Feb 27, 2023 - News

Nashville effort aims to grow country music diversity

Madeline Edwards, Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer singing.

Madeline Edwards, Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer perform during the 55th annual CMA awards in 2021. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

The Academy of Country Music unveiled a revolutionary program last week to identify and support young Black country music artists and businesspeople.

Details: The initiative, called OnRamp, will provide 20 aspiring music professionals a guaranteed monthly stipend of $1,000 for one year and, perhaps more importantly, access to the exclusive Music Row infrastructure of record labels, publishers, booking agencies and trade groups.

  • OnRamp is a partnership between the ACM and the Black Music Action Coalition, which last year released a report documenting opportunities for improving representation in country music.

The big picture: OnRamp comes amid broader efforts to improve diversity within the country music genre.

What he's saying: ACM CEO Damon Whiteside said the partnership was a way for his organization to commit "to making the statement, 'Country Music is for Everyone,' a reality."

Zoom out: OnRamp offers an opportunity for a new generation of Black musicians who see Nashville as a springboard into the industry.

  • They will follow a long line of Black artists who helped shape Nashville's musical identity.

Driving the news: The Fisk Jubilee Singers are famously the reason Nashville earned the nickname Music City during a performance in front of Queen Victoria.

  • Jefferson Street was the original live music corridor in Nashville, with a string of clubs hosting the country's most popular artists.
  • How groundbreaking was the Jefferson Street live music scene? Jimi Hendrix got his start in clubs on Jefferson Street as a backup player for Little Richard.

The latest: A wave of new country and Americana artists are moving those genres forward: Breland, Allison Russell, Mickey Guyton, Chapel Hart, Jimmie Allen and Yola have established themselves critically and commercially.

  • One of the most acclaimed albums out of Nashville over the last year came from the Tennessee State University marching band, which was recognized with a Grammy Award for best roots gospel album.

ğŸŽ¶ As Black History Month draws to a close, we wanted to make a Music Monday playlist to spotlight a sometimes undersung part of Nashville's musical heritage.

  • Be sure to like it on Spotify and email us with any songs you'd like us to add.
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