Yesterday was Blackout Tuesday, a day when the music industry took a pause. The idea was to recognize the importance of racial solidarity in the face of widespread police violence against black people and protesters. Labels and creators remained silent for a day, and much of the music press also took a pause. (Stereogum didn’t post anything other than the new YG song.) The idea for Blackout Tuesday, as The New York Times reports, came from Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two black women who work in music marketing. It became a whole other thing.
Yesterday, plenty of companies (including Stereogum) posted black squares on social media — a trend that might’ve reached its absurd conclusion when the Washington Redskins, an NFL team that’s steadfastly refused to change its name from a racial slur, posted theirs. Some artists, including Kehlani and Lil Nas X, publicly questioned whether a day of silence had any real utility, whether larger companies had just adapted it as a PR stunt. The Weeknd, meanwhile, used it as an opportunity to challenge these big companies.
On social media, Abel Tesfaye made six-figure donations to Black Lives Matter Global Network, Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp, and National Bail Out. Between the three organizations, his donations totaled $500,000. We know he did this because he posted images of the receipts on Instagram, along with the message, “keep supporting our brothers and sisters out there risking everything to push for actual change for our black lives. Urging everyone with big pockets to give and give big and if you have less please give what you can even if it’s a small amount. #blacklivesmatter.”
Shortly thereafter, the Weeknd made that challenge more concrete. He posted the images of three major label conglomerates — Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music — as well as those of the streaming platforms Spotify and Apple Music. As a caption, he wrote, “To my fellow respected industry partners and execs- no one profits off of black music more than the labels and streaming services. I gave yesterday and I urge you to go big and public with yours this week. It would mean the world to me and the community if you can join us on this.”
Most of the labels who took part in Blackout Tuesday haven’t publicly announced any charitable plans. The Times reports that Sony Music and Spotify both pledged to match employee donations to anti-racist causes, but thus far, that’s been it.
UPDATE: Per New York Times:
On Wednesday, the Warner Music Group — home to stars like Cardi B and Ed Sheeran — upped the ante by announcing a $100 million fund from the company and a foundation affiliated with its majority owner, Len Blavatnik of Access Industries, “to support charitable causes related to the music industry, social justice and campaigns against violence and racism.”
That statement came within minutes of another announcement from Warner about the pricing of shares in its much-anticipated initial public offering. The company will sell 77 million shares — seven million more than originally announced — at $25 each, raising $1.9 billion for Access, which issued the stock. Those seven million extra shares will bring in $175 million.