2022 Grants Challenge

All Access: Inspiring Careers in Music

Music Forward Career Development programs build sound futures by inspiring young people to turn their passion for music into professions. Youth explore music and live entertainment career pathways, meet industry mentors who help them understand the experiences and education necessary to land their dream job, and master competitive performance, business, and management skills that would be attractive to employers in any industry.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by Snap Foundation)

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Through our work in the traditional arts education space for 20+ years, Music Forward encountered youth across the country with no clear path to channel their creative passion for music into professions. Educators often don’t have the resources to effectively discuss the breadth of creative careers and support career-focused skills-building. And the industry is not easy to navigate for new voices and perspectives; there is just 1 female producer for every 37 male producers, and only 10% of music executives listed on Billboard’s Top 100 are people of color (USC Annenberg Inclusion Report). Music Forward redefined its mission in 2014 to help bridge the gap between arts education and access to employment opportunities. Our focus is on supporting marginalized youth, including Chason of Los Angeles, who, as a youth of color, felt potential music industry employers were not taking him seriously. After working with Music Forward and our partners, Chason landed a coveted internship with BMG.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

Music Forward’s year-round career exploration programs bring high school and college-age students into music venues, offices, studios, and school campuses to build skills, network with professionals, and discover careers in one of the most dynamic global creative industries. Programs support personal skills/characteristics ID, career mapping, career readiness skills, and resume-building that leads directly to workforce opportunities in the music industry. Youth explore a broad range of 50+ careers including production, ticketing, merchandising, marketing, and talent management. Programs include All Access Workshops (single to 10-part career exploration workshops in partnership with CTE programs); Office Hours (regular career readiness workshops); Mentorships (20 youth/professional pairings annually); Internships (paid work placements/job shadows); and All Access Fest (music industry career fair with panels, hands-on learning stations, career resources, and onsite interviews with major entertainment companies, music industry employers, and reps from colleges and universities). Music Forward addresses barriers to entry by offering programs for free, by actively recruiting young women, students of color, and those from low socioeconomic status households through our network of partners, schools, and community-based organizations, and by continuously educating music industry leaders on the challenges faced by youth today.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Workforce development opportunities are essential for California’s creative economy and vital for today’s youth in Los Angeles County. 9.2% of Los Angeles youth 16-24 years old are disconnected, meaning they are not enrolled in school or working, and that disconnection is even greater for youth of color (Measure of America: Youth Disconnection 2021 Update). Our vision is for Music Forward’s career pathway programs to improve the education and music industry ecosystem resulting in: - Reduced disengagement and more diverse youth from LMI communities pursuing careers in music and live entertainment. - Partnerships that provide educators with more resources and help fulfill Arts, Media & Entertainment requirements/standards. - A better, more prepared workforce entering creative careers. - A more inclusive, accessible music industry that understands the support youth need and the values gained by being part of DEI initiatives.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Music Forward measures success by the # of youth impacted; level of improvement in career skills, connection, personal enrichment, and professional development; # of internship/mentorship placements; % of alum enrolled in college and/or working; and positive industry impact. These are documented through surveys and interviews with youth participants and industry mentors. According to our most recent youth assessment, 93% feel more confident about connecting with industry professionals for career advice, 93% increased competencies in program content/music industry skill sets, 90% increased their confidence in their abilities, and 95% increased their sense of connection to peers and industry professionals. Music Forward actively engages our alumni long after graduation from our programs, frequently connecting them to paid gigs and other self-actualizing opportunities that broaden their long-term horizons. 98% of our alumni are successfully engaged in high school or college or a career.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 1,500

Indirect Impact: 3,000