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5 Ways The Music Industry Can Support Recording Artists And Music Professionals With Disabilities

Top Row: Tracy Marie - Credit Tracy Marie, Brandon Kazen-Maddox and Shelly Guy - credit: Lincoln Center, Namel Norris - Credit: Joe Papeo, 2022 Danny Awards, Gaelynn Lea - Credit: Bartek Buczkowski. Bottom Row: Precious Perez - Credit - Alina Nadolu, Stephen Letnes - Photo credit: Gary Stefanski, Shelby Lock - Credit Shelby Lock, Lachi - Photo Credit: VOYA Inc, Clearwater Florida, 2021

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5 Ways The Music Industry Can Support Recording Artists And Music Professionals With Disabilities

In honor of Disability Pride Month, here are some tips on how the music industry can support creators and creative professionals who live with disabilities.

GRAMMYs/Jul 29, 2022 - 04:40 pm

As Disability Pride Month — which takes place every July — draws to a close, it's incumbent on the music community to continue elevating and celebrating music professionals with disabilities of all kinds. Below is a helpful, pragmatic guide to how we can do so — both in music-industry situations and in our everyday lives.

The following is a guest piece by Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities (RAMPD), a coalition of established creators with disabilities who work to promote equitable inclusion, visibility and accessibility in the music industry.

Having recently worked with the 64th GRAMMYs on a visible stage ramp, sign language on the red carpet, and live captioning and audio description for video content, RAMPD is on a mission to amplify Disability Culture in a massive way.

Read on as RAMPD members share key ways the music industry can support creators and creative professionals with disabilities on a year-round basis and in a meaningful manner.

1. Listen To The Disability Community

LachiEmbedImage

Lachi. Photo courtesy of RAMPD.

Lachi (Founder/President, RAMPD):

First ask. Then listen.

With 26 percent of Americans having some form of disability, neurodiversity, chronic illness or communication difference, we are a vast and diverse community full of rich, untold stories and deeply moving and impactful experiences, yet are untapped by popular culture. 

The disability community has strong perspectives on how we wish to be viewed and portrayed, but seldom have the opportunity to voice them. Thus many decisions are made about us without us and are often harmful to the community.

When planning design, programming, recruitment strategies, or anything else — even if it has nothing to do with disability — a disabled person tapped into the community must be in the room.

"But Lachi," you might say, "I don't know anyone in the music industry with a disability." Here at RAMPD, we provide resources where folks can find, source or hire top disabled talent and professionals who are knowledgeable, approachable, and present to affect growth.

WawaSnipe

Wawa Snipe. Photo courtesy of RAMPD.

Aoede (RAMPD, Events Co-Chair):

Encourage promoters, agents and venues to listen to artists and musicians with disabilities regarding their needs.

More than two thirds of disabled artists don't disclose due to stigmas, and report risking their health to perform. One way to remove fear of artists disclosing their disabilities is to respect an artist with disabilities' rider.

DJ Pastor Rock (RAMPD, Partnerships):

It all starts with awareness; paying attention to who is and, more importantly, who isn't there. Awareness is an important entry point for building relationships with people too often excluded.

2. Recognize Disability As A Natural And Cultural Form Of Diversity

RAMPD Community:

Disability culture is a celebration of people who identify as disabled, while acknowledging the vast diversity of the disability experience and each person's inherent and equal worth.

It is unapologetic, creative, innovative, adaptable, imaginative, and rooted in problem-solving.

It is based on the premise that disability needs to be seen, respected, included and celebrated. It includes our worldviews, our perspectives, our contributions, our art, our words, and our music.

Disability culture — at least in part — is a vibrant and thriving counter-response to the exclusion, marginalization and oppression historically and currently experienced by many disabled individuals.

NamelNorris

Namel Norris. Photo: Joe Papeo, 2022 Danny Awards

Namel Norris (RAMPD, Partnerships):

One of the biggest ways the music industry can be more disability-inclusive is by getting more involved in our culture and the amazing art, performances and musical contributions we already have going on.

Zak Sandler (RAMPD, Pro Member):

We need to create an environment where disability is not hidden out of shame, but rather, celebrated out of pride. Record companies and agents must actively seek out disabled artists and ensure we represent a consistent percentage of their clients.

ShelbyLock

Shelby Lock. Photo courtesy of Shelby Lock.

