Diversity in the Music Industry: Why Representation is Important

Diversity in the Music Industry: Why Representation is Important

The overwhelming dominance of the white/black dynamic in western music.
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In 2015, the Internet has afforded hopeful musicians a level of freedom that did not exist at any other point in history. With the rise of social media, in particular websites like SoundCloud, aspiring artists from all over the world can upload their creations onto the web and wait for a positive (or negative) reaction from Internet-savvy music lovers.

We live in a time where the “gatekeepers” of the music industry have morphed from an undeniable and unwavering force, into a vague, antiquated relic of a rapidly evolving entertainment landscape. In the past, if you were a young individual with dreams of breaking into the entertainment industry, you might have met with a record label and presented them the bare bones. A rough, unrefined sound, and somewhat of an idea of how you want to deliver your work to the world. At this point, an A&R (Artist and Repertoire) from the label would review your content, and devise what they consider to be the most effective strategy for the artist to progress their career and eventually become successful. Previously, the A&R acted as a necessary bridge between the corporate label-heads and the wide-eyed, if somewhat naive musician. In theory, the A&R could determine a means by which the artist could maintain a desired level of artistic integrity, coupled with increased exposure, while simultaneously bending enough to the will of the record-label CEO’s to evolve into a valuable profit-generator.

After all, record-labels are businesses at the end of the day, whose primary purpose is to bring money in. As idealistic as it would be to view companies like Universal and Warner as money-pools for artists to draw from in order to facilitate their dreams, these companies main concern is the all mighty dollar. But in this new technological era, it has come time to call into question the relevancy of the once needed A&R role.

Although there are unquestionably certain benefits associated with major record labels, for some, there is the ever-present fear that these labels might seek too much control. With money serving as a primary motivator for these large entities, it is sensible for artists to be afraid that in order for them to become successful, they may have to surrender their personal vision to appease executives.

However, the newfound freedom provided via the Internet has created a path much less conventional than the ways of yesteryears. With artists being able to easily upload their music online without having to consult a talking head first, the musician’s art can be digested in a way that feels authentic and undiluted by ulterior motives.

Take for example, @kiiaraonline, who mysteriously appeared on SoundCloud a couple of months ago, and has already garnered over 2 million total plays. In a sense, this has presumably made the job of the A&R easier. Rather than having to work with an artist who doesn’t quite know what they want other than to be heard, A&R’s can now simply peruse a website like YouTube or SoundCloud.

At this point, they can then get in contact with people who have already crafted a concrete identity, and at the very least are confident enough in their current sound that they are comfortable with their music being heard by strangers online. One of the current most famous stars in the world was discovered on YouTube, and went on to make over $50 million touring in 2013. The music industry is currently host to a cast of characters, including Canadian-born stars such as Drake and The Weeknd, to American sweethearts and chart mainstays Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande. But if one were to survey the top 20 songs on the US iTunes chart right now, they would see that 19 out of 20 of the songs have something in common, despite spanning across several different genres.

Out of all 20 songs, 19 of them are by artists that are either white or black (or a combination of the two). And this brings us to the crux of this piece. There is a noticeable lack of diverse perspectives being prominently shared in today’s popular music scene.

Although it is possible to find success via the utilization of numerous social mediums and musical genre’s, the actual voices that are being heard on a large scale are marginal at best. It seems like an eternity since the tragic passing of the iconic Mexican-American singer Selena, who broke boundaries and brought Latin music in America to a previously unprecedented level. Not only was Selena an absolutely dominating force at the time in terms of sales, she is still being celebrated to this day.



Representation is truly important, especially for impressionable young people who are continuously consuming media. Having the ability to turn on the television and see someone who looks like you, and probably grew up similarly from a cultural perspective, might inspire those who were unsure of their own potential to chase their dreams. Who can be looked to as a representative for Asian-Americans that is getting as much exposure as some of the most popular pop culture figures of the past several years? There was a short-lived but intense obsession with K-pop/rap star PSY, who’s “Gangnam Style” video has over 2 billion views on YouTube. But who is talking about him today? It is crucial that artists from varying backgrounds amount to more than temporary fads, quick to be tossed out like an old toy once a child has grown tired of it.

That is why it is important that artists like Kali Uchis, a Colombian-American singer who is currently on the rise get’s an opportunity to be as equally promoted as Meghan Trainor or Jason Derulo.



That is why it is necessary that buzzing K-pop star CL is on the cover of Paper Magazine and is working with Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager) in hopes to make a commercial splash in America.



Is there a magic cure that will instantaneously solve this issue of representation? Unfortunately no. However, discussing it is a necessary and critical first step. Hopefully there will one day exist an entertainment industry where things like this do not happen because a greater effort is being made to give the under-represented the voice that they deserve. The United States is a place of sprawling diversity, home to individuals from all over the globe who have their own unique languages, cultures and upbringings. With that said, it is important that pop culture reflects that as best, and as equally, as possible.

Cover Image Credit: http://saintheron.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/selena.jpg

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Feeling The Pressure To Remain Successful After You've Tasted Success

I want to stay at the top, but I'm not sure how.
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Everyone has pressure on them, some might have too much, some might have barely any, but we all have it. My pressure lately has been about writing a good article.

