC) was created as a driving force for the ongoing fight for equality, justice and inclusion,” the memo reads. “We are charged with reviewing the company’s commitment to addressing and promoting tolerance, equality, and elimination of bias, within UMG, the music community and the world at large. It is our mission to identify the gaps and deficiencies and to strengthen UMG’s plan with new initiatives.”
To kick things off, UMG has established a $25 million “Change Fund” that will be invested across six areas of focus, including aid/charitable giving, global, internal/institutional change, legislative/public policy, partners and programming/curation. The memo emphasizes that these donations and initiatives comprise only the first wave, with more action to follow.
The task force will pursue initiatives and contribute money to organizations that support economic empowerment and business development; housing; legal services and bail; mental health services; physical health services; legislative reform; and voting resources and education. Through an initial round of grants, it will immediately provide support to organizations including Black Girl Ventures, Black Lives Matter, Black Mental Health Alliance, Colin Kaepernick Foundation, Color Of Change, Equal Justice Initiative, National Association of Black Journalists, Silence the Shame, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, The Bail Project and When We All Vote. That list will update as the task force identifies and reviews other potential beneficiaries.
“Acknowledging that racism, intolerance and bias know no borders,” the task force will adopt global policies and initiatives that “address equality, bias, equity and inclusion efforts” in UMG offices worldwide. Efforts will initially focus on police brutality and government sponsored discrimination before expanding to address other issues around “inequality, racism and bias.”
Under this rubric, the task force will examine UMG’s policies, procedures and work environment to identify “issues of bias, discrimination and inequality” as well as develop initiatives to “improve access, advancement, recruiting and retention of diverse workforce at all levels within the company,” with a particular focus on senior level roles. The task force will work closely with UMG HR’s existing diversity & inclusion team to continue its efforts and help build upon its partnership with USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative.
The task force will engage lawmakers at the federal, state and local levels to pursue reforms that contribute to social change, while also seeking out opportunities to challenge laws and regulations that “promote bias and systemic discrimination.” It will additionally focus its efforts on voter education, registration and participation through “get out the vote” drives and other initiatives.
Citing the company’s “history of investing in and partnering with entrepreneurs who have grown their business out of community,” the task force will work with UMG partners in their own efforts to support change in their communities.
Lastly, the programming-curation committee will “highlight and curate conversations” focused on “the intersection of Black Music, art, lifestyle, fashion, technology and creators” as well as discussions around current events. It will additionally “celebrate the contribution of Black artists, creators and entrepreneurs throughout time and promote dialogue, counseling, educational and creative programming around the topics of tolerance, equality and inclusion.” Finally, the committee will continue and expand UMG HR’s diversity & inclusion programming, including existing series such as Belonging Table, while enlisting experts to discuss topics such as economic empowerment, mental health and voting.
Thursday’s memo additionally includes a call to action for UMG employees to become “actively and meaningfully engaged” in the work of the task force, which will focus on both immediate and long-term initiatives beginning today. The first round of initiatives will include: a series of employee town hall meetings with guest speakers; letter-writing campaigns to Congress; a “fund for justice,” established in conjunction with UMG’s All Together Now Foundation; a separate fund that will match employee donations to nonprofit groups; a “legal volunteer action center” that will provide pro bono legal work to social and criminal justice reform organizations; and a “voter action center” that will conduct voter registration and information drives in partnership with nonprofits.
Since protests first broke out across the U.S. last week in response to George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, music companies across the globe have been publicly asserting their commitment to social justice causes. On Wednesday, Warner Music Group (in partnership with the Blavatnik Family Foundation) announced the creation of a $100 million fund to “support the music community and groups promoting social justice.” Spotify, Sony Music, Amazon Music, Bandcamp, TikTok, YouTube Music and more have also donated money.
You can read the full UMG memo below.
We are living through some of the most challenging times in recent history.
While the Black community has long lived with the reality of police violence, the events of the past several weeks have been devastating. From the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd to the senseless killing of numerous protestors fighting for justice, and the appalling, racially charged confrontation in New York’s Central Park, we all have had a front row seat, once again, in the theater of racism, hatred and intolerance.
The problems we are addressing are not new and they certainly do not have easy solutions, but we are dedicated to fighting for real, lasting change. As Lucian wrote, UMG has committed resources and empowered us to create a task force to be both a resource and ally to our internal and external community.
Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC) was created as a driving force for the ongoing fight for equality, justice and inclusion. We are charged with reviewing the company’s commitment to addressing and promoting tolerance, equality, and elimination of bias, within UMG, the music community and the world at large. It is our mission to identify the gaps and deficiencies and to strengthen UMG’s plan with new initiatives.
And EVERYTHING is on the table.
There is an incredible amount of work to be done and as part of the first phase of our initiatives, we’ve established a $25 million “Change Fund” to be invested across the activities outlined below.
The Task Force is organized into six areas of focus, including:
1. Aid/Charitable Giving
On behalf of UMG’s family of labels and companies including Blue Note Records, Bravado, Capitol Music Group, Capitol Christian Music Group, Def Jam Records, Interscope Geffen A&M, Island Records, Motown, Republic Records, Universal Music Enterprises, Universal Music Latin, Universal Music Group Nashville, Universal Music Publishing Group and Verve Label Group. TFMC will pursue initiatives with, and fund charitable contributions to organizations that are focused on providing support in the following areas: economic empowerment and business development; housing; legal services and bail; mental health services; physical health services; legislative reform; and voting resources and education.
Effective immediately, the TFMC will provide support through an initial round of grants to several organizations including Black Girl Ventures, Black Lives Matter, Black Mental Health Alliance, Colin Kaepernick Foundation, Color Of Change, Equal Justice Initiative, National Association of Black Journalists, Silence the Shame, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, The Bail Project, and When We All Vote. This list will be updated on an ongoing basis as the TFMC continues to identify, review and assess potential beneficiaries.
Acknowledging that racism, intolerance and bias know no borders, the TFMC is focused on adoption of global policies and initiatives to address equality, bias, equity and inclusion efforts for all UMG offices around the world. While the TFMC’s efforts have an initial focus on police brutality and government sponsored discrimination, the mission is to identify and address all issues of inequality, racism and bias.
3. Internal/Institutional Change
We know that we have work to do within our own company and the TFMC will examine UMG’s policies, procedures, work environment as they apply to our workforce. This includes identifying issues of bias, discrimination and inequality and design initiatives to improve access, advancement, recruiting and retention of diverse workforce at all levels within the company. In particular, we will focus on leadership positions and other senior level roles. For much of this effort, the TFMC will work closely with UMG HR’s Diversity & Inclusion team to continue their ongoing efforts and build upon the partnership with USC Annenberg’s Inclusion Initiative.
4. Legislative/Public Policy
The path to long-term sustained change must involve reform of legislation and public policy. The TFMC will work to engage lawmakers and officials at the Federal, state and local level to pursue reform designed to bring about social change. In addition, the TFMC will explore opportunities to pursue legal action to challenge existing laws and regulations that promote bias and systemic discrimination. The TFMC will also focus on voter education, voter registration and voter participation (e.g., “Get Out the Vote” drives).
UMG has a history of investing in and partnering with entrepreneurs who have grown their business out of community, building some of the most impactful and dynamic voices in entertainment today. We will work alongside our partners in their focused efforts to support and insight change in their communities. Their thoughts and ideas will help us continue to grow our own efforts in the fight for justice and equality.
Music is the heart of culture, connecting people around the world. Our goal is to highlight and curate conversations around the intersection of Black Music, art, lifestyle, fashion, technology and creators along with thoughtful discussions on current event. This committee will celebrate the contribution of Black artists, creators and entrepreneurs throughout time and promote dialogue, counseling, educational and creative programming around the topics of tolerance, equality and inclusion. The committee will continue and expand upon UMG HR’s Diversity & Inclusion programming including their Belonging Table and other external series bringing experts to talk about relevant topics such as economic empowerment and business development, mental health and voting.
Steps We’re Taking Beginning Today: Please Get Involved
In order for successful, long-term change, we need your help. Two things are very clear:
1. The Task Force is identifying priorities, but this will only work if everyone is actively and meaningfully engaged; and
2. We’re committed to driving both urgent/immediate as well as long term initiatives. And both sets of initiatives begin TODAY.
Here’s where we’re starting and some of the first actions we’re taking and asking for your support.
• Employee Town Hall Meetings with Guest Speakers.
We’ll conduct an ongoing series of Town Hall Meetings for employees. For example, today UMG HR’s Diversity & Inclusion team and the company’s Black Label Group hosted a forum with panelists including Arisha Hatch, VP & Chief of Campaigns of Color of Change; Dr. Steven Jones, CEO & Founder of Jones Inclusive; and Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Licensed Psychologist & Founder of Therapy for Black Girls among others. We plan to continue to engage leaders and advocates including some of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus. More details to follow.
