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CMT Senior VP Of Music Strategy Leslie Fram On Finding Comfort In Music & TV In Unprecedented Times

Leslie Fram

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CMT Senior VP Of Music Strategy Leslie Fram On Finding Comfort In Music & TV In Unprecedented Times

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, GRAMMY.com checked in with Fram to get her perspective on the current situation, its ongoing effect on the music industry and how CMT is responding

GRAMMYs/Aug 6, 2020 - 09:44 pm

To call Leslie Fram accomplished would be a massive understatement. A 30-year music industry veteran, the Recording Academy Nashville Chapter Board member holds the position of Senior VP of Music Strategy over at CMT, where she oversees music on all platforms. Additionally, in 2013, Fram started CMT's Next Women of Country franchise and is the co-founder of 2014's Change The Conversation, which fights for gender equality in country music. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, GRAMMY.com checked in with Fram to get her perspective on the current situation, its ongoing effect on the music industry and how CMT is innovating in these unprecedented times.

In one word, how would you describe the current state of the world?  

Unprecedented.

Thinking of the one word you chose, would you use that same word to describe the current state of the music industry? Why or why not?

Yes. Due to the pandemic, we are seeing a shift in the music industry with consolidation and a shift in priorities with major labels and agencies. The impact on "live" music and touring being disrupted has shifted the paradigm. 

As a woman in music and TV, how would you describe your professional journey?

It’s important to find your champions! I've been lucky to work for companies that supported hiring based on experience, male or female. I believe in a strong work ethic and as a manager, empowering a team. I have also learned along the way not to be defined by your job. I made the decision later in my career to take a leap of faith and change a career path in radio to television and rock to country. It was the greatest move I ever made, believing in myself and not being afraid to make a change.

How can the music and television communities contribute to creating change?

Listening more to your audience. They are the first to adapt to change. I’m proud to say at CMT we adopted an "Equal Play" policy in our video hours to support 50/50 male/females in a genre that has not supported female voices.

What are you personally doing to activate and advocate change in your current position and in your personal life?

I am actively involved in a new organization in Nashville called Nashville Music Equality. Our mission is to increase minority representation on all levels of the music industry through educating non-minority colleagues of the struggles that African Americans face and challenging them to raise their voice to enact change. At CMT, we are working on the next level of "Equal Play" for female artists and equality for all artists.

Personally, I just started drinking a gallon of water a day!!!!!

The COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly rocked and continues to rock the music industry as a whole. Have you had any revelations about the entertainment industry, specifically music and TV?

It has devastated touring musicians and crew. Through television, we have been able to produce and support programs that raise money for organizations that support these groups like MusiCares and their Coronavirus Relief Fund. Music has always been a unifying factor, especially in times of uncertainty. As consumers have more time since working from home, they are consuming more music and watching more television. Music and television can be a companion during this time and provide relief and comfort.

What has this COVID-19 moment taught you personally?

This time has taught be to be more present and to be grateful for each day. Time is a gift and choosing to use that gift with more of the people that matter the most in your life.

Times like this can inspire creativity and/or innovation. As a music executive at a cable TV network, have you witnessed this within your company via your team and the artists you all engage with?  

Absolutely. We are all learning to be more creative and nimble. CMT has produced two music specials at home, "CMT Giants: Kenny Rogers" and "CMT Celebrates Our Heroes." Our producers, led by Margaret Comeaux, were able to put together two beautiful shows that honored so many heroes and engaged our audience. Our Digital Team, led by Melissa Goldberg, has produced some of the most innovative franchises that showcase our country talent and how they are managing their time during the pandemic! Check out "Off The Road With Jon Pardi"—it is epic!

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Jay-Z And Meek Mill's REFORM Donates Surgical Masks To Vulnerable Prison Population

Meek Mill

Photo: Brian Stukes/Getty Images

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Jay-Z And Meek Mill's REFORM Donates Surgical Masks To Vulnerable Prison Population

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says correctional facilities are particularly vulnerable places for COVID-19 to spread

GRAMMYs/Apr 7, 2020 - 05:01 am

Jay-Z and Meek Mill's criminal justice reform organization REFORM has donated roughly 100,000 surgical masks to correctional facilities including in the states of New York, Tennessee and Mississippi.

The organization said it donated 50,000 masks to New York City's Rikers Island Correctional Facility, 40,000 masks to the Tennessee Department of Correction and 5,000 to Mississippi State Penitentiary. Spin reports that an additional 2,500 masks were sent to a Rikers medical facility. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says correctional facilities are particularly vulnerable places for COVID-19 to spread.  

"Incarcerated/detained persons live, work, eat, study, and recreate within congregate environments, heightening the potential for COVID-19 to spread once introduced," according to the CDC. Other vulnerabilities include the fact that incarcerated people, for the most part, can't leave and, depending on the size of the facility, space for someone to medically isolate could be limited.

"We need to protect vulnerable people behind bars & GET THEM OUT!" REFORM said in a tweet. The organization sees this as a threat to public health and said on its website that it is working with experts and advocates "to develop a set of common-sense recommendations that would make us all SAFER."

They also announced on Twitter that they helped the South Carolina Department of Corrections locate 36,000 masks for their population. 

Across the nation, COVID-19 cases have been popping up in correctional facilities, including North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee

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Dreamville Festival 2020 Is Officially Canceled Due To COVID-19

J. Cole

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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Dreamville Festival 2020 Is Officially Canceled Due To COVID-19

The second annual music festival from J. Cole's Dreamville Records squad and friends was first postponed from April until August, and will now have to wait until 2021

GRAMMYs/May 19, 2020 - 02:27 am

Dreamville Festival has announced they are canceling their 2020 event due to public safety concerns caused by coronavirus. The second annual edition of the one-day music fest, hosted by J. Cole and his talent-filled Dreamville Records, was originally slated to take place on April 6 at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh, N.C., but was rescheduled to Aug. 29 after the pandemic struck the U.S.

