On the Music Industry: Interview with Mia Van Allen, Founder of Color of Music Collective

Featured Illustration: Abbie Winters

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Color of community, Color of pride, Color of diversity, Color of empowerment. Color of Music Collective. Tell your story. 

George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are more than ghosts and remnants of a social media trend and have proven to be an important catalyst in the Black Lives Matter Movement. This has led to a watershed change in the nature of the discourse we have about race. It is important to consider some of the key issues at stake: the systemic and institutionalized dimensions of racism and anti-Blackness, especially when it comes to the media and pop culture we consume. 

Last week, I was able to connect with Mia Van Allen, one of the founders of Color of Music Collective over a Google Meet call. From her first music festival at Austin City Limits and growing up in Chicago, to her first job at a recording studio, Mia delved deep into stories from her childhood as well as fears, personal struggles, and inspirations.

Mia is a young woman who recently graduated from American University and is trying to make it in the hustle and bustle of the fast-paced music industry. She is one of the boldest and dynamic individuals I have ever interviewed, with a love and passion for music which defines her and tells a beautiful and unique story. Over the course of our 45-minute call, we discussed nearly everything from imposter syndrome, growing up in a city, the complex world of the music industry, to the BLM protests and the true meaning of diversity.

“There is no way to define diversity. Every few months, I always learn something new about gender, identity, and sexuality. It is hard to keep up with diversity and most importantly, inclusion.” And this is the governing philosophy of Color of Music Collective and the organization’s commitment to inclusion and empowerment, as well as the solidarity which comes with making the music industry a better place. 

In light of the frenzy of #BlackOutTuesday and the momentum of the discussions regarding what is happening in the music industry at the moment, Color of Music Collective is putting thought into action by aiming to create an inclusive environment or a “safe space”, as Mia so rightly put it, to help amplify POC and LGBTQ+ voices. Their goal is to help change the lack of representation of these groups in the industry by uniting them as a community by diversifying and expanding the ongoing public discussions at the moment. 

From having 80 followers in the first week of June, the Color of Music Collective community only seems to be growing. Color of Music Collective has been able to flourish into a team of diverse writers, creators, filmmakers, PR, social media, and marketing volunteers. They host free, 45-minute virtual sessions featuring 4 guests on an important topic of discussion concerning the music industry. Topics visited in the past include digital marketing, being LGBTQ+ in the music industry, running a label during a pandemic, and the rise and culture of Latin music, among others. The organization also hosts showcases, networking panels, and even live-stream concerts. Mia is also hoping to expand some of these conversations in the future and hopes to involve other organizations and even educational institutions and bring them to the fold. 

“Our platform is advocacy-based. We are using our platform to talk about conversations that are uncomfortable for most people. We are not a political organization, but a safe space for people who have never felt safe having these conversations,” said Mia, elaborating on the need for a ‘safe space’. 

Mia is determined to keep up the momentum of post-Blackout Tuesday. Now is the time to build and galvanize an effective allyship base when these discussions have become so rife in the music industry as well as social media discourse. Mia referenced a Rolling Stone article and spoke at length about the music industry that was overrun with funds, specially dedicated to diversity and inclusion teams. “More should have been done. We need more change and money is not enough. People were overrun and did not put in the thought. Fortunately, we now have smaller indie labels with people leaving big and larger labels.” Yet, there were no resources allocated toward targeting the systemic nature of these issues. 

Before finishing up our interview, I asked Mia what she would like to convey to young people aspiring to make it in the music industry, as she is going through the process herself. It is all about finding one person and making that relationship. Build up contacts with people, especially people of color.”

Color of Music Collective teaches us that the power of solidarity and community is paramount to striving for further change. Deeply rooted issues like race go far beyond the scope of our everyday conversations and performative and selective displays of allyship and activism. A black square certainly does not solve these entrenched and systemic issues. Do not leave the conversation and discussion hanging by a thread.

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If you would like to check out and engage with Color of Music Collective, you can visit their website here or follow their Instagram page! Tune in and watch some of their panels and discussions.