Killing Of George Floyd Prompts Response From Music Industry, Performers


​Smoke rises May 29 in Minneapolis following protests in the city where George Floyd was killed May 25 while in police custody.

(Photo: Brian Wean)

Mass protests over the killing of George Floyd, as well as the recent slayings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, have been followed by thousands of National Guard troops being dispatched to cities across the country. Even as the nation continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, a contingent of the music industry has decided to prioritize social justice over profit.

On Tuesday, labels and other music industry businesses are planning a show of solidarity through an initiative dubbed #TheShowMustBePaused. According to Variety, the campaign was developed by Atlantic Records Senior Director of Marketing Jamila Thomas and Platoon Senior Artist Campaign Manager Brianna Agyemang.

Some major labels quickly embraced the idea.

“In solidarity with our Black colleagues, artists and loved ones across the country who are reeling from the senseless taking of another innocent Black life, Capitol Music Group will not be conducting any business on Tuesday, June 2, in observance of ‘Black Out Tuesday,’” a Saturday post to the Blue Note Instagram feed read. “To help further advance the efforts of social and racial justice in our country, we are making a donation to Color Of Change: A progressive nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization that works to end practices that unfairly hold Black people back, and champion solutions that move us all forward.”

Beyond the blackout, individual musicians and organizations took to social media to voice despair over the recent spate of killings, some also expressing anger, as well as hope for the future.

“Until we can reckon with our history and our present, we will remain afflicted with racism and my Black brothers, sisters, family and loved ones are in danger,” vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater wrote in an early Monday Instagram post that was accompanied by a Black Lives Matter logo. “I am desolate. I am afraid. I am angry. I am resolute.”

With protests over Floyd’s killing expanding across the world, U.K. nonprofit organization Tomorrow’s Warriors and Joe Armon-Jones weighed in as well. The keyboardist, who regularly performs with saxophonist Nubya Garcia and fronts his own ensembles, wrote, “The protesters are not the problem, the police are the problem.” He added, “If you disagree please don’t buy any more of my music,” in the comments of a weekend Instagram post.

Variety also reported that Universal Music Group—which includes Blue Note Records and ECM—plans to launch a companywide task force to address issues related to social justice.

After several nights of protests, some of which were followed by looting and the destruction of private property in the U.S., a music industry blackout appears only to be a first step for #TheShowMustBePaused.

“This is not just a 24-hour initiative,” said a post on its website. “We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced.” DB

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