Last June, YouTube launched a $100 million #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund in an effort to help equip Black musicians with the resources and support to enable them to “thrive and invest in work that amplifies the voices, perspectives and stories of all Black artists around the world,” according to the announcement.
The company has provided periodic updates on aspects of the program, and on Wednesday, unveiled a report on the progress its music efforts have made over the past year in multiple cities and countries, which are recapped below.
“It’s been a company-wide effort to make a change and raise voices and profiles of Black artists on the platform,” Vivien Lewit, YouTube Music global head of artist relations, tells Variety. “We broke off as a music team and asked, how can we have impact, raise the profiles not just of artists but also songwriters and producers, and how can we celebrate communities and give voice to youth culture?”
Tuma Basa, the company’s director of Black music and culture, provided characteristically enthusiastic details about some of the company’s efforts in the Bay Area, Atlanta and Los Angeles, and promised efforts in major metropolitan areas are currently in the works.
“We really focused on community and artist grants,” he says. “Like in the Bay Area, Project Level is the dopest organization, it mentors kids — [platinum rapper] 24k Goldn attended that program — and we brought in people from the area like [rapper] E-40 and [music executive] Anthony Saleh to talk to them, and they talked about so much more than music. Same thing in Atlanta with Gathering Spot. But we’re just getting started — this is real life, and each city has very different needs.” He also shouted out fellow YouTube execs Brittany Lewis, Naomi Zeichner, Ada Hopkins and Carletta Higginson for their efforts.
YouTube’s official update follows:
Opening grant applications + new scholarship opportunities
On June 21, 2021 we will open grant applications for the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund Class of 2022 with expanded eligibility to include songwriters and producers. We’re also opening up applications for those based in the UK and Canada, in addition to the U.S., Brazil, Australia, Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria.
Furthering our work and in support of songwriters and producers, we’re pleased to announce our new partnership with renowned music education institution, 1500 Sound Academy, founded by Grammy-Award winning songwriters and producers James Fauntleroy and Larrance “Rance” Dopson. Through our inaugural #YouTubeBlack Music Future Insiders Scholarship, and in partnership with 1500 Sound Academy, we will fund 10 full ride scholarships to the Academy’s Live Online 1500 Music & Industry Fundamentals program. During the six-month scholarship term, recipients will take courses in music production, engineering, songwriting, mixing, music business and much more.
Deepening investments in Black music communities
To deepen the impact of our efforts, we’ve been working with community-based organizations to develop our Future Insiders program which reaches over 180 (and counting) at-risk and underserved youth aspiring to enter the music and creative industries. As part of the program, the students attend quarterly workshops that focus on succeeding on YouTube, raising awareness of career pathways, facilitating access to talent and thought leaders and encouraging well-being. Already, students have started YouTube channels applying the learnings acquired through this program. Because of the program’s early success, we’ll be expanding Future Insiders globally, and will share more details later this year.
Shining a light on a year of achievements
One year ago, we “put on our marathon shoes.” This was more than a moment. It’s a movement. Following are some highlights of work achieved along the way. In January, we welcomed 21 artists to our inaugural Class of 2021, and through the resources we’ve provided — dedicated one to one support, seed funding, and training and networking programs — they have achieved incredible growth, not only on YouTube, but in their careers. Some of these achievements include:
- From January 2021 through April 2021, the Class has collectively received 1.4B views on their Official Artist Channels.
- Six artists saw over 50% growth in Official Artist Channel subscribers (Joy Oladokun, Miiesha, BRS Kash, Jensen McRae, serpentwithfeet, and Yung Baby Tate)
- Four artists saw 200% growth on their Official Artist Channel views (serpentwithfeet, Jensen McRae, Yung Baby Tate, and Joy Oladokun).
- As part of YouTube Music’s Africa Month celebration, Sho Madjozi, Sauti Sol, and Fireboy DML, hosted exclusive live stream virtual concerts on each of their Official Artist Channels.
- Rexx Life Raj, Joy Oladokun, and Tkay Maidza performed at YouTube’s annual Brandcast event.
- Mariah The Scientist performed an exclusive live set for YouTube Music Nights from Center Stage in Atlanta, in support of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA).
#YouTubeMusic moments celebrating black culture
We created #YouTubeMusic Moments, a collection of content series, live streams, and events that held the primary goal of celebrating Black culture, identity, and experiences from the perspective of artists and thought leaders in Music. Here’s what we’ve launched so far:
- 2 Chainz (“Money Maker Fund” Series)
2 Chainz launched a new series, “Money Maker Fund,” which incentivized HBCU students to put together business pitches that 2 Chainz would evaluate and potentially fund. The 5-episode series saw 2 Chainz rewarding $55,000 to Black entrepreneurs.
- The Legacy Series: Fashion Show
With an eye towards raising awareness of the struggles that both Black fashion brands and artists encounter today, we partnered with the UK’s Westfield Shopping Centre to create The Legacy Series: Fashion Show. The live stream event featured thoughtful interviews and emerging UK artists wearing Black-owned UK fashion brands.
- MOBO Awards
After a 2 year break, The MOBO Awards award show returned through a partnership with YouTube Music hosted by British TV personality Maya Jama and YouTuber comedian Chunky with live performances from H.E.R., Tiwa Savage, DaVido, and others.
- Kitty Cash (“Kitty’s World Virtual Series”)
“Kitty’s World” is a virtual animated series developed by creator, artist, DJ, and producer Kitty Ca$h, the show serves as a safe space for socially conscious discourse that combines culture and politics with visual storytelling and music.
- Masego (“Studying Abroad” Livestream)
Masego’s “Studying Abroad” livestream launched in conjunction with the artists’ latest EP, wherein Masego replicated the experiences of various locations within the African diaspora with every song featuring a new scene or country.
“We’re incredibly proud of the progress made thus far, but like a marathon, we know we’ve got a long way to go,” the report concludes. “Our music team at YouTube is grateful for the opportunity to provide a space for a community that is integral to the vitality of our platform and the world beyond. We will continue to amplify Black voices because Black voices, like Black lives, matter. Now let’s get back to work.”