Written by Maria Arroyo
I was given a chance to conduct another incredible interview with the faces of the organization, The Cultural Reset. Initially created and founded by Nick Lee, and co-founded by Shannon (Shay) Ervin, they and a whole group of music industry livers have time together to make The Cultural Reset a reality.
First, I asked them to explain, in their own words, what The Cultural Reset is, and what it means to the industry. Just for some backstory, The Cultural Reset was launched back in October of 2020, so is still a relatively new organization, but has grown exponentially with their inclusive mission statement.
“The Cultural Reset is essentially an artist promotion and music journalism platform and our goal essentially is to uplift marginalized communities, specifically POC and LGBTQ+ creatives in the music industry,” creator and founder Nick Lee shares first.
“The reason why I wanted to create it was because the music industry is incredibly hard to get into and it’s really hard to succeed in it, especially when you are an artist of color or an artist that’s a part of the LGBTQ+ community, the problem lies with the industry and how the industry markets artists. Of course, the industry wants to make money, but there you find that the industry is confining artists into boxes that are considered ‘marketable’ when the truth is, no creativity is one thing, that’s just not how creatives function.
I want to help the industry learn to prove to audiences that creatives don’t have t
o be one thing to be successful, to be worthy of marketing, to be worthy of investment, and the one way we do that is through doing artist interviews. We allow artists to tell their stories, we allow them to talk about their experience in the music industry. What makes us different as a platform is that intimacy that gives artists a pace to talk freely, and be free. We also do album reviews as well, specifically a POC or LGBTQ+ album reviews.”
This interview was extra fun because I got to ask the same question, but from TWO different perspectives, so next up was Shay!
“Well, as Nick said, The Cultural Reset is all about the actual cultural reset that’s happening,” She shares. “We also want to showcase the behind the scenes because we have a team of about 40 volunteers from around the world, and we give a ton of volunteering opportunities to really expand their skills and take bits and pieces of whatever it is they’re looking for, whether it’s making connections or getting experience making graphics, or wanting to try their hand at being a creative writer, etc we kind of open that door, so if you want to work on multiple teams, we aren’t going to stop you.
One of the things that we really want to do is change the music industry completely, so we focus on POC and LGBT+ artists right now, but we do eventually want to extend our mission into advocating for the disabled community as well. There are tons of disabled creatives and disabled artists out there and they don’t really get much of a chance at all in the music industry. You don’t really see them promoted a lot and the ones that you do see promoted are really tokenized, so anything we can do to give them a voice in this sort of reset that we want to do with this, is what we are striving for.”
In recap, The Cultural Reset is about making a home for marginalized communities, like POC and the LGBT+ community, in order to give their voices and their stories a chance to be heard. Their team’s drive and dedication to helping those in the industry are beyond remarkable, and one of the biggest reasons I feel so blessed to have had these conversations with them.
“I feel like the most direct difference we make is with the artist that we do interviews with,” Shay shares. “We form a community with these artists because when we have these intimate conversations. It’s like friendships are, you know, and we continue to talk to these artists and we bring them back in to do follow-up interviews too. We want to be a support system, a place where artists can come and be like “I would like to collaborate with this artist because I feel like we will be a great team,” and have that collaboration.
Very often in the music industry, it’s a competition and we’re putting artists against each other to be like “who’s the best?” or “who’s going to rise to the top?” but for The Cultural Reset, it’s all about collaboration instead of competition.”
We then went on and talked about everything from unlearning toxic behaviors and creating an open community to be able to have those conversations with each other. They also talked about wanting to share the perspective of those in marginalized communities to the public as a way to get artists, both in and out of those communities, talking to each other and making these conversations part of our everyday language.
“One of the things we want to do is like to have this be a space where artists can connect with each other and talk to each other,” Shay tells me. “We want them to form relationships, so people can really understand where other people come from. There’s a lot of people that don’t really understand what it’s like to be like another marginalized community and so what we hope to do with this as well is to have these artists talk to each other and talk about those things in more disabled artists.
“I think we all know that like it’s one thing for somebody outside of those marginalized groups to say something but it’s even more so, so important for those people inside of those communities to feel the need to speak up and share it from their perspective,” I tell them. “That personal connection is the most important thing you can find. You can say all the words and you can give all the statistics and all that stuff as much as you want but like if you don’t have an advocate inside of that community, it’s not gonna it’s not getting any further than the person right in front of you.
With that being said, what was the tipping point in order to start The Cultural Reset?” I ask them.
“I think we all remember 2020,” Nick starts off. “We saw a lot of black death on television plastered across the screen, we saw a lot of outrage, everything about the coronavirus, and all this other stuff, and for me, I just need to find some way to make a difference, and the difference I wanted to make was in the music industry because it’s one that hasn’t seen any difference in a very, very long time. The problem with the music industry is that the industry just finds new ways of repeating itself, new ways of repeating the same discrimination, new ways of repeating the same exclusionary behavior and I wanted to make some sort of impact in terms of that mission specifically.”
Shay also shares her perspective as an activist and musician.
