Music News: Will 'Blackout Tuesday' lead to meaningful industry change?

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The Current Music News for June 4, 2020 (MPR Video)

"Blackout Tuesday" was impossible to miss on social media: black squares filled Instagram, and organizations of all kinds, including The Current, posted statements of solidarity with the black community in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Some companies paused their normal activities, and Spotify inserted tracks of silence in some playlists.

The initiative actually started in the music world, as a campaign by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang: two black women in the music industry who said, #TheShowMustBePaused. The initiative, they said in a statement, was meant not just to honor George Floyd and other victims of police brutality but to force the music industry to reflect on how an industry with black art at its center is still white-dominated at the top, where the money tends to flow.

So while a lot of organizations and individuals participated — including all the major labels, the Recording Academy, and stars like Cardi B and Madonna and Rihanna and the Rolling Stones — music organizations also found themselves facing questions about whether they'd be taking more concrete steps to empower black artists and increase representation in leadership roles.

On Instagram, Kelis wrote, "If the music industry wants to support Black lives, labels and platforms can start with amending contracts, distributing royalties, diversifying boardrooms, and retroactively paying back all the Black artists, and their families, they have build their empires on."

Artists like Lil Nas X criticized social media blackouts, with the "Old Town Road" singer tweeting, "not tryna be announcing but what if we posted donation and petitions links on instagram all at the same time instead of pitch black images."

Then, of course, the idea of "pausing" the show didn't exactly resonate with music venues, whose operations have been very painfully paused for months due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Writing in Jezebel, Hazel Cills argues that one reason labels found it so easy to press pause is that it reflects the idea of music as pure entertainment, something you have to pause if you want to have real conversations...as opposed to listening to what artists of color have been saying in their music for generations.

The day certainly turned out to be a conversation-starter, which was the intent. Some of those conversations were public panels hosted by record labels, and some organizations announced task forces to look at what internal changes need to be made to promote equity. The day also generated millions of dollars in donations to community funds, including $100 million from the Warner Music Group. And in the words of the movement's founders, "This is not a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul." (Rolling Stone, New York Times, Pitchfork)

Nandi Bushell covers Rage Against the Machine

We'll leave you today with a clip of a ten-year-old named Nandi Bushell, who formed her own incredible one-girl band to cover Rage Against the Machine's "Guerrilla Radio." Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello shared the video, saying, "Well, now we're on the right track." (Consequence of Sound)


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