Color of Music Collective, a new initiative hosting free weekly virtual panels, is tackling representation in the music industry. By creating an accessible platform, Color of Music Collective hopes to amplify voices that aren’t always heard, particularly the voices of POC and LGBTQ+. For example, the first few topics have included “Navigating the Job Market in the Music Industry as a Person of Color (POC) and/or LGBTQ+ Individual” and “The Rise in Latin Music and Culture in the United States.” Panel guests have already included working professionals from LiveNation, The Recording Academy, and Island Records. The topics covered by Color of Music aim to be specific and necessary, examining overlooked or ignored issues, and to provide real advice for those looking to enter the music industry.
Color of Music Collective was founded by Mia Van Allen and Carla Hendershot, best friends who both have experience in the music industry. Recently, I got to talk with Mia and also, with Emily Yankana, who is a contributor, about the beginnings of Color of Music Collective.
What served as the inspiration for Color of Music Collective?
Emily: When Mia came to me with the idea for Color of Music Collective, she felt there was a need in the industry, especially at this time, to amplify individual voices of people of color and LGBTQ+ in the industry. She felt there wasn’t enough being done to advocate in terms of management and leadership within the industry. Her idea was to bring in voices that are unique and different that are starting to pave the way for others that are starting to branch their way into the industry - people that are advocating for others who look like them. That was the drive to bring this all together.
Mia: [Emily and I] actually went to the same school and have been best friends since freshman year, so we are very close. I brought this idea to her, because I got so fed up with all these white feminists. Which isn't always bad, but it’s preaching to the choir of privilege. I didn’t have friends or family in the music industry, so not only did I have to work twice as hard because of my skin color, I had to work twice as hard because I didn’t know anybody. I got fed up with a lot of recent virtual panels where the speakers have a mom or dad or uncle in the industry, or there wasn’t any discussion on pressing issues.
I’ve always wanted to do something like this - since sophomore year of college, actually. In all my internships, I was the only person of color. It could be very difficult for me to speak up, and it was hard to perform well. One supervisor was - maybe not racist, but if I’m being honest, a better way to say it would be racially uncomfortable. I was not happy. Then, I went to New York for the summer and that [experience] was the cherry on top of the ice cream. I’d had enough, and I started thinking about creating a nonprofit centered on [representation]. Now, at this time, it felt like now more than ever. I had all these ideas that I’d been thinking about for literal years. Now was the time to just act on it.
Emily helped me with the name, and then we designed the logo. Carla, who is also my best friend, we talked and I told her I wanted her to be a co-founder. I can’t speak for the LGBTQ+ community and she is such an advocate. I have always looked up to her and I couldn’t really see anyone else co-founding this with me. Emily was helping us through the process, and so we hired her as a contributor.
Where did the name come from?
Emily: We wanted something all-encompassing, that wasn’t limited to just race, identity, religion, or your background. We wanted a name that invites people from all walks of life to have a voice in this space.
Anything you learned or found memorable from the first panel?
Emily: Honestly, just being in that space was so empowering. You could see the passion that illuminates from that type of leadership coming together and being like, 'yeah, it is important to have someone in positions of power that look like you, and to have someone in your corner.’ It was such a great space, and it made you feel like there is someone there for you, advocating for you, as long as you put in the work and dedication to showing up.
What are more topics that you might do in the future?
Emily: Given that it’s Pride month, we’re planning Pride panels centered around the LGBTQ+ community, so we’re excited to amplify those voices. We might also be talking about representation in festivals, so there will definitely be niche areas that we’re hitting on.
What are your experiences in the music industry?
Mia: I’ve managed a band, I’ve done press internships, where I’ve done international press for the Raconteurs and with Billie Eilish - we did the UK press for her tour. I helped with the interviews, which was very cool and hands-on. I also worked for a tour management company and actually went to Nashville a lot for that internship.
Then, while I was in New York, outside of that one internship, I would network with other people of color, advocates in the music industry, and I went to networking events for women of color. I learned so much about myself in that time. Now, I can invite those people to these panels and teach others what they taught me months ago.
What’s your dream role in the music industry?
Mia: Talent agent - that’s been my dream job since freshman year of college. I can’t see myself not doing that.
If you could give your freshman self any advice, career-wise, what would it be?
Mia: I would say keep an open mind. Definitely - just keep an open mind.
What music are you listening to lately?
Emily: Right now, my favorite is the alternative R&B scene that’s up and coming. My favorite artist at the moment is H.E.R. I’m Filipino and half West Indian, and I just found out she’s Filipino and African, which is so cool, because I’m like finally there’s somebody who looks like me out there. She’s such a talented artist because she really knows how to play her instrument, and damn, she can really work that guitar. So I love H.E.R, and the whole R&B space right now!
Mia: Some recommendations would be Grace Potter, Kehlani, and Lennon Stella!
Be sure to follow Color of Music on Instagram to stay updated for the latest panels!