Sharde’ Simpson and Ciara Reed are two prominent figures in music. The two have have made a name for themselves by being advocates for diversity in music law. Reed is an Entertainment Attorney who’s worked with Kanye, The Migos, and Quality Control—to name a few. Her business co-founder Simpson is the VP of Operations at DreamChaser. Together, the women have created an innovative referral-based entertainment law firm, Simpson and Reed. The core mission of the firm is to empower women in the music industry. They also aim to provide women with the legal support they need to succeed.
21Ninety caught up with the duo to discuss their career trajectory, nuances in the music industry, and everything in between.
How it all started
21Ninety: What is your story? How did you get interested in music law?
Sharde’ Simpson: We became interested in music law through a combination of passion for music and interest in the legal system. As individuals fascinated by the creative process of making music, we were drawn to the idea of helping musicians and other industry professionals navigate the complex legal issues that arise in the music industry. Through our experiences working in the music industry, we became aware of the many legal challenges musicians and other industry professionals face. From negotiating contracts and licensing agreements to protecting intellectual property rights and resolving disputes, music law touches on a wide range of issues critical to anyone working in the music industry.
21N: What are some common legal issues that arise in the music industry?
Ciara Reed: The music industry is complex and multifaceted, and several common legal issues arise in the industry, copyright infringement contract disputes, trademark disputes, licensing and distribution, and performance rights, to name a few. Overall, the music industry is a complex and highly regulated industry, and artists, labels, and other industry players may encounter a wide range of legal issues. Understanding these issues and working with experienced legal counsel can be critical for navigating the complex landscape of the music industry.
The Rise of Digital Media
21N: How has the rise of digital music streaming services impacted the music industry?
SS: The rise of digital music streaming services has had a significant impact on the music industry, both positive and negative. Digital music streaming services have disrupted traditional revenue models in the music industry. Rather than relying on album sales or downloads, artists now generate revenue through streams, which are typically paid out at a lower rate than traditional album sales. This has forced artists and labels to adapt to new revenue models and explore alternative income streams. With streaming services controlling access to music and data, artists and labels have less control over their distribution and marketing strategies. This has led to new debates around fair compensation and the role of streaming services in the music industry.
CR: The rise of digital music streaming services has also led to a fragmentation of the industry, with new platforms and services emerging on a regular basis. This has created a more competitive landscape and led to new challenges for artists and labels in marketing and distribution. Overall, the rise of digital music streaming services has profoundly impacted the music industry, from changing revenue models to shifting power dynamics. While the impact of streaming services has been largely positive in terms of increased accessibility and data, it has also created new challenges for artists and labels regarding revenue and control over their music.
The Role of Music Law
21N: What role does music law have in promoting diversity and representation in the music industry?
SS: Music law can significantly promote diversity and representation in the music industry by providing a legal framework to address issues related to discrimination and bias. There are several ways that music law can help to promote diversity and representation in the industry: Anti-discrimination laws, Copyright law, Music licensing, and Contract law.
Music law can promote diversity and representation in the music industry by providing legal protections against discrimination, promoting diverse musical expressions, ensuring fair compensation for artists, and governing relationships between artists and industry players. By creating a more inclusive and equitable environment for all artists, music law can help to promote a diverse and vibrant music industry.
Colorism in Music
21N: People talk of colorism in the music industry. Why do you think the rules are different for Black male artists compared to Black female artists?
CR: Societal norms and beauty standards have historically been imposed on Black women. In many societies, there is a preference for lighter skin, which can lead to discrimination against those with darker skin tones. This has led to a situation where Black women with lighter skin tones are often considered more attractive and marketable than those with darker skin tones. As a result, Black female artists with lighter skin tones may be given more opportunities, promotion, and media coverage than those with darker skin tones, leading to an uneven playing field in the industry.
Black male artists are often marketed as hyper-masculine, tough, and rebellious, which can help to create an aura of authenticity and credibility around their work. On the other hand, Black female artists are often marketed as sexually attractive and desirable, which can lead to them being objectified and stereotyped in ways that can harm their careers. Furthermore, the music industry has historically been male-dominated, creating an environment where women, including Black female artists, are often subject to sexual harassment, objectification, and discrimination. This can lead to a situation where Black female artists may be required to meet certain physical standards, including skin tone, in order to be considered for opportunities in the industry.
Addressing colorism in the music industry will require a concerted effort to recognize and challenge these factors and to create a more equitable and inclusive environment for all artists.
The Rise of AI
21N: With the rise of AI, how do you think Black female artists will be directly impacted?
SS: The rise of AI is likely to impact Black female artists in both positive and negative ways. On the positive side, AI could potentially offer new opportunities for Black female artists to showcase their work and reach wider audiences. For example, AI-powered platforms like virtual reality and augmented reality could create new spaces for Black female artists to exhibit their work and connect with fans worldwide. AI could also help to remove some of the barriers that Black female artists have traditionally faced in the art world, such as bias and discrimination. AI-powered algorithms could be used to help curate exhibitions and select artists for shows based purely on the quality of their work rather than their race or gender.
However, there is a risk that AI could be used to create art that imitates the work of Black female artists without properly crediting or compensating them. This could lead to erasing Black female artists’ contributions to the art world and limit their opportunities for recognition and financial gain. Also, if AI is trained on datasets that are biased against Black women or other marginalized groups, it could perpetuate these biases in the art world.