On Tuesday, June 2, a large number of figures throughout the music industry observed Blackout Tuesday in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black citizens by the police. The action, also referred to as #TheShowMustBePaused, was organized by two Black women, Jamila Thomas (Senior Director of Marketing at Atlantic) and Brianna Agyemang (a former Atlantic Executive who is now Senior Artist Campaign Manager at Platoon).
In their initial statement, Thomas and Agyemang said the day was meant for “gatekeepers of the culture” to join “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change,” calling it “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.” (They later clarified, “Please note: The purpose was never to mute ourselves. The purpose is to disrupt. The purpose is a pause from business as usual.”)
But as Blackout Tuesday began, it remained unclear in many cases what, exactly, major music companies intended to do with the day “off.” As the movement spread across social media, moving beyond the music industry, it generated a significant amount of backlash. Many musicians, including Kehlani, Lil Nas X, Moses Sumney, and Kenny Beats, expressed skepticism of silence in place of donations and anti-racist action. The Weeknd, who indicated he donated $500,000 across several organizations fighting racism and inequality, urged major labels, Spotify, and Apple Music to also pledge financial support.
Now that Blackout Tuesday is over, here is a list of what many major labels, streaming services, and other music companies actually did with their time and money on that day, including plans for donation and action as reported by The New York Times and Rolling Stone:
Tim Cook wrote to Apple’s employees, “Apple is making donations to a number of groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit committed to challenging racial injustice, ending mass incarceration, and protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable people in American society. For the month of June, and in honor of the Juneteenth holiday, we’ll also be matching two-for-one all employee donations via Benevity” (via CNBC).
Apple Music said, “This moment calls upon us all to speak and act against racism and injustice of all kinds.” Ebro Darden shared the #TheShowMustBePaused message, and Zane Lowe canceled his June 2 show. Apple Music representatives did not reply to multiple requests for comment from Pitchfork.
Atlantic Records observed Black Out Tuesday, writing, “[W]e are committed to continuing the fight for real change. 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.” The label also said, “As part of this we will be contributing to Black Lives Matter and other organizations that are doing crucial work to combat racial justice.”
When reached by Pitchfork, an Atlantic Records representative also pointed to Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation’s $100 million fund.
Per Rolling Stone, Columbia Records brought in George Floyd’s lawyer Benjamin Crump for a two-hour virtual discussion with the company’s staff about the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and other Black victims of police violence.
Def Jam Recordings
Def Jam shared a Twitter thread with organizations and causes that employees support and to which they donated. A Def Jam spokesperson shared the following statement with Pitchfork on June 2:
Today, Def Jam Recordings stands with our colleagues, our artists, our industry and our community in observance of BLACKOUT TUESDAY.
Yesterday, over one hundred and fifty Def Jam employees joined together for a town hall. Some of us shared deep pain, others outrage and anger, still others desperation and frustration. For many of us there were questions; some with tough answers and some with yet no answers.
Today, and throughout the week, we are honoring the wishes of our artists who have asked that we pause in the release, marketing and promotion of their music. Others are rushing to make their voices heard, and we intend to amplify them.
We have joined together with the other Universal Music Group labels and companies in a joint task force—lead [sic] by our interim CEO Jeff Harleston—and today that task force strategizes on how we will continue to respond.
Today, some of us are marching, some are mobilizing, others are praying. Many of us are donating our day’s wages to the organization of our choice on the front lines of this fight.
Collectively, we are taking a hard look within and asking: “What more can we do?”
Together, we are saying: “We must do MORE.”
Epic Records chair and CEO Sylvia Rhone led a town hall to “discuss the impact of recent events and the importance of taking a stand for our communities and ways for individuals to make a difference both now and in the future,” according to Rolling Stone.
Interscope Geffen A&M
Interscope Geffen A&M said in a statement that it would be contributing to “organizations that help bail out protestors exercising their right to peaceably assemble, aid lawyers working for systemic change, and provide assistance to charities focused on creating economic empowerment in the Black community.” Interscope also promised not to release music this week.
Live Nation said it donated to the Equal Justice Initiative but did not specify a dollar amount. Live Nation and Ticketmaster also said they “pull[ed] the plug on business as usual” on Blackout Tuesday.
RCA Records indicated it will make an unspecified but “significant contribution to several organizations who are on the front lines of important movements for radical justice and social change.”
Republic launched an action committee with the intent to educate, take action, and offer support to their community. The company also announced it will stop using “urban” as a descriptor and genre identifier.
According to Rolling Stone, SiriusXM and Pandora CEO Jim Meyer told staff that the company will “continue to use our platform to encourage dialogue, debate, tolerance and understanding,” but did not state donation plans.
Rob Stringer, CEO of Sony Music, wrote in an internal memo that Sony Music will also match its employees donations to “organizations working for social justice around the world.” Sony also hosted town halls with “artists, organizers, and movement leaders,” including Benjamin Crump, Spike Lee, and Kane Brown. According to The New York Times’ Ben Sisario, Sony is also committing $100 million “to support social justice and anti-racist initiatives around the world.”
Spotify wrote that it is matching donations by employees to “organizations focused on the fight against racism; injustice; inequity; and driving meaningful change.” Spotify also blacked-out logos and images on its platform, curated playlists “to reflect the current environment,” made new audio advertisements to “ensure even more listeners have the opportunity to hear from Black voices,” and added 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence to certain podcasts.
TIDAL did not include Blackout Tuesday or #TheShowMustBePaused messaging on its social media channels. TIDAL instead expressed solidarity with the Black community, shared speeches from Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., posted JAY-Z’s “Songs for Survival 2” playlist, and pointed to music by Black artists who “have always used their work to paint a vivid image of the reality of racial injustice.”
When reached by Pitchfork, a representative for TIDAL shared the following message: “Since 2015 TIDAL has and will continue to support and amplify racial justice initiatives through artist content, live events and fundraising efforts.”
TikTok pledged $3 million from its Community Relief Fund to “non-profits that help the Black community, which has been disproportionately affected by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The company also pledged $1 million “toward fighting the racial injustice and inequality that we are witnessing in this country.”
Universal Music Group
Universal Music Group, home to Interscope, Capitol, Republic, Def Jam, and more, announced the formation of a task force to accelerate “efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice.” They’ve also announced a $25 million fund.
Warner Music Group
Warner Music Group and the Family Foundation of its vice chairman Lee Blavatnik announced a $100 million fund “to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism.”
YouTube wrote, “We stand in solidarity against racism and injustice and are pledging $1M in support of efforts to stop it.” The video platform also encouraged viewers to donate to the Center for Policing Equity, a nonprofit research and action think tank that uses data to help police departments address discriminatory practices.
Find more resources in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism, including a list of organizations to donate to if you’re able, here.
Originally Appeared on Pitchfork