Shelby Lock (RAMPD, Pro Member):

Evaluate people based on their skills and work ethic rather than their health status. There can be a culture of working non-stop in the music industry — especially in the studio world. Don't write us off, and we'll prove with our results that we deserve to be here too.

Leroy Moore Jr (RAMPD, Pro Member):

Let's also admit to the -isms that have locked out artists who become disabled/deaf during their career in the music industry.

StephenLetnes

Stephen Letnes. Photo courtesy of RAMPD.

Stephen Letnes (RAMPD, Treasurer):

Music affects and reflects what we value. Disability culture is not something new; it has always been here. The music industry can and should amplify such a powerful yet neglected part of our culture.

3. Intentional Visibility And Representation From The Stage To The Boardroom

Precious Perez (RAMPD, Memberships Chair):

Disability representation on screen is crucial. There is so much power in looking at the media and seeing yourself and your community represented.

Disability is the one diversity left out of every diversity conversation. The one minority that is not acknowledged. So many people do not understand disability — and moreover, do not see or experience disabled artists on an equal playing field.

It is for this reason that highlighting and booking disabled performers for prominent visibility opportunities is not only empowering, but deeply impactful for the general public and the industry as a whole.

PreciousEmbed

Precious Perez. Photo: Alina Nadolu

Aoede:

Promote and implement accessibility measures at major events such as the following:

Visible ramps to the stage; visible ASL interpreter(s) and self-description; and on-stage and below-the-line representation of artists and professionals with disabilities.

Publicly announcing accessibility measures through press releases, on websites and social media is a highly encouraged way to include the disability community — while getting non-disabled viewers excited or interested in these measures.

Namel Norris:

Invest in the artists who are already making a massive impact purposefully amplifying Disability Culture all over the world.

There are also accomplished entertainment professionals who can sit on your boards to ensure disability is part of the conversation at the board level.

It's not about giving us a handout; it's about giving us a hand up. An equitable fair inclusive seat at the table in the music industry.

BrandonKazenMaddox

Brandon Kazen-Maddox. Credit: Lincoln Center

Brandon Kazen-Maddox (ASL Performer):

Incorporate artists from the deaf and signing community to not only translate musical events into ASL, but to work hand-in-hand with musical artists to create accessible work from the ground up.

4. Inclusive Hiring — From Behind-The-Scenes To Contractor To Executive

Andrea Jennings (RAMPD, Secretary):

Let's level the playing field for music executives, music creatives behind the scenes, musicians, and music administrators with disabilities.

We are talented professionals at every level. We are opinion leaders and want to contribute our perspective to society; however, we are often met with accessibility and pay gap barriers.

To achieve success, we need equitable solutions like accessible outreach programs, inclusive employment opportunities, paid on-the-job training, and intentional accommodation support.

Lachi:

Let's create work, event and office environments conducive to disabled people, including the over 70% with non-visible disabilities. The last thing we want is to find out that someone feared self-advocating or requesting work accommodations… in their exit interview!

5. Intentional Event And Venue Accessibility For Artists and Patrons

Aoede:

Hybrid events are a great opportunity for high-visibility events to promote inclusion and accessibility.

As a disabled artist living with chronic illness, I look entirely to virtual events to engage and connect with others in my music community.

These events allow people like me, who are unable to attend physical events (due to health risks, travel or other concerns) access to participate and be included virtually.

TracyMarieEmbedPhoto

Tracy Marie. Photo courtesy of RAMPD.

Tracy Marie (RAMPD, Events):

Venues can better implement inclusive practices by simply providing a direct line on their website to a designated staff member who intakes accommodation requests.

That goes for a patron, an artist or even those interested in seeking employment. An open line of communication helps those with accessibility and accommodation needs feel welcomed.

GaelynnLea

Gaelynn Lea. Photo: Bartek Buczkowski

Gaelynn Lea (RAMPD, VP):

A major way the music industry can be more inclusive is by hiring accessibility coordinators on their full-time staff to ensure operations, technology, press, and policies are both inclusive and supportive of disability and that access needs are being met for both employees and customers.

Folks hired for these positions should identify as disabled themselves so that they have a personal relationship with the reality of disability, and so that they can seek input and resources from their own community when faced with an unfamiliar issue.

All too often, access is seen as a secondary concern or a bonus, when it should really be built in from the ground up.

