In honor of Black History Month, we sat down with our Chief Social Initiative Officer, Kacy Swain, and Visual Content Manager, D’andrée Galipeau, to talk about their experience as black women working in the music industry.
Can you explain your role at Blue Élan:
Kacy Swain (KS) - I am the Chief Social Initiative Officer for the label. I take the lead in overseeing and implementing campaigns that support the views of the company. In addition, I also project manage various artists on our roster, guiding their album release and roll out strategies.
D’andrée Galipeau (DG) - My title is Visual Content Manager. In short, I create the marketing assets needed to support our artists releases. More specifically, I create, design, produce, and edit any visuals Blue Élan doesn’t outsource – from album trailers, cover art, posters, and more.
KS, how have you navigated the last two years, one of them in this role? If you had to bring awareness to something specific you’ve learned while developing this role, what would it be?
KS - I’ve navigated the last two years by taking the time to have important conversations with the people around me. Stepping into the role as Chief Social Initiative Officer at a time where a lot of people are now beginning to understand various social issues for the first time is a demanding task, especially at 26. But being supported by a team that takes these issues as seriously as I do has made the transition not only smoother, but effective and rewarding.
If there was one thing I learned while stepping into this role is that there is an outrageously low amount of black female executives working in the music industry. Did you know that among the 4,060 executives across 119 companies and six categories – music groups, labels, publishers, radio, streaming and live music promotion – white male executives outnumbered black women by 17.7 to one? That’s a huge gap that needs to be recognized and changed.
Being included in the small percentage of black female executives in the music industry gives me the drive to continue to open doors for more black women to break through barriers and excel in their careers.
DG, how does your experience as a tri-racial, queer, black woman shape your experience working in the music industry? Especially as a creative, not typically seen in those spaces?
DG: I’m deeply focused on the conversation surrounding erasure of black and queer artist’s work. Everything I do and make must honor the integrity of our label’s artists and be up-to-date with current visual aesthetics and trends, which stem often from BIPOC and LGBTQIA communities. I am a tri-racial queer woman, and am a part of those communities. So much of the conversation in the past couple years dissected the truth of the lack of inclusivity in the music industry and the appropriation of queer and black ideas and styles; it has been an interesting thought to navigate being that, and doing that at a label that has predominantly white/cis artists.
Who are a few of your favorite black artists that inspire what you do?
DG: I’m a fan of artists that need to express themselves in a creative medium to better understand themselves and how to better exist in this world – even more so when the artists are multifaceted. Some of the artists I’ve always turned to for inspiration are Chaka Kahn Cree Summer, Raphael Saadiq, Amanda Seales, any Black DJ and/or producer, and all of my friends and community members even trying to live a creative life. Some of my favorite contemporary musical artists are Bambii, Sault, FKA Twigs and Kelsey Lu.
KS: I am a huge fan of anyone who doesn’t diminish themselves to stay in an industry that historically does not cater to the cultural authenticity of blackness. Some of my favorite artists right now are – VanJess, Tierra Whack, Tems, Victoria Monêt, and Solange. A few of my favorite musical trailblazers are – Eartha Kitt, Sade, Tracy Chapman, and Lauryn Hill.
To continue celebrating Black History Month, check out our resource guide below:
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Mildred D. Taylor)
- Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family's struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice.
- The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)
- The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status – denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.
- The Vanishing Half (Britt Bennet)
- Enthralling and brilliantly moving, The Vanishing Half is one of the most famous African American books. Absolutely a page turner, it explores deeper themes of race, gender and class.
- Black Bottom Saints (Alice Randall)
- Based on recently declassified files, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Pollard explores the US government's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
- A chronicle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965.
- In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S.
- Hidden Figures
- NPR – Real Black History
- NPR – Code Switch
- Hosted by journalists of color, Code Switch tackles the subject of race with empathy and humor. This podcast explore how race affects every part of society – from politics and pop culture to history, food and everything in between.
- The Stoop
- School Colors