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Streaming services join music industry 'blackout' over death of George Floyd

Some artists feel #theshowmustbepaused observance is "tone deaf," however.
Steve Dent, @stevetdent
June 2, 2020
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MINNEAPOLIS , MINNESOTA - MAY 31: People defy the curfew to pay their respects at the makeshift memorial and mural outside Cup Foods where George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis  police officer on Sunday, May 31, 2020 in Minneapolis , Minnesota. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
Jason Armond via Getty Images

The music industry will stage a “blackout day” today in support of protests around the alleged murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Organized by music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, the aim is to pause or shutter normal business activities for 24 hours. “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,” according to a website tagged #TheShowMustBePaused.

Technology companies are participating in different ways. Spotify said it will place a black logo and headline image on its “flagship” playlists and podcasts, while adding eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence to participating playlists and podcasts — the length of time officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd's neck.

Apple Music is also participating, saying it cancelled its regular Beats 1 radio schedule and steering users toward a streaming station that celebrates the best in Black Music. It will also host a playlist designed to unite users, with regular intermissions explaining the protests and movement. Deezer and Tidal Music also tweeted support.

Meanwhile, event organizer Live Nation will close its offices today, while ViacomCBS channnels MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central will “go dark,” the company said. Def Jam Recordings, Interscope, Sony Music and others will also participate. Artists expressing support include Lady Gaga, the Rolling Stones, Quincy Jones and Billie Eilish.

However, some have criticized the day, saying it’s unfocused and doesn’t address the protests and Black Lives Matter movement directly. Don Giovanni Records owner Joe Steinhard told Rolling Stone that the movement is “misguided” and that labels should be supporting existing initiatives like Black Lives Matter. Others noted that the industry is sacrificing little for the blackout day, while Tony! Toni! Toné’s Raphael Saadiq said record labels should pay artists more.

It’s also unclear what level of action the labels are taking. While Columbia records said that today is “not a day off” but rather a way to reflect, Warner Music CEO Steve Cooper wrote that “everyone can take a day out from their jobs.” Some labels, including Capitol records, promised to make donations to black rights organizations, but haven’t provided specific calls to action for employees.

On their website, however, Thomas and Agyemang did address the industry’s inequality. “[It is] an industry that has “profited predominantly from black art,” the site states. “It is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the black communities... in ways that are measurable and transparent. 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.”

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