The ripple effect of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department has led to a global call for the end of white supremacy. Civilians are on the frontlines marching for justice, and many music artists have been using their resources in support of the cause. The music industry has taken note of the culture's cry for change, and it has decided to put some skin in the game with a protest of its own.
The music industry, in particular, has been identified as a space with an observable history of appropriation of black culture; for decades, black culture has been used to sell records and gain clout without paying homage to the people who created it. Musicians across genres and other high profile celebrities are now actively speaking out against the current culture of anti-blackness and its many consequences, forcing the executives running the show to examine the role they play in white supremacy more closely.
An industry-wide blackout has been scheduled for tomorrow, June 2. The idea for the unique protest began when Columbia Records chairman Ron Perry released a statement supporting the efforts of the protestors.
“We stand together with the Black community against all forms of racism, bigotry, and violence," read the statement. "Now, more than ever we must use our voices to speak up and challenge the injustices all around us.”
Universal Music Group followed suit with a similar stance, speaking up against bigotry and prejudice on Instagram with its own timely statement likely inspired by the actions of artists on its label like Jay-Z, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift. Republic Records, Capitol Records, BMI, Def Jam Recordings, Sony Music, Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group, and RCA Records also commented on the current events with statements of their own.
The passion for the cause of Black Lives Matter and anti-racism resulted in the creation of #TheShowMustBePaused by Atlantic Records' Jamila Thomas and Platoon’s Brianna Agyemang. The protest will take place tomorrow and will reportedly be marked by a day of inactivity in the music world as a means of "[disconnecting] from work and [reconnecting] with our community — no studio time, no recording, no releasing new music.
"Tuesday, June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week,” Thomas and Agyemang wrote in a joint statement. “The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable…This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced.”
There are some black musicians and music fans, however, who aren't exactly moved by the showing of solidarity from the corporate side of the industry. Neo-soul and R&B icon Raphael Saadiq was quick to point out how the industry still mistreats artists, sharing his sentiments on his Instagram page.
"Record labels are looting," Saadiq wrote on social media. "Streaming companies are looting...if the deals weren't made directly with the artist, it's looting!"
Many others identified the blackout as a performative means of seeming down for the cause — especially since the industry won't be taking a hit because new music is usually released on Fridays. There's also no word yet from Thomas and Agyemang specifically about what the initiative will do beyond tomorrow's protest, whether the industry will actually execute major overhaul to a system that has long built off of the creativity and talent of black people without rewarding them for the work.
There's a lot that needs to be done, but one can only hope that change is on the horizon. And the blackout day could be the first of many small steps towards making that happen.