There is a deep pool of disabled talent that could be tapped for this important work. Now, it's up to the music industry to create these positions in their organizations.

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5 Takeaways From RM's New Solo Album 'Indigo'
RM performing at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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5 Takeaways From RM's New Solo Album 'Indigo'

BTS leader RM makes his official solo debut with his first studio album, 'Indigo,' which showcases a new level of artistry from the rapper.

GRAMMYs/Dec 5, 2022 - 08:03 pm

Like many of his BTS cohorts, RM has shown off his solo musical talents long before this year. His first mixtape RM came out in 2015, capturing the rapper's raw hip-hop roots. His second mixtape Mono was released to critical acclaim in 2018, when BTS were just scratching the surface of their worldwide domination. But this year took RM's solo efforts to the next level with his first-ever studio album, Indigo. 

Across 10 tracks, RM's official solo debut documents the multilingual rapper, producer and singer/songwriter's journey through his twenties. Meshing Korean and English, his reflections about life under the public eye weave through genres and moods organically. And with diverse collaborations — from R&B legend Erykah Badu to fellow South Korean star parkjiyoon — to boot, RM uses Indigo to bring fans deeper into his expansive musical universe.

Now that the highly anticipated project has finally arrived, take a look at five key takeaways from RM's debut studio album, Indigo.

It's Connected To The Art He Loves

RM is known for being a lover of nature and fine art, and that is reflected within Indigo. Promotional photos for the album featured Yun Hyong-Keun's painting "Blue"; RM is known to be a supporter of the late South Korean artist, so the rapper's inclusion of the work shows the intentionality behind his debut — musically and beyond. 

He isn't afraid to mesh artistic mediums, and the sonic and stylistic choices made reflect this. From then sampling Korean Hyong-Keun's reflection on Plato's humanity in the opening track "Yun" to even titling a song "Still Life," the inspiration is present. RM may have refined taste, but he makes it easily digestible through his music.

It's A Reflection Of His Life Up To Now

According to RM himself, Indigo serves as a diary of the last three years of his life. Even so, the album's messages can be a blueprint for anyone going through a transitional period in life, thanks to RM's honest, open-minded and unfiltered lyrics. 

On "Lonely," he candidly exudes his frustrations over a tropical beat. "I'm f—king lonely/ I'm alone on this island," he raps. He later sings, "So many memories are on the floor/ And now I hate the cities I don't belong/ Just wanna go back home." 

The contrast between the song's upbeat melody and longing lyrics provide a dichotomy that perfectly captures the highs and lows of fame. That's a theme that carries throughout the album, further showcasing why RM has become so admired by his fans and peers alike.

The Features Tell A Lot About His Artistry

Eight of the 10 tracks on Indigo are collaborations, all of which display RM's love of diverse genres and musical eras. They also reflect the caliber of artistry RM has reached — he got Erykah Badu! — as well as his ability to bridge the gap across borders. Along with Badu, he teamed up with two other R&B stars, Anderson .Paak and Mahalia, along with several Korean artists: Paul Blanco, Tablo, Kim Sawol, Colde, youjeen, and parkjiyoon. 

There's A Song For Everyone

Many praise RM for his ability to touch people with his leadership qualities and words, and this album may just be the strongest example of that. The project is noticeably more upbeat than Mono, but RM still takes time to break his emotions down lyrically. 

His first verse on the opening track "Yun" declares "F-k the trendsetter, I'ma turn back the time," setting the tone for how RM feels artistically. Then, the high-energy track "Still Life" with Anderson .Paak expresses joy and resilience, proving that one can still stand tall despite difficulty. As he says to .Paak on the track, "S— happens in life, but what happens is what happens."  

Overall, Indigo shows off RM's versatility in a much more impactful way than his previous mixtapes. This album is about the art of music, not breaking records or following trends. It feels like an exploratory culmination of various emotions, moods, and experiences, which helps each track feel relatable in a different way. 

There's A Lot To Look Forward To

RM displayed an immense maturity in his artistic expression through Indigo. He explores emotions both good and bad, but what remains throughout the entire project is a lingering feeling of hope for a better future. 

RM has always been a symbol of hope and grace as he has served as the spokesperson for his fellow members, both musically and in the public eye. But now, RM is getting to express himself for himself — and if Indigo is any indication, this is just the beginning of his journey inspiring the masses as a soloist.

