Music Industry Embraces Blackout Tuesday

Photo by Joey Martinez

Record labels, music organizations, radio stations and venues throughout the country are shutting down operations Tuesday to support Blackout Tuesday, a call for solidarity and support in the fight against racism and injustice. Using the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, every major record label, promoters such as AEG Presents, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Austin City Limits, industry organizations including the Americana Music Association and Folk Alliance International, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Musicians Union and even Lucky Brand apparel have promised a day of silence or vowed to spend the day discussing ways to address inequality and oppression.

Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang, senior artist campaign manager at London-based Platoon Entertainment and former senior director of marketing at Atlantic, organized the effort. On the website, they posted the initiative is a response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery “and countless other black citizens at the hands of police,” as well as longstanding racism “from the board room to the boulevard.”

“We will not continue to conduct business as usual without regard to black lives,” they wrote. They intentionally chose the date to disrupt the work week. Monday would create a long weekend, they explained, “And we can’t wait until Friday for change.”

“It is 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,” they added. Noting the multi-billion dollar music industry profits a great deal from black art, they explained. “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. We are tired and can’t change things alone. In the meantime, to our friends and family: please take the time for you and your mental health. To our allies, the time is now to have difficult conversations with family, friends and colleagues.”

They posted a list of ways to donate funds, seek information or join the cause.

The Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, Quincy Jones, Steve Vai and Nile Rodgers were among many artists pledging support, though Rosanne Cash tweeted, “I get it and I’m doing it, but I can’t imagine Nina Simone would have been silent. #NoJusticeNoPeace #BlackOutTuesday.”

Activist folk singer Billy Bragg praised, “This is what solidarity looks like. Take a day out to reflect on what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community.”

In a message to its members, the Americana Music Association pledged support, stating, “Recent events have brought much strife and uncertainty into our daily lives, from the toll of an unprecedented health scare and economic crisis to the tragic injustices and violence that has sparked unrest on our streets. … No one group has suffered like the black community. We write today to stand in solidarity with black artists, musicians and professionals whose contributions to the growth of this nation and our culture are immeasurable.

“This is not a political issue. It is a human issue and our plea is for an end to injustice, and a call for positive change. We – The Americana Music Association – raise our collective voices to call for an end to the systemic racism that continues to plague our society as a whole.

“We further pledge to work actively against racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, classist, and other oppressive notions that marginalize, restrict, or destroy any human being simply because of their identity.”

Quoting a lyric from Rhiannon Giddens’ song, “We Rise” — Hand in hand we stand as one, we push, we reach, we rise — Folk Alliance International sent a similar message, stating, “The board and staff of Folk Alliance International unequivocally denounce racism and remain committed to advancing social justice and cultural equity. We stand in solidarity with the black community, and all marginalized communities and wholeheartedly join in the growing chorus of voices, both personal and institutional, speaking out against injustice, bigotry, and racial violence.  

“The music industry has called for … a day to take a beat for honest, reflective, and productive conversations about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community. FAI staff will be using the time to continue racial justice training, followed by self-education on these issues. We invite you to commit time and learn with us using any of the links found at”

Spotify posted, “Now is not the time for silence. We will continue to use the power of our platform to amplify black voices so they are heard.”

Distrokid digital music distribution service promised to donate 100 percent of Tuesday’s profits to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

ASCAP wrote, “Many members of the ASCAP family are hurting, in particular the black community, including members of our team and so many of our songwriters, composers and music publishers whose music and whose voices for justice and change drive our culture forward. We need those voices now, and all of our voices, in the face of intolerable racial injustice. 

“We must stand up to bigotry and racism and speak out against senseless violence. … ASCAP stands for human rights, peace and equal justice.”

DefJam Recordings wrote, “We must use our voices to affect change. We must confront systemic racism. We must challenge broken leadership. We must fight for the safety and dignity of black lives in peril. #BLACKLIVESMATTER #FIGHTTHEPOWER #NATIONOFMILLIONSUNITED.”

Quoting Bob Marley’s anthem, “Get Up, Stand Up,” Island Records exhorted, “Stand up and fight against racial injustice. We will not give up the fight.” Following #TheShowMustBePaused and #BlackLivesMatter hashtags, Island’s statement read, “One love” and provided links to, and the gofundme account for George Floyd.

Warner Music Group said, “We will be using this day to collectively reflect on what we as a company can do to put action towards change and we will be taking steps in the coming weeks and months.” They promised to contribute to Black Lives Matter and other organizations “doing crucial work to combat racial injustice.”

Capitol announced a donation to Color of Change, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization working to “end practices that unfairly hold black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward.”

“We use our voices, use yours,” Republic Records said. Sony/ATV Music Publishing posted lyrics from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” adding, “People are in pain, and cities are burning. It is critical that we use our voice not only to take a stand, but to take action. … it is important that our commitment extends beyond blackout Tuesday. Together, we an conquer hate.” 

Glassnote Music wrote “We will used this day to collectively reflect on how we as a company can put action towards change. We vow to speak up and stand alongside you.” 

Epic Records said, “We will continue to stand up for black lives TODAY TOMORROW and EVERY DAY.” 

Universal Music Publishing Group wrote, “Now is the time for action. We will do everything possible to support our songwriters’ efforts. It is their music, their words that will change the world. We will help amplify their voices and their vision for change. UMPG will support and contribute to initiatives chosen by our black creatives that will make lasting change. Let’s commit to doing this together.” 

RCA added, “We will be making significant contributions to several organizations who are on the front lines of important movements for radical justice and social change. It’s time for radical change in America.”

AEG Presents offered a Desmond Tutu quote: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Paradigm Talent Agency said, “We share your frustration and anger. We must all help to make tomorrow better than today and the day after better than tomorrow.” 

Many shared a post stating, “As gatekeepers of the culture, it’s our responsibility to not only come together to celebrate the wins, but also hold each other up during a loss.” 

Interscope Geffen A&M vowed not to release new music the week of June 1, promising instead to “contribute to organizations to bail out protesters exercising their right to peaceably assemble, aid lawyers working for systematic change, and provide assistance to charities focused on creating economic empowerment in the black community. … IGA is committed to taking long-term action in the continued fight for racial justice.” 

Sony promised “a day of action committed to meaningful change in our communities both now & in the future.”

And Columbia Records declared, “This is not a day off. Instead, this is a day to reflect and figure out ways to move forward in solidarity. … We continue to stand with the black community, our staff, artists, and peers in the music industry.

“Perhaps with the music off,” Columbia said, “we can truly listen.”

For further insight as to why this movement matters, we offer this Instagram post by Gary Clark Jr.

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