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Russell Simmons: "The Lack of Diversity is Costing Money"

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Music producer and entrepreneur, Russell Simmons visits LinkedIn Studios to talk with executive editor, Daniel Roth about the state of the music and entertainment industry, his businesses and RushCard's settlement.

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Some edited excerpts from the video:

Daniel Roth: You have been involved with the music industry for such a long time. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about things today?

Russell Simmons: [Performing artists] are making greater percentages. People are going to live events more and it's a big success story for everyone — except the music industry itself.

The artists are now big brands. The emotional attachment you get with a client or the music fan allows you access to do a lot of things. Most artists are making as much money now as they could have made … in the heyday of Def Jam [when the] Beastie Boys would sell 10 million records or DMX would sell 6 or 7 million records. Those records are one thing, but then all the other ways to exploit the emotional relationship between artist and community is so much greater that I would guess that they're making as much or more money than they could have ever made.

DR: Do you see the alternative media channels, the digital channels, as being something that could be as big as the traditional media?

RS: You call them alternative but let me say that movie stars walk the street with some of our digital stars, and people run up to the digital stars. The old world is quickly disappearing, and the new opportunities are opening up.

[All Def Digital] is the fastest growing YouTube channel, one of the fastest if not the fastest growing Facebook channel. We're building a real media company that comes from social media.

If we're talking about 150 million impressions a month, then we have to realize that that is the beginning of something way bigger than what the TV or cable networks are counting on. Imagine if you have a million views on a show and they say it's a hit on some cable networks. I could put out a piece of content that has 20 million views.

DR: Do you feel like advertisers and brands are fully recognizing it?

RS: They're just catching up. That's why we [built] ADHD, which is our ad agency, which targets a very difficult, under-served community — which is the best brand building community in the world.

I think Hollywood is incredibly segregated. I've never seen any place like it. [T]here's nobody Black in charge of anything in Hollywood.
Our stuff is integration. The lack of integration is part of the White space. I see the world this way: I think Hollywood is incredibly segregated. I've never seen any place like it. The gatekeepers who are the most progressive activists inspired to make the world better ... they're better people, right? They're segregated. It's self segregated in some cases,

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  • "You've got to do things that promote what's important. I don't miss a day of yoga. I don't miss my meditation. I don't miss the things that kind of move me towards the more present state of mind because they're more important that the other shit. They're way more important." Simmons, says it all.
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