The Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) and the Academy of Country Music (ACM) joyously announced a new collaboration on Tuesday (Feb. 21), which is aimed at launching, sustaining, and supporting “OnRamp,” a guaranteed income program for twenty young Black members of the music industry.
The selected group will comprise of Nashville, Tennessee-based artists and other industry experts. The OnRamp program aims to empower the next generation of leaders in their early careers by providing access to professional development opportunities, community mentorship, and other opportunities.
This initiative seeks to help chosen candidates increase personal growth, industry exposure, exclusive appointment to Academy membership panels, including tentpole live events, and augment visibility with Academy Board members, as well as other industry leaders.
In addition, each participant will receive a $1,000 monthly stipend for the duration of the program. In honor of Black Music Month, OnRamp applications will be available beginning in late spring, with the program beginning in June. This effort will also honor the third anniversary of the Black Music Action Coalition. Visit acmcountry.com/onramp immediately to sign up for email alerts when applications become available.
Administrative Voices of Diplomacy
Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, co-founder and co-chair of the Black Music Action Coalition, stated, “It speaks volumes that the Black Music Action Coalition and the Academy of Country Music have teamed up to launch a guaranteed income program in Nashville for emerging Black artists and young professionals.”
He stated, “I commend Damon Whiteside, the ACM Board, and the Level Up team for embracing our vision and being genuine partners with BMAC on a direct impact solution that will begin to address the country’s historic racial disparities.”
In response, the ACM’s chief executive echoed Prophet’s words of encouragement and reinforced excitement. This demonstrated that the Academy’s BMAC relationship was based on racial harmony.
“The Academy has a long history of promoting diversity and inclusion in the country music industry, both on stage and behind the scenes, and we see this partnership as a particularly impactful way to continue our efforts to make the statement ‘Country Music is for Everyone’ a reality,” said ACM CEO Damon Whiteside.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with BMAC on this important and transformational effort for the Nashville region, which will provide possibilities for young people from different backgrounds in our business,” he said.
“When the Academy developed the LEVel Up emerging leaders initiative, we challenged them to identify the most meaningful and effective ways to welcome individuals into country music, regardless of who they are or where they live,” said Chuck Adler, chairman of the ACM Board of Directors.
“The Academy is happy to endorse OnRamp, and we invite our industry colleagues to join us in pushing this initiative and working toward a larger, more prosperous, and more diversified country music industry,” Aly continued, stating:
ACM DEI Task Force Chair and ACM Board Member Shannon Sanders said, “During the last year, I’ve seen personally the devotion and enthusiasm of the ACM LEVel Up emerging leaders cohort, and I salute the Academy and BMAC for collaborating on this exciting new initiative.”
“It is a joy to join with other business leaders in support of this vital initiative, particularly during Black History Month. The Academy continues to play a crucial part in ushering in a new age of country music by genuinely supporting and elevating underrepresented members of the industry “Sanders stated.
OnRamp’s Principal Stakeholders
This initiative will be initially financed by the Black Music Action Coalition, the Academy of Country Music, and industry partners, and will be administered by the social impact organization BreatheWithMe. The groups are inviting enterprises and businesses operating in Nashville and beyond to contribute to OnRamp in order to fuel their future equity and inclusion initiatives. OnRamp is one of the numerous guaranteed income schemes that BMAC will announce this year.
The participants of the ACM LEVel Up: Lift Every Voice program’s 2022 cohort will play an active role in shaping the OnRamp initiative and bringing it to reality. ACM LEVel Up has widespread acclaim. It is a professional development and enrichment program for emerging country music professionals situated in Nashville. The Academy of Country Music supported the whole program at no cost to attendees. The two-year program is meant to equip learners to play a major role in broadening the frontiers of country music to new demographically and geographically diverse listeners. In December 2022, the Academy will announce the program’s 2023 cohort, which will consist of a completely new and unique list of firms.
Overcoming the Odds of Racial Research
The Black Music Action Coalition published a paper titled Three Chords & The REAL Truth in June of last year. Its documented improvement potential for Black involvement and representation in the country music sector. The study urged Music Row, the city of Nashville, its businesses, organizations, and people dedicated to change and equality to collaborate with BMAC on a transformative initiative for Nashville’s Black artists. The Academy of Country Music is among the first industry professionals to identify and assist in the implementation of critical reforms within the music community.
Over its almost 60-year existence, the Academy of Country Music has always been a progressive, inclusive organization, with an active, industry-leading dedication to diversity, equality, and inclusion across all aspects of the business.
The Academy’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion project states in its mission statement that it would strive to make the country music business a more inclusive environment for Black, Indigenous, LGBTQIA+, LatinX, and women, among other underrepresented groups—from the boardroom to the stage. Real-life color barriers have been broken in music, which went a long way to prove the ACM’s credibility on this issue.
Country’s Case Studies for Real Progress
Country music legend Tim McGraw’s brilliant collaboration with hip-hop trailblazer Nelly in 2004 (via “Over and Over,” a smash single from Nelly’s album Suit) helped him earn the extra Top 40 pop radio play needed to win two ACM Awards in 2005. In the case of Nelly, a platinum plaque for the single was earned. The deeply heartfelt rap and country-mixed tune also helped Nelly secure his third consecutive number one-ranked album.
When Black male country music singer Kane Brown was reportedly “snubbed” by top brass at the Country Music Awards (CMA) in 2022, the bass-voiced crooner won three ACM Awards in that very same year. Some organizations talk about the long road ahead in the fight against racism. Real organizations rarely talk. They start paving the long road NOW.
Please visit bmacoalition.org for further details on the Black Music Action Coalition. Visit acmcountry.com for more information about the Academy of Country Music. ACM’s LEVel Up: Lift Every Voice program information is accessible at acmcountry.com/levelup.
Victor Trammell is a digital media producer, freelance journalist, editor, and author. He was formerly a Chief Contributor at the Black Then History Network and Your Black World News. Mr. Trammell is also a media holdings investor (Creatd Inc.) and previously wrote content for the Michael Baisden Show, a nationally syndicated radio program.