Last summer admist the Black Lives Matter Movement and protests in support of George Floyd, YouTube announced the launch of a multi-year $100 million fund dedicated to amplifying and developing the voices of Black creators and artists and their stories. More specifically, the fund has supported programs such as 2 Chainz’ “Money Maker Fund” series highlighting HBCU entrepreneurs and Masego’s “Studying Abroad” livestreamed concert series.
Today, the platform is using capital for that effort to create a global grant program for Black creators.
“The painful events of this year have reminded us of the importance of human connection and the need to continue to strengthen human rights around the world. In the midst of uncertainty, creators continue to share stories that might not otherwise be heard while also building online communities,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote in a blog post detailing the decision and reflecting on 2020.
The #YouTubeBlack Voices Class of 2021
Per Billboard, the program is kicking off with an inaugural class of 132 individuals spanning musicians and lifestyle vloggers including Kelly Stamps and Jabril Ashe, also known as Jabrils, who share educational videos centered around the emerging gaming, technology, and AI spaces.
The musicians named to the group include Brent Faiyaz, BRS Kash, Fireboy DML, Jean Dawson, Jensen McRae, Jerome Farah, Joy Oladokun, KennyHoopla, Mariah the Scientist, MC Carol, Miiesha, Myke Towers, Péricles, Rael, Rexx Life Raj, Sauti Sol, serpentwithfeet, Sho Madjozi, Tkay Maidza, Urias and Yung Baby Tate.
Each grant recipient will be provided an undisclosed funding amount to be used in support of their channels, and can encompass needs such as editing, lighting or other equipment to amplify and enhance the quality of their content. YouTube will also offer additional resources such as workshops, training and networking opportunities to boost skills and fuel meaning collaborations. “We are not only supporting them in the moment, but this is seed funding that will help them to thrive on the platform long-term,” he added.
Hailing from across the United States, Kenya, Brazil, Australia, South Africa and Nigeria, the cohort was selected in part based on their past participation in #YouTubeBlack, a campaign and event series promoting Black creators launched in 2016.
Paving a future for change
“These creators and artists have been doing this work already and are known by their communities, but we’re really excited to invest in them, and we believe that they can and will become household names with this support, shared Malik Ducard, YouTube Vice President of Partners on the #YouTubeBlack community.
In today’s landscape, influencers are themselves a media channel. The budgets put against them shouldn’t just be production-driven but rather emphasize a broader commitment to diverse and authentic stories driven by co-communication and co-creation. For YouTube, this effort is not only beneficial in ensuring these creators have their voices heard, but in allowing the platform to stay true to its goals and values and its commitment to its community.
“This is not a flash-in-the pan Instagram moment. This is about keeping the drum beat of change alive, and in the DNA of our organization,” added Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music, reiterating the confidence in the ability of this group to lead and find long-term success through raw passion, creativity, and an entrepreneurial spirit. “Our expectation is that these artists are going to be significant and important voices and make music even more enjoyable.”
The future of brand-artist collaborations
For brands partnering with music artists – the takeaway here is that social listening requires responsiveness, flexibility, and mindfulness when it comes to integrating culture. People want to be heard, not sold to, and efforts should extend offline. This is only achieved through a full understanding of a new age of partnerships – one where brands have a bigger role to play in artist’s lives and artists are crossing the threshold to become true digital marketers monetizing the whole self.
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