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Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Juls' Must-Have Tour Item Is An African Instrument That Doubles As A Stress Reliever
Juls

Photo: Mahaneela Choudhury-Reid

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Herbal Tea & White Sofas: Juls' Must-Have Tour Item Is An African Instrument That Doubles As A Stress Reliever

The producer and DJ introduces fans to his kosh kash — a pocket-sized, egg-shaped instrument that is so versatile, he carries it with him everywhere when he's on the road.

GRAMMYs/Dec 5, 2022 - 06:59 pm

Juls — also known as Juls Baby, and born Julian Nicco-Annan — is perhaps known best for his work as a producer, helping create hits for acts like Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi and GoldLink. But the Ghanian-British producer and DJ is also a touring act who plays sets around the world — and he makes sure he has his trusty kosh kash with him.

In this episode of Herbal Tea & White Sofas, Juls introduces viewers to the egg-shaped African percussion instrument, which is also known as a Kashaka. The pocket-sized instrument is made up of two small gourds bound together by a string, and makes a rhythmic, rattling noise when shaken. It serves a lot of purposes, Juls explains.

"It's kind of like a shaker. It's kind of like a stress reliever when I'm preparing tours. It also helps me to make music," he says. "So any time I have an idea, I just record it on my phone in Voice Memos. I carry this everywhere I go when I travel."

Another mainstay of Juls' tour rider is "one of the best drinks in the world: Supermalt," the artist continues. "It's like a malt drink, made of wheat, with other things like added sugar and starch."

The non-alcoholic and caffeine-free malt beverage first originated in the early 1970s and served as a cheap energy source for the Nigerian Army. To this day, it's still an Afro-Caribbean staple — and now, a road necessity for Juls. "Definitely need to have that on the rider," he adds.

Press play on the video above to learn more about Juls' road essentials — plus how he prepares for his shows every night — and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Herbal Tea & White Sofas. 

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Positive Vibes Only: NewSpring Worship Share A Sweeping Message Of Faith With "Desde El Principio"
Charlee Buitrago of NewSpring Worship

Photo: Josh Chapmon

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Positive Vibes Only: NewSpring Worship Share A Sweeping Message Of Faith With "Desde El Principio"

Led by Venezuela-born vocalist Charlee Buitrago, NewSpring Worship shares their message of hope, faith and community in this sparkling live performance of "Desde El Principio."

GRAMMYs/Dec 4, 2022 - 06:10 pm

Since its inception more than two decades ago, NewSpring Worship has grown into a multicultural, multigenerational, musical expression of faith. Their name is a tribute to their beloved home base, the NewSpring Church, which has 14 different locations across South Carolina.

In this episode of Positive Vibes Only, NewSpring Worship deliver a soaring performance of their song, "Desde El Principio." Helmed by vocalist Charlee Buitrago — who also co-wrote the track — the bandmates take viewers through a simple, but powerful, rendition of the song. 

The clip begins with Buitrago singing in front of a simple white backdrop, and as the first verse progresses, the camera pans back to reveal two more musicians — one strumming an acoustic guitar, the other on the bench of a Rhodes electric piano.

With just those three artists in the frame, NewSpring Worship deliver a moving rendition of their song, which represents the faith collective's passion for putting out worship music that represents their own cultural diversity.

According to his website, Buitrago originally hails from Venezuela, but emigrated to the U.S. at age 17 after meeting an American missionary who helped him find his faith. Since then, Buitrago has continued to pursue both music and worship, with both himself and his native Spanish language becoming mainstays in the NewSpring Worship collective. 

Press play on the video above to watch this performance of "Desde El Principio," and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Positive Vibes Only.

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Remembering Christine McVie Of Fleetwood Mac Through Her GRAMMY Triumphs, From 'Rumours' Onward
Christine McVie in 1969

Photo: Evening Standard / Stringer via Getty Images

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Remembering Christine McVie Of Fleetwood Mac Through Her GRAMMY Triumphs, From 'Rumours' Onward

Unflashy and undramatic, McVie's contributions to Fleetwood Mac led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song — with two GRAMMY wins to boot.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 08:32 pm

In an acclaimed career that spanned more than half a century, Christine McVie staked her claim as one of the most potent singer-songwriters of her generation. A beloved original member of the seminal rock group Fleetwood Mac, with whom she sang, wrote and played keyboard, she and her bandmates catapulted to fame in the early '70s, scoring GRAMMY gold and influencing generations of musicians.

