The American Association for Independent Music just celebrated its 10th anniversary, and they now have a new CEO. Richard James Burgess took over on January 5, and Billboard had a chat with him to hear his view on the indie industry and his plans for the organization.

Billboard asked about an issue near and dear to me.

“Is it a priority to increase female representation in the indie sector of the industry, or diversity more generally?”

It’s one of the first things that I talked about when we got here is we would definitely like to have more diversity in the labels and memberships of A2IM. We would like to see more diversity in the industry generally. I can’t imagine why people don’t want diversity. It’s better for everybody to have more points of view.

Yes, it is. But that’s not how those in positions of power usually see it. More opinions to take into account means less “say” for them, and they don’t like that. The status quo is in their best interest. That’s why many don’t want more diversity.

And likewise, why do we not have representative percentages of other groups and other ethnicities and so on and so forth? We should. I’m all in favor of that.

I hope this means there will be real efforts to make access to industry positions more accessible to the underrepresented. The music industry is still the domain of the middle-aged white men, and honestly, in 2015 that is really no longer acceptable.

There’s tons of opportunity for anybody who wants to start a label, and I don’t think it really matters what ethnicity you are or what gender you are. But you are right, we’re not seeing that level of diversity right now. I would definitely like to resolve that, if I can.

You could start by answering the first question clearly with “Yes, it’s a priority,” instead of merely stating what “should” happen. People in positions of power need to be taken a stand, and actively work toward diversity and inclusivity. “If I can” isn’t good enough.

For women, it is still incredibly difficult to be taken seriously in the industry, especially if your skill-set or ambition reach beyond the front desk or PR work. And the women who are accepted are often those who behave like “one of the guys.” Sexism is tolerated, and if you refuse to go along you’re told that “you need to learn to take a joke.” Getting more women in is going to start with changing that culture.

I suggest not holding your breath while you wait for that to happen.


Liv Carter

Liv Carter

Liv is a career coach for creatives, and the people who work with them.
She holds several certificates from Berklee College of Music, and a certificate in Positive Psychology from UC Berkeley.
Her main influences are coffee, cats, and Alexander Hamilton.
Liv Carter