Pausing The Show In Solidarity With The Black Community

– #TheShowMustBePaused
In response to the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery “and countless other black citizens at the hands of police,” two black women who work in the music business – Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records and Brianna Agyemang, senior artist campaign manager at Platoon and former senior director of marketing at Atlantic – brought an initiative called #TheShowMustBePaused to the music industry this week. The campaign sought to interrupt the work week to spend Tuesday, June 2 as “a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”

The statement on added, “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. To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.” 
Major record labels, streaming services and executives across the music biz quickly pledged to join in the campaign, along with promoters like AEG Presents, September Management and artists such as Phish, which postponed its weekly webcast. City Winery participated by directing its homepage to the nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization Color of Change. City Winery CEO Michael Dorf wrote in a guest post, “Our taking a stand with Black Lives Matter is important to show our solidarity with black Americans at this particular time, given the history of anti-black racism in this country. As the white owner of a music venue and a member of a community that has particularly benefited from the extraordinary talents of countless African-American musicians and artists, it is my particular duty and honor to join in solidarity at this time.” Pollstar took part in the campaign in solidarity with the black community, ceasing publishing on our website and social media accounts for the day. 
The #TheShowMustBePaused initiative also swiftly attracted criticism from activists, artists and media outlets, from some declaring this was not the time to be silent on such an important issue to others questioning what actions labels were actually taking to make a difference. The Weeknd shared receipts of donations he had made totalling $500,000 to Black Lives Matter Global Network, Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp and National Bail Out and urged labels and streaming services “to go big and public with yours this week.”
And then there was the social media trend #blackouttuesday that glommed onto the initiative’s momentum, encouraging users to show their support to the black community by posting a black square on their profiles – which many saw as clogging up social feeds and preventing vital information from being shared. 

Of course the point wasn’t just to pause business as usual but to focus on the thoughtful conversations happening during that time – and what actions should come next. Anything less would be nothing more than performative or virtue signalling.  

Many companies within the industry did put their money where their mouths were, including Warner Music Group announcing a $100 million fund to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism.

TikTok, which had been accused of censoring #BlackLivesMatter posts, issued a statement saying it was a bug that affected hashtags at large and apologized “to our Black creators and community who have felt unsafe, unsupported, or suppressed.” The platform announced it was donating $3 million from its Community Relief Fund to non-profits that help the Black community, as well as “committing another $1 million toward fighting the racial injustice and inequality that we are witnessing in this country.”

Capitol Music Group made a donation to Color of Change and Live Nation announced it had “already donated to the Equal Justice Initiative as a first step, and we will take the day to work together with our employees and colleagues on actionable next steps that will continue to engage and spark consistent action in fighting racism.”

There is so much work to be done to fight racism and bring about change, including informing oneself about the need to be actively antiracist by studying the history and listening to today’s leaders in the movement; contacting our elected officials to demand justice; voting and donating to organizations supporting these efforts. For a few ideas check out Pollstar‘s Anti-Racism Resource Guide here

And while opportunities for people of color in the music business have improved over the years, we still have so far to go as an industry. As the statement on points out, the campaign was launched in “observance of the long-standing racism and inequality that exists from the boardroom to the boulevard.” 

Pollstar is committed to diversity and inclusivity, both internally and in the manner we cover the stories of the business. We can and must do more to uphold these values, including the executives we feature in interviews and digital sessions. As part of this commitment, Pollstar is launching a new interview series called “Voices Of Live.” 

Stay tuned for more from #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, which promised, “This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in the fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced.”

Lastly, we leave you with these words of wisdom by former First Lady Michelle Obama, which she recently shared on Twitter:

“Race and racism is a reality that so many of us grow up learning to just deal with. But if we ever hope to move past it, it can’t just be on people of color to deal with it.
“It’s up to all of us – Black, white, everyone – no matter how well-meaning we think we might be, to do the honest, uncomfortable work of rooting it out. It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own.”