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Toronto Announces $2M Partnership with Slaight Family Foundation & Advance to Support the City's Black Music Professionals

Toronto Mayor John Tory has announced a $2-million partnership between the City of Toronto, the Slaight Family Foundation, and Advance, Canada’s Black Music Business Collective, to support the entry, retention, and advancement of Black professionals in Toronto’s music industry.

Mayor Tory and Derrick Ross, president of Slaight Music, were joined at the Phoenix Concert Theatre for the announcement by Vivian Barclay, GM at Warner Chappell Music Canada and a Board member of Advance, Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson (Ward 21 Scarborough Centre), Chair of the Economic Development and Culture committee and member of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee, Jeffrey Remedios, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Canada, and Lisa Zbitnew, co-owner of the Phoenix Concert Theatre.

Learn more about ADVANCE, Canada's Black Music Business Collective, by listening to the Canadian Musician Podcast interview with founding member Erin Lowers

The City and the Slaight Family Foundation are each committing $250,000 a year from 2020 to 2023 to support Black talent development in the music industry for a total commitment of $2 million over four years.

With support of Advance, the funds will go towards achieving tangible and sustainable change to address the under-representation of Black talent in Canada’s music industry.

While Black artists drive the success of Canada’s music industry, Black professionals are under-represented in management and executive roles. In fact, Barclay is the only Black executive at any of the major labels or publishers in Canada. This situation has resulted from an under-investment in Black talent development, especially for senior leadership roles within the industry.

The partnership, funding and efforts being announced today represent significant, tangible steps towards addressing these issues and will support initiatives aligned with Advance’s four pillars of action: research, advocacy and government partnerships; mentorship and education; community outreach; as well as business development and entrepreneurship.

An advisory group, including representatives of the Slaight Family Foundation, Advance and the City, through the Toronto Music Advisory Committee (TMAC), will develop a range of initiatives during the four-year partnership, including the following immediate efforts:

  • Seed funding to support the establishment of Advance
  • Research to analyze and assess racial discrepancies in the business sector of the Canadian music industry
  • A mentorship and internship program with placements to begin in 2021
  • A pilot initiative to support Black managerial talent development in corporation with community training partners
  • Master classes on music industry career development

In his remarks, Jeffrey Remedios, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Canada, outlined his firm commitment to supporting the advancement of Black professionals in the music industry, including work with Advance and separate initiatives around internships and other supports.

To expand this initiative, additional partner organizations are being sought with an emphasis on industry partners that are able to make clear employment commitments, post-secondary institutions that are able to support research and data analysis, as well as targeted talent development initiatives.

This new partnership will be reviewed in 2022 to track results and efforts made through this funding commitment and aligns with the City’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Action Plan and the Toronto Music Strategy.

“I am proud that our City will be partnering with the Slaight Family Foundation to provide critical funding to help support the advancement of Black professionals within our thriving music industry," says Mayor Tory. "This announcement represents significant and tangible steps towards real change that will help address an ongoing gap within our city’s music industry. I want to thank Slaight Family Foundation, Advance and Universal for partnering with us and for helping us provide opportunities for Black professionals in our city. The time to invest and create change is now as we work towards confronting and eradicating anti-Black racism within our city.”

“Toronto’s rich history of Black music has enriched our city’s culture and helped create one of the world’s best music scenes. Thanks to musicians such as Drake and the Weeknd, Toronto’s global identity is inseparably linked with hip hop and R&B. Today’s announcement will help encourage and sustain the next wave of Black talent and leadership,” Deputy Mayor Michael Thompson, Chair of the Economic Development and Culture committee and member of the Toronto Music Advisory Committee.

“Advance is committed to leading the change for real, tangible reform in the music business landscape and infrastructure in corporate, private and government sectors," says Barclay. "We look forward to partnering with Slaight Music and the City of Toronto to create pathways for learning, and opportunities for change and development for current and future Black talent and professionals in Canada.”

“One of the mandates of the Slaight Foundation is to support the creative arts in this country and, in doing so, help expand the vital Canadian entertainment industry, whether it be in front of the spotlight or behind boardroom doors. The Advance program will provide support for young black entrepreneurs in all aspects of the music industry: record labels, management companies, agencies, publicists, artists and producers. The Slaight Foundation is proud to help assist this necessary and beneficial Canadian initiative,” adds Gary Slaight, president and CEO Slaight Communications.

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Michael Raine is the Senior Editor at Canadian Musician. He is also a co-host of the popular Canadian Musician Radio weekly podcast.
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