“I’ve participated and led protest mostly for environmental reasons, and I found myself protesting that summer for Black Lives Matter, and being in the middle of a pandemic I’m thinking to myself ‘okay, I really want to express myself and find a way to make a difference with my actions and combining my passion for music and activism.’ We want people to meet us halfway, and that goes beyond our platform, beyond the accessibility of festivals or concert venues, and music awards and labels, etc. We want to be able to set good examples, and I feel that in my bones with The Cultural Reset.”
“So for these marginalized communities, besides some of the well-known obstacles they face, what are some challenges that POC and the LGBT+ face that isn’t being spoken about?” I ask them.
“I think the mindset of assumptions needs to change,” Shay shares. “In my experience, being queer, it’s often that assumptions are made with my pronouns, or even assumptions in genres, like ‘oh, you’re a person of color, you’re gonna do R&B and hip-hop and rap’ and then we are automatically put into a box that matches our outer appearances instead of doing the work to learn and unlearn certain things. It’s just about making space that is diverse so the infrastructure isn’t already geared towards the white, wealthy community.”
“I think a big problem we have is projecting who we think people are into who they really are,” Nick shares. “There’s also the big topic surrounding mental health, and so many artists who have lost their lives near the suicide due to abuse of some sort of you know stimulant all because the music industry doesn’t have any resources to really treat artists, it just runs them down, and when an artist becomes more prominent and like more they have more of a following that leads to a lot of isolation, you know, because you don’t know who to trust you don’t know who to talk to, nobody really wants to see you and talk to you for you they just want to talk to you to get your autograph or talk to you because you know, they saw you on TV, you know, and that’s really isolating so the industry needs to have the infrastructure for that.”
With our progressive talk about everything from mental health to toxic behaviors, we moved on to some future projects this incredible team has going for them.
“We’re actually gonna be working on structuring our own award show for creatives,” Nick shares with me. “We’re working on finding a way to reset the way the awards are done.”
Nick goes on to explain the Sam Smith Music Awards controversy where they couldn’t be nominated for any awards, because the awards are specific to men or women only, not including non-binary or gender-fluid individuals.
“It’s all about inclusivity,” Nick preaches. “We really want to focus on a wider ray of artists that exist and have a more celebratory award show that’s not competitive, but collaborative, and because we’ve never done an award show before we’re looking at this whole thing through the lens of diversity and inclusion and making sure that it is, you know from beginning to end going to be an award show that is supposed to be helpful towards creatives and not destructive. It’s supposed to be an opportunity to bring people together versus pinning people against each other.
On top of this project, we are also talking about starting a Clubhouse where we can have open discussions on some of the things we’ve been talking about.”
Nick shares that he and his team completed a master class about deaf inclusion in the music industry and that it had become such a crucial conversation that they are looking to recreate with footage, due to the old footage not turning out quite right.
“We are also looking into having some in-person events, so be sure to keep on top of that!” They both share with me.
As we wind down our conversation, I took this time to ask if either of them had ideas or tips for those trying to figure out how to help and become involved in spreading the story of these communities.
“Well, a good starting point is just kind of stepping outside of your perspective,” Nick shares. “We all grow up in environments and we all learn things from those environments that mold our world views, which will always be limiting in some form, so don’t be afraid to step outside of yourself and see the real world, and you’ll see a whole new host of things that you’ve never seen before. Also, becoming an open-minded music fan is also something that could help others as well.”
“Just changing your mindset, not just consuming what is put onto your plate but speaking, seeking it elsewhere is important,” Shay adds. “Because you know, if you just scratch the surface and like to listen to what’s given to you, you’re leaving so much undiscovered. Broaden your perspective because there are so many things that people can actively do, like calling something out when you see it, and seeing the importance of that, and also standing up for what’s not acceptable.”
They both also share the volunteer opportunities that their organization offers, which is anything from video editing to being a creative writer, and so many other things, and if this is something that strikes a chord for you, be sure to get their information HERE and reach out!
“And now for my favorite question to the both of you,” I say boldly. “What is one piece of advice that you would give to those engaging with this interview?”
“I think I am going to go in the direction of self-expression. I think that you should feel completely able to express yourself as long as you’re not harming other people,” Shay says. “Like going from one form of creativity to another is really awesome and not feeling like you have to stick to one thing. I think it’s really awesome to see people who try one thing out, and are able to channel that creativity into another medium, whether that’s visuals, painting, making music, etc. I think it’s just about removing the barrier in your mind that you can only stick with one outlet. Open Pandora’s box and ask ‘how else can I apply myself? Where will this take me? But also realizing that it’s okay if you fail at it because not everything works out the first time.”
“Always try to be nice but never fail to be kind,” Nick shares with us. “I think in the industry there are a lot of people that are fake. They pretend to have your best interests at heart, then they deceive you and run away with your money and credibility, so I guess to the creatives that are, you know, frequenting this platform, try to be kind. Don’t rip people off, don’t hurt anybody or purposely do things to hurt other people or put them in a worse position, but also try to add something positive.”
This was one of the most proactive and invigorating conversations that I’ve had in a long time, and I was just honored to sit down with some incredible individuals who are waking up every morning and choosing to fight for those without a voice.
Please check out The Cultural Reset everywhere, and if this is a team that you’re interested in, be sure to reach out about a possible volunteer opportunity, and who knows, maybe you might see a fellow writer on the other side!
Connect with The Cultural Reset