HITS Daily Double


We asked Epic Chairman/CEO Sylvia Rhone—whose experience and perspective give her unique insight into the workings of the biz—to weigh in on the political and social crises that are roiling the country and the industry, and what opportunities exist for genuine, systemic change.

What’s your sense of the impact of this wave of protests on the country as a whole? Can this mobilization turn into substantive change?
We are at a very pivotal and impactful moment in history. There is a reckoning and a shift taking place in every aspect of American life. The racial disparities of COVID-19 and the undeniable protest movements around the globe are forcing a much-needed transformation. The worldwide convergence along racial, social, class and global lines has opened the door for difficult and long-overdue conversations. But conversations will not solve all our problems. It is a start.

There is a remarkable energy in the air, and we have the opportunity to harness it in a number of positive ways. Our emphasis will be multi-tiered and will focus on engaging with social-justice organizations, voter education and anti-suppression initiatives and organizations that will support sustainable action in our communities.

The beginning of change is at hand. We must all do our part.

To your mind, what are the most important steps to be taken by the industry to address our own systemic imbalances, inequality and lack of diversity? What do you consider the greatest obstacles and how to overcome them?
Our focus and strategy have always been to create a culture of inclusion, diversity and openness. The erasure and the pigeonholing of black executives has to stop. Some of the areas that have to be addressed include equal pay, diverse representation across corporate and senior leadership, executive training programs and full transparency regarding how these changes will be implemented.

We have made a commitment to engage and support organizations that are making change on the ground level with a particular focus around voter education and suppression, criminal justice reform, health care, education, and gender equality.

Top: Rhone with industry icon Clarence Avant, Dr. Loretta Ehrunmwunsee and Motown Prexy Ethiopia Habtemariam; with Dallas Austin, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Epic's Ezekiel Lewis and esteemed producer/exec Jermaine Dupri.

Bottom: with producer Swizz Beatz, Alicia Keys and Sara Bareilles at the City of Hope Spirit of Life gala honoring her; celebrating back in the day with Team Missy Elliott. Click images for a larger view.

What are you hearing from people at your company? What are you hearing from artists?
Artists are more ready than ever to use their platforms to amplify the voices of change. We all agree that company leadership must reflect America’s diverse cultural fabric and to that end Epic has established a Council Of Change consisting of employees at various levels of leadership who will affect and empower our decision making process.

It’s been 26 years since I was first appointed CEO of a major record company; decades later, I am STILL the only African-American female CEO in this industry. This is just a small indication of the major work ahead.

Time for action. No more excuses.