The Academy of Country Music is partnering with the Black Music Action Coalition in the launch of a guaranteed income program for 20 young, Black members of the music community, the organizations announced today.

The program, called OnRamp, will focus on “improving inclusivity and equity” within the Nashville music industry, according to the joint announcement, with the goal of empowering “the next generation of leaders in the early stages of their careers by granting access to professional development opportunities, community mentorship, and other opportunities to increase personal growth, industry exposure, exclusive Academy membership panels and tentpole live events, and visibility with Academy Board members and industry leaders.”

 

In addition, each participant in the program will receive a $1,000 monthly stipend for one year.

The partnership comes three years after the founding of the Black Music Action Coalition, an organization created to put the principals of the Black Lives Matter movement into action within the music industry.

The country music industry, in particular, has faced considerable criticism in recent years over its lack of diversity, an issue that became especially pointed in 2021 when the genre’s latest superstar, Morgan Wallen, was caught on video using the N-word. Despite a temporary removal from country radio stations – and from the 2021 ACM Awards – Wallen, who repeatedly expressed contrition for the incident, saw little commercial harm to his career: His album Dangerous became a chart-topper and huge seller, and in 2022 he received the ACM’s Milestone Award for outstanding achievement in country music during the preceding calendar year.

Although the incident was not referenced in today’s announcement, the rocky relationship between the country music industry and the Black community provides at least some backdrop to the formation of the new partnership.

“It speaks volumes for the Black Music Action Coalition and the Academy of Country Music to join forces to launch a guaranteed income program in Nashville for emerging Black artists and young professionals,” said said Willie “Prophet” Stiggers, co-founder/co-chair Black Music Action Coalition. He went on to commend ACM officials “for sharing our vision and becoming true partners with BMAC on a direct impact solution that will begin to address long standing racial inequalities that exist in this country.”

 

In a statement, ACM CEO Damon Whiteside said, “The Academy has a rich history of fostering 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 committed work to making the statement ‘Country Music is for Everyone’ a true reality. We’re excited to work with BMAC on this pivotal and transformative work for our Nashville community by increasing opportunities for young professionals from diverse backgrounds in our industry.”

Playing an active role in the OnRamp program will be ACM’s “LEVel Up: Lift Every Voice” initiative started last year with a mission to provide professional development and enrichment for rising leaders in country music in an attempt to expanding country music beyond its traditional “demographics and geography.”

Applications for theOnRamp program will be available starting in late spring, with the program itself starting in June. The program will initially be funded by the Black Music Action Coalition, the Academy of Country Music, and industry partners, and “powered” by social impact agency BreatheWithMe.

“I’ve seen firsthand over the past year the commitment and passion of the ACM LEVel Up rising leaders cohort,” said ACM DEI Task Force Chair and ACM Board Member Shannon Sanders, “and I commend the Academy and BMAC for coming together on this exciting new program.”

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