Erick Long: The Academy of Country Music is Committed to Diversity

Posted by Monica Hoel
Erick Long says much about country music is “comfortable” – which is great, until you need to make some changes.

The Senior Vice President for Events at the Academy of Country Music (ACM) says that when we expect all country music to sound relatively the same it leaves out some great talent. “When the radio is on a country station, we pretty much know what we’re expecting to hear. And that ‘familiar’ sound doesn’t always make room for new artists.”

But that is changing.

Erick is currently chairing an ACM committee that is looking at how the industry of country music can make room for more people at the table and do more to promote the careers of artists who represent all manner of diversity. “Diversity means a lot of things – race, gender, sexuality, religion. Our fan base is diverse, and we want them to see people on stage who represent them.”

The committee is made up of more than just artists with good intentions: there are leaders in the recording industry, heads of major companies, and a lot of people who understand the opportunities of a more diversified array of singers and musicians. The 2020 ACM awards (postponed from April to September because of Covid-19) made history: it was the first time an African American woman had performed her own song at the awards ceremony. That artist, Mickey Guyton, isn’t really new to country music, but her work hasn’t always gotten the same level of promotion as the music that falls into that more “familiar” category – music that is predominantly male and predominantly white.

It is interesting to note that in 50 years, the ACM has only named 8 women Entertainer of the Year. The Country Music Association (CMA) has given that honor to 7 women.

Erick says his work encompasses a lot of great projects, but some work makes him particularly honored to be associated with the ACM and their charity ACM Lifting Lives. In 2020, the “ACM Lifting Lives Covid-19 Response Fund” was established and has provided more than $3.5 million dollars in direct relief money for the country music industry including band musicians, bus drivers, stylists, roadies, and more who organize and support what is typically a booming musical touring industry. During the pandemic, nearly 1 million of those professionals have been out of work. 

And now, he is leading the work aimed at shining a light on a more diverse array of artists. It’s a big request, but he says the challenge feels like some of the most important work he’s done to date, and he sounds excited about making that country stage big enough for even more talent. 

Erick sees a strong future ahead. “I’m excited about the future of the Academy of Country Music and our philanthropic efforts through ACM Lifting Lives while supporting diverse artists, fans and industry partners.”

You can here an interview with Erick at the WEHC archives of “The Duck Pond Wall.”

  • Erick Long,  Emory & Henry Class of 1991, Senior Vice President of Events for the Academy of Country Music.

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