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SOUTH LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Getting into the music industry is never easy. Drummer and recording executive, Joe Conner, knows that all too well.
“You’re gonna have to constantly think, 'I can do this, I can do this,' regardless of someone telling you ‘no you can’t,'” he said.
Conner's hand-print is seen all over the industry because he’s lived by those words. At just 31 years old, he’s already been an A&R executive for Capitol Records, and has performed on some of the biggest music tours across all genres. He says he’s done it by fighting off competition and racial stereotypes.
“I have to be 10 times better than the next person who’s next to me,” explained Conner. “I have to speak with more professionalism, more eloquently. I’m working against a boulder that the guy next to me doesn’t have.”
Conner currently plays with rock group Otherwise, where he is the only Black member of the touring band.
For them, it’s all about music. Yet, despite his extensive resume in performing country and rock music, Conner says he’s lost on gigs exclusively because of his skin color.
“I might walk into a room and somebody might automatically go ‘oh this is the hip-hop guy.’ I literally had somebody kinda say that to me,” Conner said.
“And I’m like, you have no clue the background that I have, the diversity that I have, that I bring to a meeting or to a company,” he added.
Conner refuses to march to the drumbeat of prejudice, with a personal remedy of perseverance.
“That’s how you overcome it. Don’t let them stop you from going after what you want to get,” he said. “So then when they see a Black man in a certain position, whether he’s playing in a rock band or he’s playing in a country group, they’ve lost."
With every performance and business elevation, Conner finds a victory against racism.