By Ryan Williford, Owner of Imminence Records
In the Warped Tour scene the record labels involved can help build a more inclusive music community. As the owner of Imminence Records, I feel that we are the foundation that can help build that more inclusive music community. It starts as low as the hiring process; it should not matter if someone is male, female, transgender, bisexual, gay/lesbian, pansexual, black, white…well I think you get the picture. No matter who is applying, their acceptance or declination should come down to their merits and not their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. However, this is not always the case as straight white men are hired at a higher percentage with a higher pay rate and are more likely to rise to higher management roles than anyone else. We at Imminence Records have always hired by merit, and our previous and current staffers who just so happened to be in the LGBT+ community have been by far some of the hardest workers I’ve had the pleasure to work with in my decade in the industry.
It doesn’t just start stop in the office, though. Labels need to be mindful of the type of artists they sign, because as we have learned in the past year, the words and actions of even one band member can ruin any good reputation that a band has built up throughout the years. Having bands who support and/or are members of the LGBT+ goes a long way towards making the scene more inclusive, as artists have the platform to make an impression on a scene that trends young and seems to be getting younger by the year. The teenage years are the most impressionable time in a person’s life, and having bands fans can look up to for preaching acceptance and support will go a long way in molding their adult lives, morals, and values. The teen years are also when most people start exploring their sexuality, so having bands and fellow peers supporting whatever their fans may identify as will go a long way.
Lastly, I think labels and bands can help build a more inclusive music community by starting up an open and civil dialogue between them and the fans. Having an open forum for questions and honest discussion about the LGBT+ community, or really anything deserving of having an honest discussion, will lead to more awareness and more facts versus rumors. This would go back to my previous point of making an impression during fans’ most impressionable years. With the effect and sheer number of fans on social media these days, label and bands can have these open forums on Facebook and/or Instagram with a staff member acting as moderator to keep the discussion on topic while also making sure it’s a safe place and not filled with hate.
Each of these proposed strategies shows how labels can help build a more inclusive scene while also involving the bands they’ve signed. This is extremely important as the bands in our scene continue to emerge into the more mainstream scene. The increased fandom increases the chances of not-so-inclusive fans popping up and ruining the foundation that our scene was built on. If we have labels and bands preaching for a more inclusive scene, we can keep the pathos of the scene while also being happy to welcome more mainstream fans, as after all - this isn’t a scene, it’s a family.
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