UMG Establishes $25 Million 'Change Fund,' Task Force for Meaningful Change

Universal Music Group has announced the formation of a Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC) and a dedicated $25 million “Change Fund.” In a letter to colleagues obtained by Rolling Stone, TFMC co-chairs Jeff Harleston, Executive VP, General Counsel, UMG and Interim Chairman and CEO Def Jam; and Ethiopia Habtemariam, President Motown Records & EVP Capitol Music Group; identified six areas of focus and immediate steps the task force is taking “to be both a resource and ally to our internal and external community.”

The establishment of the fund and the TFMC come in the wake of the recent killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the ensuing protests against systemic racism and police brutality. It also comes on the heels of the music industry’s #TheShowMustBePaused movement, which morphed into Blackout Tuesday and drew some criticism.

“The problems we are addressing are not new and they certainly do not have easy solutions, but we are dedicated to fighting for real, lasting change,” they wrote in the letter. “As Lucian [Grainge, Universal Music Group’s Chairman and CEO] wrote, UMG has committed resources and empowered us to create a task force to be both a resource and ally to our internal and external community.

“Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC) was created as a driving force for the ongoing fight for equality, justice and inclusion. We are charged with reviewing the company’s commitment to addressing and promoting tolerance, equality, and elimination of bias, within UMG, the music community and the world at large. It is our mission to identify the gaps and deficiencies and to strengthen UMG’s plan with new initiatives,” they continued. “And EVERYTHING is on the table.”

The six areas of focus include Aid/Charitable Giving, which will fund charities that support economic empowerment and business development, housing, legal services and bail along with mental health services and provide other resources. According to the letter, the initial round of grants will benefit Black Girl Ventures, Black Lives Matter, Black Mental Health Alliance, Colin Kaepernick Foundation, Color Of Change, Equal Justice Initiative, National Association of Black Journalists, Silence the Shame, Sickle Cell Disease Foundation of California, The Bail Project, and When We All Vote.

Global, Internal/Institutional Change, Legislative/Public Policy, Partners, and Programming/Curation round out the six areas of focus. The TFMC wrote that it has already launched several initiatives, including holding town hall meetings with guest speakers for employees, letter campaigns to Congress demanding action, funds for justice via UMG’s All Together Now program that includes matching employees’ qualifying contributions to non-profit groups, a legal volunteer action center and a voter action center.

“We know our community, colleagues, artists and partners are suffering,” the letter concludes. “We feel it and we’re living it but we’re also energized to fight for change.  We’re asking for you to lock arms with us — we want to hear your voice. Now is the time to be heard!”

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