"As a GRAMMY Award winner and 2018 Person of the Year honoree, the Recording Academy has been honored to celebrate Christine McVie and her work with Fleetwood Mac throughout her legendary career," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. stated. In an announcement of her death, the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac mourned her passing by saying "She was truly one-of-a-kind, special, and talented beyond measure."

McVie, who passed away Nov. 30 at 79 after a brief illness, may have not been as flashy, or as dramatic, as fellow Fleetwood Mac members Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. But McVie's contributions to the band led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song, with two GRAMMY wins among seven nominations.

The tour de force that is Rumours is one of the most acclaimed and best-selling albums of all time and an inductee into GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. The masterpiece earned McVie her first GRAMMY (for Album of the Year no less) at the 20th Annual Ceremony in 1978, also earning a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Group.

Fleetwood Mac's 11th studio album, Rumours was actually McVie's 7th album with the band after making her name in the English blues scene, rising through the ranks as part of the band Chicken Shack, and even releasing a solo album.

In 1971, McVie joined Fleetwood Mac alongside her then-husband John McVie. The potent combination of the McVies, along with Mick Fleetwood, Buckingham and Nicks, catalyzed and detonated into the stratospheric Rumours.

"It's hard to say (what it was like) because we were looking at it from the inside," McVie said about the iconic album earlier this year.  "We were having a blast and it felt incredible to us that we were writing those songs. That's all I can say about it, really."

McVie's coyness may stem from the fact that prior to its production, Christine and John divorced after eight years of marriage. Meanwhile, Buckingham and Nicks were having a tumultuous relationship themselves. 

McVie is credited as sole songwriter on a handful of instant-classic Rumours tracks, all written during a perilous moment. "I thought I was drying up," explained McVie. "I was practically panicking because every time I sat down at a piano, nothing came out. Then, one day,  I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four-and-a-half songs of mine on the album are a result of that."

That includes "Don't Stop," an ironically peppy ode considering the turmoil McVie and her bandmates were grappling with at the time. With lyrics that staunchly proclaim "Yesterday's gone!," the song was reportedly written as a plea from Christine to John to move on from their relationship.

"I dare say, if I hadn't joined Fleetwood Mac, we might still be together. I just think it's impossible to work in the band with your spouse," McVie later said. John, meanwhile, was oblivious to the song's message during its production and early acclaim. He revealed in 2015: "I've been playing it for years and it wasn't until somebody told me, 'Chris wrote that about you.' Oh really?"

John was also equally ignorant to the source inspiration of "You Make Loving Fun"; McVie told him the joyful song ("Sweet wonderful you/ You make me happy with the things you do") was about her dog. In reality, it was about an affair with the band's lighting designer.

"It was a therapeutic move," McVie later mused of her lyrical penchant for hiding brutal honesty in plain sight. "The only way we could get this stuff out was to say it, and it came out in a way that was difficult. Imagine trying to sing those songs onstage with the people you're singing them about."

When McVie was asked earlier this year what song she written she was most proud of, it was an easy answer: the Rumours track "Songbird."

"For some peculiar reason, I wrote "Songbird" in half an hour; I've never been able to figure out how I did that," she told People. "I woke up in the middle of the night and the song was there in my brain, chords, lyrics, melody, everything. I played it in my bedroom and didn't have anything to tape it on. So I had to stay awake all night so I wouldn't forget it and I came in the next morning to the studio and had (producer) Ken Callait put it on a 2-track. That was how the song ended up being. I don't know where that came from."

McVie's most recent GRAMMY nominations were for her contributions to The Dance, Fleetwood Mac's 1997 live album that featured her stand-outs from Rumours along with the McVie penned-tracks "Say You Love Me" and "Everywhere."

The album earned McVie and the band GRAMMY nominations for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for the Lindsay Buckingham-written "The Chain") and  Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for "Silver Springs," penned by Stevie Nicks). It also landed a nomination for Best Pop Album. It was her final album with the band before a 15-year self-imposed retirement.

In her final years, McVie was a vital member of Fleetwood Mac, including in 2018 when they became the first band honored as MusicCare's Person of the Year.

Speaking to the Recording Academy before the ceremony, Nicks expressed that her initial goal upon joining the group was a humble one: "Christine and I made a pact. We said we will never, ever be treated as a second-class citizen amongst our peers."

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