CO-CREATING BLACK FUTURES

Spotify Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging Travis Robinson Introduces New Scholarship Programs With 4A’s Foundation and UNCF

In spring 2021, when Spotify reaffirmed our commitment to combating racial inequity, we did so with the future in mind. We knew we had to work intentionally and holistically to make a true impact in the ongoing fight against racism and injustice. So when we announced we’d be contributing $10M to support legislation and fund global organizations that are making a difference in the search for racial equity, we aimed to find partners that would enable our impact to be long-lasting. 

In the U.S., two of these partners are the 4A’s Foundation and UNCF (United Negro College Fund), which focus on scholarships and career opportunities for young Black creatives at various stages in their artistic journeys. Spotify has been partnering with the 4A’s Foundation in various ways for a few years now, notably through its MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Internship Program) initiative, which creates opportunities for individuals in underrepresented communities to gain access to careers at top companies. (There are MAIP alumni working at Spotify in a variety of roles). 

“With many of our partners, we are invested in a joint future together,” Travis Robinson, Global Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Spotify, explained to For the Record. “This is where we see true, meaningful change as we walk side by side with an organization; where we find good synergies as we co-create something new to support young Black creators. For the 4A’s Foundations and UNCF, this was the path forward for us.”

And now, our new, co-created programs with 4A’s Foundation and UNCF—The Spotify-UNCF Scholars Program, The Spotify Frequency Scholarship Program, and the Spotify Pulse Fellowship—allow us to ensure that the opportunities and offerings we’re enabling are even more intentional, impactful, and meaningful. 

We asked Travis to explain the new programs, as well as Spotify’s larger work and role in advancing equity and access for Black creatives.

Why is it important for Spotify to play a role in advancing equity and access for Black creatives and musicians? How do these programs fit into those goals?

It all boils down to how we show up as a brand for our employees, for the communities we serve, and the creators we have an opportunity to work alongside. I believe we have a responsibility, but also an opportunity, with advancing racial equity and access. I believe in how Spotify’s brand can show up in the world in a meaningful way. We’re working to execute on the plan of action we laid out in our 5-Star BLK Strategy, which focuses on People, Culture, Content, Donations & Giving, and Public Policy Advocacy. 

We know the Black community continues to shape culture. For us to stay at the pulse of culture and continue to be a platform where creators can connect with their fans, we must be on the journey of advancing racial equity through access and representation. So we’re doing that in part through our Frequency initiative, which celebrates Black Culture, Creativity, and Community on platform. And then one component within our Donations & Giving initiative was related to partnering with organizations that were aligned with our efforts as a Racial Equity Coalition. That’s where these partnerships and programs come in. 

Can you tell us a little bit about each of the programs being announced? 

The Spotify-UNCF Scholars Program (one of two Spotify x PLUS1 for Black Creatives) will provide renewable three-year need-based scholarships and leadership development components to Black students attending HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) interested in pursuing a career in music and media. The program will support two cohorts of 20 students per year during each of the next two academic years, giving each of them aid for their sophomore through senior years.

The Spotify Frequency Scholarship Program (the second of two Spotify x PLUS1 for Black Creatives) will provide renewable two-year need-based scholarships to Black students attending any accredited college or university interested in pursuing a career in music. The program will support two cohorts of eight students per year for two years each (junior through senior year) during the next two academic years. The four scholarships will be awarded in honor of Frequency’s four ambassadors: Monique Blake, Archie Davis, Eve FairleyChickwe, and Tommy Brown. This is the first of its kind, and we believe this collaboration in the music industry is going to really make a difference in the lives of these students. I am excited to see what is to come with this program, and to see how things expand in the future.

The Spotify Pulse Fellowship Program is a year-long creative development program for Black professionals with one to three years of professional experience in the advertising industry. We are accepting alumni from 4A’s MAIP, the Marcus Graham Project, the One School, and/or D&AD (Design & Art Direction).

These opportunities are available to Black creators at different points in their music journeys. Can you speak to why these two points (college and post-college) are so pivotal? 

We are a team that wants to activate meaningful impact in an intentional way. We know for many in the Black community, there are many avenues into music, entertainment, and media. I want us to be intentional and relevant in our reach and how we provide access to opportunity. These programs are two of many ways we are investing in the community for those early in their career, just getting started and those who are seasoned—we are looking for and wanting to work alongside Black creators at all points.  

According to multiple research studies, we know that Black college graduates tend to be at a greater disadvantage as it relates to the wealth gap due to college debt. We also know that not all Black kids consider college as an avenue to growth and career development simply because of the economics of how to pay for an education. With UNCF, we are able to provide scholarships that will help with some of these financial impediments. 

We also are dedicated to investing in the selected Spotify Scholars’ personal and professional development to kick-start their career in media. That is why a program like the Spotify Pulse Fellowship is also important. This program provides direct access to the advertising business with a unique, curated experience.  

What’s next? Either for these programs or beyond them? 

The Black experience is global, and we see opportunities to improve racial equity not only in the U.S. We are eager to listen, learn, and understand the experiences in different markets where we can make a difference—in Europe, for instance. I am also excited about our recent announcement as a group of technology companies working together to take diversity, equity & inclusion in the industry to the next level. While we are excited about what’s on the horizon for new activations that we believe will be impactful internally and externally, I also want us to scale the initiatives & programs that have proven successful at Spotify. There’s plenty of work to do. 

Dive further into Black art, entertainment, creativity, culture, and community with Frequency.