Spotify: The Opening Act HBCU Conference

By Jaylin Paschal

Spotify, in an effort to increase diversity in the very (very) white world of tech and media, held a conference for a select group of HBCU students from across the country, The Opening Act HBCU Conference. Spotify placed a special emphasis on diversity and inclusion of minorities in these growing industries with this platform: Every great show has an opening act. You are that act. This conference is to bring together bright, creative students of color and challenge the notion of who deserves a seat at the table (word to Solange) in the tech world?

After over 1,000 students applied, only 80 were chosen to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect with influencers in the technology and media industry, at the $8 billion, groundbreaking company that is Spotify.

The keynotes included a lineup of Steve Pamon, the COO of Parkwood Entertainment (Yes, Beyonce's manager), a panel of influencers from JP Morgan, Facebook/Netflix, 2020 Shift, and 21st Century Fox, and Danielle Lee Global Head of Partner Solutions at Spotify.

I attended two special sessions at the conference: Anatomy of a Pitch: On Creative Entrepreneurship by Troy Carter of Spotify and the Atom Factory and Lens of Creators and Artists: Power of Content and Programming, a panel put together by Spotify's Xavier "X" Jernigan including himself and artists Fredara Mareva Hadley, Bayete Ross Smith, and Erika Lewis.

All of these game-changers and industry influencers shared gems with us. It's this information, inspiration, and influence--which took place on an intimate, personal level--that made the conference a truly life-changing event. I learned lessons I'll never forget, shared experiences I'll always cherish, and met brilliant, brilliant people I plan to always be connected with.

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