Let's Talk Racial Inequality in the Music Industry

Photo Credit to Article by Stephanie Escobar

These times are important to reflect on humanity and how it has often failed the black community through structural and systemic racism. Every industry around the world has lacked to protect black individuals, give them a platform, or just give the same opportunities as others. The music industry is no stranger to allowing racial injustices to occur as it is all connected systematically. Many are asking for change in the industry and urge leaders to help the black community in music, as the industry itself has profited so much from black culture. It cannot continue to profit from black culture and continue to ignore the issues on hand.

"We feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues”. - Letter from five Black Music Executives to Major Music Leaders.

Music as we know it today, has a past that originated from African influences. These popular genres such as pop and rock derived from African influences through the middle passage; the sea journey undertaken by slave ships from West Africa to the West Indies. Blues notes, syncopated rhythms, and call and response have roots that originated from western and central Africa. Later passed on to the United States as slaves congregated whenever they had “free time” and played music as a source of joy and hope. Rock music for example has been stereotyped to be “white” music, but originated from African American culture. The Black Music Coalition is often reminding others of black rock musicians that started it off.

An anonymous letter was posted on Billboard; “Dear White Music Executives”. The author describes how it is to work within the industry as a black individual and how their experience is basically them having to work twice as hard as their white counterparts. Their letter is something I would encourage others to read. The author speaks about country music and latin music having basically no one outside it culturally telling these executives how to handle their talent or the cultural development of the genre. Yet, when it comes to black music, white executives are given titles such as “Head of Urban Music” and serve to tell black executives what to do with black music.

We're asking for permission to lead our culture. We're hoping someone white gives us a chance to be leaders in a community we have to live within. Nothing will make us feel safer than seeing someone who looks like us, understands us and speaks our language at the top of a company.” - Anonymous wrote in Billboard

In the letter black music executives wrote to the top industry leaders and asked them to immediately adopt five “call to action” as a response to the death of George Floyd, and the protest happening worldwide.

  1. Mandatory Anti-Racism/Unconscious Bias Training across each respective company for all non-black members of staff, led by Black Educators in the field and complimentary counselling and holistic services made available for Black members of staff with immediate effect.

  2. For each company to commit a specified annual budget to financially support Black Organizations, educational projects and charities.

  3. Career development implemented for Black staff across all business areas including long standing consultants in order to develop the next generation of leaders.

  4. To address, challenge and change the lack of Black staff at Senior Management level and no Black female President/Chairwomen across the industry.

  5. Following statements from major labels and management companies, the term “Urban music” is to be removed from your company verbiage and replaced with “Black Music.”

  6. Establish a dedicated internal task force to review, and with the remit to drive and challenge both the Equality and Diversity aims within your business structure, and the advancement of Black executives across your business including equal pay, mentor-ship, and career progression.

These five immediate calls to action within the industry will bring more black individuals into the roles that they’ve deserved for so long and to have the control in black music that is distributed. These couples of things that I bring up are just a small list of many racial injustices black individuals face daily in the music industry. The music industry has a lot of work to do, along with others. I believe that this movement is long overdue and it’s time for change in our country, and the entire world.

I’ve also included my LinkTree to several resources on how you can help the BLM movement and keep being an ally. I’ll be updating it as much as I can. Keep being a voice, keep being an ally, keep the movement alive, keep getting educated on this, and keep having dialogues with others about this. There is a lot of change ahead. Remember, all lives matter don’t matter until Black Lives Matter.

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