Universal ‘accelerates efforts to promote diversity and inclusion’ with new initiative

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Universal Music Group is participating in a new initiative which sees it commit to creating ‘measurable change for representation of women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups’.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative has been launched by Professor Stacy L. Smith at global research and advocacy think tank USC Annenberg in Los Angeles.

It builds on the work of the previously launched Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative.

An Advisory Board has been appointed to reflect the new initiative’s expanded mandate. It includes Universal Music Publishing Group Chairman & CEO Jody Gerson.

“Our new name reflects our continued and unwavering commitment to championing inclusion in all forms – including but not limited to gender, race/ethnicity, LGBT, disability and now mental health – across the media industry at a time when the climate makes it clear that our solutions are more needed now than ever,” said Dr. Smith, the Founder and Director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“We are eager for companies and individuals to work with us to understand where there are glaring inequities and determine how best to solve them.”

“These are critical issues to address in our society and in our industry, and this is a crucial time to address them.”

Jody Gerson, UMPG

“The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative is a leader in addressing inequality in entertainment and by expanding their work to include examinations of mental health in storytelling and inequality in all aspects of the music industry, its work will continue to be the gold standard,” said USC Annenberg Dean Willow Bay.

“Combining its track record of excellent work with Dr. Smith’s innovative solutions, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative will be a true force for industry change.”

The Board of Advisors includes leaders from entertainment companies such as The Walt Disney Studios, NBC Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment, HBO, and WME.

Universal Music Group (UMG) is the first music rights company to participate in the initiative.

Jody Gerson (pictured) said, “These are critical issues to address in our society and in our industry, and this is a crucial time to address them. While I’m proud of the progress we’re making within our company, there remains much work to do and I’m honored to be appointed to join this impressive group to help tackle those challenges.”


As part of its broadened mission, the Initiative has also launched The Music Coalition to specifically cover issues of inclusion in music.

The Music Coalition is supported by The Harnisch Foundation and Clif Bar Family Foundation.

It aims to combine research, industry participation and advocacy to study inclusion in music and work towards creating ‘measurable change for representation of women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups across all facets of the music business’.

“Our goal is not only to create more opportunities for today’s recording artists, songwriters and music business executives, but also to ensure a pathway for the next generation of women and underrepresented talent to enter into successful careers where they can make a difference,” said Dr. Smith.

“Our conversations with industry insiders indicate that while the music industry suffers from inclusion deficits, especially for women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, leaders such as Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO, Sir Lucian Grainge, recognize the importance of issues of inclusion, and have demonstrated enthusiasm and readiness to tackle them.”

Professor Stacy L. Smith

“Our conversations with industry insiders indicate that while the music industry suffers from inclusion deficits, especially for women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups, leaders such as Universal Music Group Chairman and CEO, Sir Lucian Grainge, recognize the importance of issues of inclusion, and have demonstrated enthusiasm and readiness to tackle them. We’re thrilled that conversations with Sir Lucian that began over a year ago, have now yielded this exciting partnership.”

“The launch of this project comes at a critical moment for women in music. While we have made progress, we still have work to do and my hope is that this study will encourage further dialogue about how we continue supporting women in our business at all levels, from artists to executives,” said Advisory Board Member Samantha Kirby Yoh, Partner who oversees WME’s East Coast music team.

The Coalition will release new research throughout the year, with an initial report anticipated in February of 2018, along with an announcement of the leading companies participating in this effort.


In an internal memo at Universal sent today (November 16), Sir Lucian Grainge wrote:

Dear Colleagues:

All too often in our industry, leadership is defined by things like charts, market share and awards. In that regard, our leadership is on display daily. However, true leadership is more than that. It’s not only about being ahead. It’s also about developing and implementing innovative ideas that rest on a foundation of strong core values. And then setting a path that others are compelled to follow if they want to succeed.

The best way to foster an environment where new ideas are generated and innovation can flourish is to create a workplace that attracts and promotes and truly includes people from all kinds of backgrounds—one that matches and supports the incredible diversity of our artist roster.

“My hope is that, over time, more and more members of the music community will join with us in this vital effort.”

Today, I’m excited to share with you the news that UMG is partnering with USC Annenberg on the launch of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to create measurable change for representation of women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups in the music industry, as well as other underserved communities across entertainment. As the first music company to join this important initiative, we are demonstrating our desire, as the industry leader, to accelerate efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within UMG and the broader music business. My hope is that, over time, more and more members of the music community will join with us in this vital effort.

This partnership has been in the works for more than a year, so I’m very excited to see it finally come to fruition. And while I’m proud of the efforts we’ve made to date, I recognize that we have much more work to do and that we must continue to demonstrate leadership. To that end, I’ve asked Jody Gerson to represent us on the Board of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Throughout her career, Jody has been an innovator, a pioneer, and a strong leader, so it’s only fitting that she represents our entire company in this endeavor.


The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Advisory Board is comprised of the following members: Cinny Kennard, Executive Director, Annenberg Foundation; Leah Fischman, Board Chair, Annenberg Inclusion Initiative; Ivan Bart, President, IMG Models; Tena Clark, Founder, CEO, and Chief Creative Officer, DMI Music & Media; Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni, Head of Strategic Outreach, Pearl Street Films; Julie Ann Crommett, VP, Multicultural Audience Engagement, The Walt Disney Studios; Kelly Edwards, Head of Talent Development, HBO; Amy M. Emmerich, Chief Content Officer, Refinery29; Jody Gerson, Chairman and CEO, Universal Music Publishing Group; Donna Gigliotti, President, Tempesta Films; Karen Horne, SVP, Programming Talent Development & Inclusion, NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios; Jennifer Justice, President, Corporate Development, Superfly; Samantha Kirby Yoh, Partner/Music Agent, WME; Kalpana Kotagal, Partner, Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll PLLC; Franklin Leonard, Founder, The Black List; Gary Lucchesi, President, Lakeshore Entertainment, President, Producer’s Guild of America; Alana Mayo, Creative Executive; Hannah Minghella, President, Tri-Star Productions; Mauricio Mota, Co-President and Executive Producer, Wise Entertainment; Dr. Christine Moutier, Chief Medical Officer, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Thao Pham, Vice President of Community, Clif Bar & Company, Executive Director, Clif Bar Family Foundation; Gina Reyes, Director, Content Development, Story House Entertainment, Univision Communications; Brenda Robinson, Director of Business Development, Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP; Carla Sacks, Founder, Sacks & Co.; Cathy Schulman, President and CEO, Welle Entertainment, President, Women in Film Los Angeles; Nell Scovell, TV Writer/Creator; Phil Sun, Partner/Agent, WME; Lynette Howell Taylor, Founder, 51 Entertainment; Julius Tennon, President, Development & Production, JuVee Productions; Jacki Zehner, Chief Engagement Officer, Women Moving Millions, President, The Jacquelyn & Gregory Zehner Foundation.Music Business Worldwide

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