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BLACKOUT TUESDAY: HOW THE MAJORS RESPONDED


The majors have responded to Tuesday’s #TheShowMustBePaused by setting up funds to promote social justice, promising to engage in programs and conversations about improving race relations, and promoting better work environments in the music industry.

Sony Music Group launched a $100m fund today to support social justice and anti-racist initiatives around the world and will immediately begin to donate to organizations that foster equal rights. 

“Racial injustice is a global issue that affects our artists, songwriters, our people and of course society at large,” Sony Music Group Chairman Rob Stringer said. “We stand against discrimination everywhere and we will take action accordingly with our community fully involved in effectively using these funds.”

Sony Music has also pledged support via an employee matching fund for the ACLU, Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Minnesota Freedom Fund, The Innocence Project and Unicorn Riot, among others; Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation is creating a $100m fund to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism; and Universal Music Group has set up a $25m "Change Fund" and announced the Task Force for Meaningful Change.

On Tuesday, Epic chief Sylvia Rhone and Nikole Hannah-Jones, founder of The New York Times’ 1619 project, held a global Town Hall for all employees. It was among the series of conversations with artists, organizers and movement leaders that labels and business units hosted that day. Employees also had access to meditation programming on Tuesday. 

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 black victims of police violence. Participants said they were particularly honored and impressed That Crump was so gracious with his time, given everything that was going on.

Sony Music plans to do more in the weeks and months ahead building off Tuesday’s conversations.

For the month of June, Sony Music will match employee donations to numerous social justice charities in the U.S. and around the world including the ones previously mentioned. The company is also expanding its mental health support for employees in partnership with outside experts in the areas of race and mental health.

UMG, which has set up a $25m "Change Fund," has announced the Task Force for Meaningful Change with interim Def Jam Chairman/CEO Jeff Harleston and Motown President/EVP Capitol Music Group Ethiopia Habtemariam as Co-Chairs. The first phase is to promote “tolerance, equality and elimination of bias within UMG, the music community and the music world at large." Initial actions include employee town hall meetings, political activism, legal volunteering and funds for justice and employee contribution.

At Republic Records, Steven Carless will lead the newly launched Republic Records Action Committee (R2AC), which consists of five subcommittees. Communication will be led by Amaiya Davis; Marleny Reyes heads up Political Action; Damion Presson and Sammie Taylor will lead Creative; Ken 'Duro' Ifill is the Music leader; and Carless will oversee Education and Community Outreach.

With “We Use Our Voices, Use Yours” as its value statement, R2AC will create resources, tools and training for employees, peers and the extended community; tackle issues that plague our internal and external communities; and support staff, artists and actions that contribute to equality and social justice.

R2AC has several initiatives on the horizon, including a forthcoming industry town hall meeting that will occur in the next couple of weeks. Details to follow.

It launched a social media handle for the committee, which provides several resources, petitions and initiatives to directly address the injustices happening to the black community. Visit @RRActionCommitte and @RepublicRecords for more information.

The company has also to remove “Urban” from the label’s verbiage in describing departments, employee titles and music genres. Republic states, “We encourage the rest of the music industry to consider following suit as it is important to shape the future of what we want it to look like, as to not adhere to the outdated structures of the past.”

IGA’s black employees engaged in a discussion to discuss initiatives and action items regarding company culture and the community at large. The entire company shared access to key literature, ways to take action for social change, and information about initial donations. A commitment has been made to institute a diverse, employee-staffed IGA committee to explore how to impact culture more powerfully as well as day-to-day business action. 

At WMG, an advisory panel made up of appointees from Warner Music Group and the Blavatnik Family Foundation will establish procedures to identify and support organizations as well as determine the amount of the financial gifts and timing for its new $100m fund.

WMG, which made a donation to Black Lives Matter, will also be matching employee donations.

Labels/territories across the world participated in #BlackOutTuesday on social media. Warner Chappell President, A&R, U.S, Ryan Press held a virtual conversation with the publishing company’s black employees; ADA hosted a virtual town hall with poet/rapper/music producer Malik Ameer Crumpler.

Warner Records hosted a “View from the Front Line” town hall featuring San Francisco of Police Accountability Paul Henderson and artists Chika, RMR and IDK.

The team in Australia made a AU$10,000 k nation to Australians for Native Title & Reconciliation to engage, educate and mobilize a broad community movement to advocate for justice, rights and respect for Australia's First Peoples. 

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