Music business backs Black Out Tuesday campaign

Chris Johnston
Beyonce

Some of the most powerful players in the music industry are to put business on hold on Tuesday as part of an anti-racism campaign in the wake of George Floyd's death after he was restrained by police in Minneapolis.

The big three recorded music groups - Universal, Sony and Warner - have all said they will observe “Black Out Tuesday”, along with companies including Spotify, Live Nation, Kobalt, Downtown and London-listed Hipgnosis Songs Fund, as part of campaign dubbed #TheShowMustBePaused on Twitter.

Universal, the world’s biggest record music group that is owned by Vivendi, said on Twitter: "We stand with the black community."

Chief executive Lucian Grainge said in a memo to staff that Universal is setting up a task force to take action on inclusion and social justice. One of its biggest divisions, Interscope Geffen A&M, will not release any new music this week.

On Instagram, Sony's Columbia Records label said: “Instead, this is a day to reflect and figure out ways to move forward in solidarity. Perhaps with the music off, we can truly listen.”

Warner Records said: “While this is only one day, we are committed to continuing the fight for real change.”

The label said it would contribute to Black Lives Matter and other organisations working against "racial injustice".

A host of prominent artists including Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z, Rihanna, Dr Dre, Taylor Swift, Cardi B and Billie Eilish have voiced their anger about Mr Floyd’s death and spoken out in support of protesters who have taken to the streets of dozens of US cities for several days amid spiralling violence.

Zane Lowe, the former BBC Radio 1 presenter now with Apple Music's Beats 1 station, said on Twitter he would not be broadcasting on Tuesday.

He said: "I am united with my black and brown friends and colleagues. Black lives matter. I will be taking part in Black Out Tuesday, listening, learning and looking for solutions to fight racial inequality."   

In the UK, artists have postponed planned activities. The Musicians' Union said it supports black members and all black communities against racism, violence and discrimination.

Mark Mulligan, of technology analyst MIDiA Research, said the backing given by record companies to the Black Out Tuesday campaign partly reflects the central role of hip hop and R&B artists in the contemporary American music industry. 

He said: “The safest route for any music company is to show their support.

“They may well have absolutely wanted to anyway, but not doing so is just not an option.”

The campaign could signal the start of a new era of activism in the industry, Mr Mulligan said.

He added: “Music has become incredibly apolitical. People don’t want to take a stance because they don’t want to risk sales or streams.

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"If you think back to the Sixties and the era of the protest singers and even throughout the Seventies and Eighties, music was hugely political.

"Now there are more releases competing for attention no one wants to take any risks. But hopefully this could be a stimulus for artists to start speaking out.” 

Beyonce posted a video on her Instagram account, which has 147m followers, calling for change: “No more seeing people of colour as less than human. We can no longer look away.”

She also urged fans to sign a petition demanding #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, which the platform Change.org said has become the largest in its history.

Jay-Z said: "I am more determined to fight for justice than any fight my would-be oppressors may have."