Monday, June 15, 2020

#TheShowMustBePaused: next steps, Stormzy, YouTube and more | Music Ally

One of the key points about the #TheShowMustBePaused campaign last week was that it was not a single day of action, but rather the springboard for much, much more. Today, there’s a lot to report on in that regard, within both the music and tech worlds.

Start by reading Billboard’s interview with Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, who created the campaign, talking about their next steps. “We’re formalising various committees as we divide the organisation into two branches. One branch will focus on social justice and systemic racism … from the boardroom to the boulevard. The other branch has to do with restructuring the organisation within music industry companies to gain more room for growth opportunities for Black people,” explained Thomas.

In the UK, meanwhile, artist Stormzy and his company #Merky is pledging £10m over the next decade to organisations, charities and movements that fight racial inequality, call for justice reform and aid Black empowerment in the UK. “We have to fight against the odds of a racist system stacked against us and designed for us to fail from before we are even born. Black people have been playing on an uneven field for far too long and this pledge is a continuation in the fight to finally try and even it.” he said in a statement. Stormzy has previously launched the #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize to give opportunities to new Black writers, and funded a scholarship for Black students from underprivileged or disadvantaged background to study at the University Of Cambridge.

Tech firms are talking about their commitments too. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki published her latest update blog post yesterday, and announced a $100m fund “dedicated to amplifying and developing the voices of Black creators and artists and their stories”. Tomorrow (13 June) it will also host a livestream fundraising event called ‘Bear Witness, Take Action‘ bringing together creators, artists, public figures and activists for “roundtable discussions and musical performances”. $100m seems to be the figure favoured by big companies for their commitments (see also: Sony Music and WMG) as that’s the amount committed by Apple CEO Tim Cook yesterday on behalf of his firm, with Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative.

Music group BMG also had some significant news yesterday. “Mindful of the music industry’s record of shameful treatment of black artists, we have begun a review of all historic record contracts. While BMG only began operations in 2008, we have acquired many older catalogues. If there are any inequities or anomalies, we will create a plan to address them. Within 30 days,” it announced in a message to artists and songwriters from CEO Hartwig Masuch. The question of exploitative contracts with Black musicians and songwriters, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s – and how they might be sorted out by labels and publishers – has been raised several times in the past week.

Finally (for today) Spotify has announced that next week’s New Music Friday playlist – the one for 19 June – will only feature Black artists, as will the playlist’s billboard ads in New York’s Times Square. “The all-black artist takeover will remain active on New Music Friday through June 26th and will feature music across various genres,” its spokesperson told Music Ally. We suspect this may spur labels to push back some high-profile releases from non-Black artists to the following week, such is the industry clout of the playlist.


Image by Ben Houdijk /

Stuart Dredge


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