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The Music Industry Takes A Blackout Tuesday Pause To Advance Anti-Racism

This internet graphic seems to have started the Blackout Tuesday initiative.

America’s music venues have been shuttered since March due to Covid-19, but on Tuesday, virtually the entire music industry is voluntarily going dark in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The unprecedented work stoppage, promoted as #theshowmustbepaused on social media over the weekend, prompted industry figures from all sectors to speak out on behalf of racial justice during a weekend of demonstration nationwide.

Nashville-based companies confirmed as participants include Concord Music, Compass Records, the Americana Music Association, the International Bluegrass Association, Thirty Tigers, Third Man Records, The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Gibson Guitars and all the major record labels. The movement went viral while the country erupted in tumultuous protests of the on-camera asphyxiation of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, as well as a long litany of police killings of African Americans.

The initial post, which seems to have launched on Friday, is rather vague in its motivations or prescriptions. “Due to recent events please join us as we take an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change.” It calls on the industry to “disconnect from work and reconnect with our community.” 

Companies and industry figures quickly elaborated on the point of Blackout Tuesday. The AMA called for an end to systemic racism. “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. And moving forward, we commit to making a more concerted effort to push back against hate and to more proactively foster love and solidarity.”

Rounder Records, one of the leading record companies in roots music and part of Concord Music, issued the following: “Rounder, its artists and employees condemn all acts of racism, violence, injustice, intolerance and cruelty. We believe in a better future and are committed to doing our part to achieve it.”

The industry action swept up even bluegrass labels, whose history has leaned away from social action and activism. Mountain Home Music Company of Arden, NC for example posted a statement. “For too long, our Black brothers and sisters like George Floyd have borne the weight of police violence. We have an opportunity to make real change — for all of us,” the company said. “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.”

“At this point, silence is more than complicity. Silence is killing our neighbors, friends, and fellow music lovers and creators,” wrote The Bluegrass Situation, which provides content to WMOT. “We stand in solidarity with Black, Indigenous, and folks of color protesting police brutality across this country and around the world.” 


Ina detailed and personal statement, Sony/ATV chairman and CEO Jon Platt, the only black CEO of a major international music company, noted that June 1 was the launch of Black Music Month but wrestled with the historic context. “With racial strife rumbling across our country as I write this, I am struggling to reconcile the conflicting realities of the universal appreciation of Black music and the devaluation of Black life, George Floyd’s videotaped killing being the latest of recurring tragic examples.” 

A wider range of industry statements can be found inthis Variety.com feature. A page claiming authorship of the movement and offering further guidance can be found here

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org