Like countless other events that were set to take place this year, it will now have to wait until 2021. Dreamville says all 2020 ticket holders will be receive refunds soon.

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"After much deliberation and careful monitoring of the current situation, we have decided to cancel Dreamville Festival 2020. Although we originally hoped it would be possible to bring you the festival this August, the ongoing uncertainty regarding the COVID-19 pandemic has made this timeline no longer possible. This decision has been extremely difficult to make, but the safety of our fans, artists, and staff is always our top priority, and nothing will ever take precedence over your well-being," the organizers wrote in a statement shared across their social channels and on the fest's website.

The message also shared details on refunds, noting that all tickets purchased online will automatically be refunded to the original payment method, beginning this week. Fans who bought physical tickets from official points of purchase can request a refund here.

"Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate this. Please stay safe, healthy, and sane so we can reunite with you in 2021," the statement added.

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According to Pitchfork, the debut Dreamville fest also faced unforeseen setbacks; it was originally set for Sept. 15, 2018 at Dorothea Dix Park but was pushed to April 6, 2019, due to Hurricane Florence. The 2019 event featured performances from Dreamville head Cole and labelmates J.I.D, BAS and Ari Lennox, as well as SZA, Big Sean, 21 Savage, 6LACK, Rapsody, Nelly and other heavy-hitters in hip-hop and R&B.

No artists have been revealed yet for the second edition of the fest.

The Dreamville squad earned their first two collective GRAMMY nominations at the most recent 62nd GRAMMY Awards; for Best Rap Album for the collaborative Revenge Of The Dreamers III and Best Rap Performance for one of its singles, "Down Bad." Cole earned a total of five nods, including for his work on that project, and took him his first GRAMMY win for his feature on 21 Savage's "A Lot."

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Houseparty’s "In The House": Katy Perry, John Legend, Alicia Keys + More

Katy Perry

Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

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Houseparty’s "In The House": Katy Perry, John Legend, Alicia Keys + More

The three-day livestream event taking place this weekend (May 15-17) will allow users to view performances and segments while chatting with friends in realtime

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2020 - 12:46 am

Houseparty, the face-to-face social video app, is bringing a star-studded lineup of performances, workouts and cooking lessons to its users, including appearances by Katy Perry, John Legend, Snoop Dogg, Alicia Keys and more than 40 other celebrities. The event, "In The House," will take place over the course of three days, beginning this weekend on Friday, May 15 and running through Sunday, May 17.

Per Rolling Stone, the event’s programming will see a live performance of Perry’s unreleased track “Daisies,” slated to be released on Friday, May 15, in addition to sets by Legend, Chvrches and others. The program will also feature special cooking lessons on unique recipes provided by Snoop Dogg, 2 Chainz and Zooey Deschanel. Alicia Keys will also host a karaoke session and lead a 30 minute at-home workout. The full lineup and event schedule are available here.

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The three-day event will allow those who tune in to enjoy free performances from the comfort of their homes, and they’ll be able to chat and interact with friends via the app all in real time. In a statement to Variety discussing the program, Houseparty CEO and co-founder Sima Sistani said “We are bringing back appointment viewing… to capture that feeling of sitting on the couch for that special show with your family or friends on a Friday night.”

Houseparty is available to download for free on iOS and Android devices, as well as online where users can tune in to stream the live event. Each segment will air again 12 hours following its original stream for those who may have missed the original broadcasts.

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Apple Music Launches $50 Million COVID-19 Royalty Fund For Indie Labels

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Apple Music Launches $50 Million COVID-19 Royalty Fund For Indie Labels

The streaming giant is looking to create stability via advanced payments for independent labels and artists during times of uncertainty

GRAMMYs/Apr 9, 2020 - 12:18 am

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to propose a ripple effect of financial woes and future questions for artists, musicians and the music industry altogether, Apple Music is taking major strides to offer a semblance of relief.

On Tuesday, the streaming platform officially announced the launch of a $50 million advance royalty fund, set in place to ensure that independent labels and their artists can continue operating and getting paid during this time.

In a letter issued to various independent labels, obtained by Rolling Stone, the streaming giant wrote "These are difficult times for the music industry globally. Livelihoods are at risk, with multiple sources of income that our industry relies on vanishing overnight. Apple has a deep, decades-long history with music, and we are proud to be in close partnership with the best labels and artists in the world. We want to help."

The statement continues, "Today Apple Music is announcing the creation of a $50 million-plus fund available as advances on future royalties to independent labels, to help them pay artists and maintain operations."

According to stipulations, labels with existing distribution deals on the platform who are earning a minimum of $10,000 in Apple Music royalties quarterly are eligible for royalty advances. To receive an advance, labels will need to accept the agreement and be under Apple Music’s latest distribution deal by a May 8, 11:59 p.m. PDT deadline.

In recent events, social distancing and quarantining measures have caused a series of tour and festival cancellations, music release pushbacks and streaming activity has effectively declined. With its new initiative, Apple Music looks to support often overlooked independent artists and labels whose wellbeing doesn’t necessarily depend on the security of major label or industry backing. Advanced royalty payments will help sustain stability for those artists, even while things are rocky.

For more information on how you can directly support musicians and artist communities during the COVID-19 crisis, visit MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund and consider donating here.

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