• Letters to Congress Demanding Action.
It’s time to turn up the volume. Congress is holding hearings on racial injustice and police violence. We are providing all employees an easy-to-use system to help you write your Member of Congress and U.S. Senators periodic emails, demanding serious reform. This is an ongoing initiative that will continue until we see legislation enacted by Congress.
• Fund for Justice.
Through UMG’s All Together Now Foundation, we will help fund a range of racial justice, criminal justice reform and legal aid organizations. UMG is providing immediate funding for our near-term priorities and will provide additional funding as we detail our plans.
• Fund for Employee Action.
Through our All Together Now program, UMG matches employees’ qualifying contributions to non-profit groups. Just within the past week, top recipients of our matching fund program include: ACLU; NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund; Black Lives Matter Fund; King Center for Nonviolent Social Change; Bail Project, Inc.; Southern Poverty Law Center; Minnesota Freedom Fund; Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Northside Achievement Zone; and Race Forward. We are working on adding other organizations to the UMG matching program. If there is an organization you would like to have included, please let us know.
Visit the All Together Now Employee Matching website and check out all the groups you can support… and how to have your contributions matched by the company. If this is your first time logging into the Employee Matching Program system before, your login credentials are (Username: Your UMG Employee ID #; and Password: Click here to reset your password).
• Legal Volunteer Action Center.
A group of our legal staff is organizing to do volunteer (or pro bono) legal work for social justice and criminal justice reform organizations. If you are a lawyer and wish to volunteer, please contact Josh Kamzan at Capitol Music Group.
• Voter Action Center.
Voting is critical. We are partnering with organizations including When We All Vote, HeadCount, Rock the Vote and I Am A Voter. We will conduct a voter registration and information drive, providing employees with information about how to register, where to vote–and how to vote absentee, given the COVID pandemic, and what’s on your ballot. Information is available here for voter registration and here for “voter info”.
NEW YORKERS, please remember that your primary election date is Tuesday, June 23.
We know our community, colleagues, artists and partners are suffering. We feel it and we’re living it but we’re also energized to fight for change. We’re asking for you to lock arms with us – we want to hear your voice. Now is the time to be heard!
Jeff Harleston Executive VP, General Counsel, UMG and Interim Chairman and CEO Def Jam
Ethiopia Habtemariam, President Motown Records & EVP Capitol Music Group
Task Force for Meaningful Change Co-Chairs
Along with Task Force members:
Alex Boateng, UMG UK
Amaiya Davis, Media Manager, Republic Records
Amber Grimes, SVP Global Creative, Capitol Music Group
Annie Imamura, VP Global Communications, UMG
Bill Evans, SVP Urban Promotions, Capitol Music Group
Brian Nolan, EVP, Capitol Music Group
Britney Davis, VP of Artist Relations, Marketing & Special Projects, CMG
Cara Donatto, EVP Head of Media Strategy, Interscope Geffen A&M
Damion Presson, SVP Artist Relations, Republic Records
Darcus Beese, President & CEO, Island Records
Don Was, President, Blue Note Records
Jeff Burroughs, SVP Marketing, Def Jam Recordings
Jeff Vaughn, President, Capitol Records
Joie Manda, EVP, Interscope Geffen A&M
Kardinal Offishall, Sr. Director A&R, UMG Canada
Katina Bynum, EVP Urban, UMe
Latrice Burnette, EVP & GM, Island Records
Magda Vives, SVP Legal & Business Affairs for Latin America
Marc Byers, GM, Motown Records
Marleny Reyes, SVP Marketing, Def Jam Recordings
Naim McNair, SVP A&R, UMG and Def Jam Recordings
Natina Nimene, SVP Urban Promotions, Def Jam Recordings
Nicole Wyskoarko, EVP Head of Urban Operations, Interscope Geffen A&M
Rodney Shealy, EVP, Def Jam Recordings
Sam Taylor, EVP A&R, Republic Records
Sipho Dlamini, Managing Director, UMG Africa
Sickamore, SVP, A&R , Interscope Geffen A&M
Steve Carless, EVP A&R, President, Republic Records
Travis Robinson, VP Diversity & Inclusion, UMG
Tim Glover, SVP, A&R, Interscope Geffen A&M
Walter Jones, Head of West Coast A&R, UMPG