It's the pressure to write good articles after you wrote two that all of your family and friends are reading. Even completely random strangers who follow Odyssey on Facebook, and saw them post your article.

I am so grateful for this, so don't get me wrong!

It’s hard to explain because even though you’re not viral like Victoria Higgins (which if you don’t know who that is then done you even read the Odyssey online?), you still had a lot of shares and over 3,000 views.

Like, what??

I never thought that many people would read just one of my articles, nevertheless 2 of them within a week of each other getting that many views!!

I can’t even explain all the words going through my head about having so many people relate to my articles. I love seeing that people love their boyfriend or husband, or whatever he is to them. Both of my successful articles were about relationships, so I feel like that’s what people want to read.

I mean I wrote other ones months ago about relationships that don’t even have anywhere near 1,000 views, and that’s ok!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m appreciative of the views I get on all of them because people took time out of their day (even if it’s just a few minutes) to read something I wrote.

I get to express my thoughts through writing, which I love.

I just feel this pressure to write articles that people want to read because I got to have that feeling of freaking out when my editor tagged me in a post that the Odyssey posted.

I finally felt successful.

I had someone at HQ email me saying how great I’ve been doing. Like, they noticed me?! All the way from New York, they read my articles and loved them.

I still can barely fathom that.

I want to put out what the people want, and that’s so much pressure. It feels like there’s a spotlight on me, even though there’s not. Maybe that’s just me being so self-centered, but I don’t want to let people down that were so proud of me.

After racking my brain for the perfect article ideas of what to write next, I realized a few things:

1. I can’t impress everyone.

2. If I want more attention to my articles, write about controversial things.

3. I’ll just stick to writing about things I care about, and maybe other people will find them interesting, too.

4. The only person I need to impress is myself.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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A Thank You Letter To "Scandal"

I cannot bear to say goodbye, but I need to express my gratitude to Shonda and the cast.
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Dear "Scandal" (aka Shonda Rhimes and the cast),

"Scandal" has been a part of my life for the last several years, and now saying goodbye to a show that has literally helped to change my life is a hard thing to do, but I find it appropriate to write a goodbye letter that can properly show all of my gratitude to an amazing, invigorating, and teaching piece of history, because "Scandal" is much more than a television show. It has changed the way people think; it has helped shape America.

I first started watching "Scandal" after its second season had finished. I was watching BET one Saturday morning with my mom, something that was not very uncommon while I was in high school. What was uncommon was that following a movie, they were having a marathon of "Scandal" episodes from start to finish. I had seen previews for the show the previous year and I had wanted to watch it, but I knew it probably would not go over great with my mom. Nevertheless, that Saturday, I started watching it while my mom was at the store. I am pretty sure I finished it that weekend. I strategically made sure we watched BET again the following weekend so that my mom would start watching the marathon of the show with me. That is how my mom and I became obsessed with "Scandal." But you see, I needed my mom to watch it because I knew there was something special about the show.

Obviously, "Scandal" is special because of what it did to network television, all television for that matter, in opening up new opportunities and new roles for women of color. At the time of its start, I could not even wrap my head around the lack of leading roles on network channels for women of color. Now it is not all that surprising after learning about the true realities of this country, but nonetheless, "Scandal" helped open up doors for so many other people. I am incredibly thankful to Shonda for that because I watch many of these shows, but more importantly, I am glad that someone finally opened the door. I cannot imagine what it must be like as a child to grow up and not see someone that looks like you on your TV screen. Shonda, with "Scandal," made the dream more reachable for many children.

Besides that, "Scandal" was special to me in its own way. It made me fall in love with politics in a way that I did not know was possible. I had always liked politics, but "Scandal" made me crave being a part of the process. I decided to volunteer for the Barbara Buono campaign in 2013. I learned a lot from my experience. I learned that people are really mean, in a way I had not experienced before. I came to the conclusion that at that current time, I did not want to be that close to the political process. I had one truly great benefit of the campaign though, seeing Kerry Washington speak at Montclair State University. It was an amazing opportunity, and it made me really think about the rest of my journey. I had already decided that I wanted to be a lawyer, but "Scandal" pushed me away from being a lawyer in politics directly. I learned that I have a love-hate relationship with the political world, as most do, but I realized I could affect change in politics through my love of social justice. Kerry Washington taught me that.

Olivia Pope taught me about justice. Through week after week and year after year, I learned how complicated and hard justice can be sometimes. She made me prepared for the world ahead as I went off to college. Olivia Pope has shown me how to wear the white hat, but also what it looks like when it comes off. In the final episode of "Scandal," Olivia Pope taught me that the truth is always the way to live by. David Rosen taught me to always stand up against the bad guys, even in the face of death. Rowan taught be that it is possible to use dog whistle politics against the majority of white political figures in the government. In the final scene of "Scandal," I would like to think that Olivia Pope taught me that anything is possible and that there is still so much hope for the future. Because even though it was just a show, it changed and shaped our life, and it even mirrored our life at certain intervals. So, maybe our life will someday mirror this life changing show.

With the greatest gratitude,

Vanessa Fiore

P.S. There is no actual explanation of the final scene; I am just using my own interpretation, because that is what I hope for.

Cover Image Credit: Awesomely Luvvie

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