YouTube Music serves as a music service that supplies tunes, but more importantly, sheds light on the artists and their stories. In 2021, Director of Black Music & Culture Tuma Basa professed to AfroTech that the platform’s mission is to continue connecting the dots and being a sort of institutional memory for the culture.
In an influential team effort, Artist Partnerships Lead Brittany Lewis and Global Music Strategist Lead Mahlet Seyoum are heavily involved in supporting artists.
Getting Into The Music Business
Before they each ventured into becoming execs, their passion for music itself began during their upbringing. While Lewis was fully immersed into it in her household, Seyoum became a theater kid at a young age. The two leads have both respectively had their hand in the business in their own right. Lewis is a product of putting her pen down from covering artists during her time at the Global Grind to then giving them hands-on support in her role at YouTube Music.
“I actually really got a chance to build really deep and immersive relationships with artists and their teams very early on,” Lewis told AfroTech. “Just especially in the era that we were in during that time, which was the peak blog era where artists were really reliant on favorable coverage. Whether it’s their album releases or their music videos, it was really important to the artist’s ecosystem to be featured and covered on those blogs. So, I’ve kind of just kept up with those relationships regardless of what company I’m working for or what job I’m doing. Just making sure that I’m always like checking in and keeping up with folks.”
Seyoum shares Lewis’ sentiment being that a huge part of her role is learning what artists need and helping them find innovative ways to connect with their fans. Through her time of working to be a part of the evolution of the industry, the teamwork at YouTube Music has played a significant role in her contributions to the space.
“I get to work with some of the smartest people who have a lot of experience, aren’t afraid to try things, and are kind,” Seyoum said. “I’ve learned a ton in this role. I’ve gotten to learn from OGs, who are coming into the space from 20 to 30 years in the game. People in my generation and Gen Z. The younger folks who are now coming in and putting us up on so much game, teaching us so much about the changing landscape and how people are now interacting with music and social media. Every single day feels like a crash course in music business because it’s changing every single day.”
Being On The Frontline For Artists
A core value at YouTube Music is showing up and showing out for musicians and it’s shown throughout its initiatives such as #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund — which Lewis co-leads. In a music cohort of artists, songwriters, and producers around the world, the class is provided access to partner support, seed funding to help develop their channels, bespoke training, workshops and networking programs. It’s a part of the streaming service’s commitment to amplifying Black voices.
Whether it’s a program like #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund or something more behind the scenes, Lewis is dedicated to championing artists whether they’re present or not.
“I never really thought of myself as an advocate,” Lewis shared when asked about being named a “true artist advocate” by The Revels Group. “But, I feel like the work that I do every day — whether it’s for a cause or a policy — I’m always thinking about the artists and their teams first. And always thinking about, ‘How does this program or policy help this artist? Or how does this hurt them?’ Just always speaking from their perspective or point of view and getting feedback from artists and their teams. Just making sure that at YouTube we’re making informed decisions that have artist input.”
YouTube's Plans For Black Music Month
With it currently being Black Music Month, it’s only right that YouTube is coming out swinging with how it’s celebrating and highlighting the fact that “YouTube wouldn’t be YouTube without Black music!” The lineup features YouTube Music programmed playlists, the #YouTubeBlack Music Future Insiders Scholarship, and more.
“We’re rolling out a new initiative, YouTube Avenues, that I’m really excited about and I’m a part of,” Seyoum announced. “That’s really going to help bridge the gap and maybe the knowledge gap with regard to YouTube and YouTube Music and how artists, underserved communities and Black artists specifically can use YouTube for their monetization and to reach new fans. Sometimes that knowledge gap makes it insurmountable and so that’s what we’re really trying to work on. That’s just one of many, but I think that there’s a good group of us who are always gonna be driving that forward.”
To learn more about YouTube Music’s lineup for Black Music Month, click here.