Blackout Tuesday: Music industry observes day of reflection in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protests

Roisin O'Connor
Top left clockwise: Beyonce and Jay-Z, Black Lives Matter protestors in New Zealand, Rihanna, a Black Lives Matter protest in New York City: Rex/Getty Images

Some of the leading names in the music industry are participating in “Blackout Tuesday” amid calls for change in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Protests erupted around the US last week after a video emerged showing a white Minnesota police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis.

The Blackout Tuesday initiative was launched by Atlantic Records marketing executive Jamila Thomas and Platoon's Brianna Agyemang, and has since been followed by hundreds of artists including Radiohead, producer Quincy Jones, Eminem, Billie Eilish, Britney Spears and The Rolling Stones.

“Tuesday 2 June is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week,” Agyemang and Thomas wrote in a statement.

“The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of black people accountable.”

They have subsequently posted several calls to action, including a reading list called Anti-Racism Resources and links to community action groups.

In solidarity with the black community, members of the global music industry have pledged “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” under the hashtag #THESHOWMUSTBEPAUSED.

Columbia Records chairman Ron Perry posted last week: “We stand together with the Black community against all forms of racism, bigotry, and violence. Now, more than ever we must use our voices to speak up and challenge the injustices all around us.”

Sony Music, Universal, Interscope, Motown, Kobalt and many more have followed suit.

Rihanna is among the artists who have spoken of the “devastation, anger [and] sadness” they have felt since Floyd's death.

“Watching my people get murdered and lynched day after day pushed me to a heavy place in my heart,” Rihanna wrote.

Beyoncé filmed an Instagram video urging fans to sign a petition seeking “justice for George Floyd”.

“We all witnessed his murder in broad daylight…We're broken and we're disgusted,” she said. “We cannot normalise this pain”.

Stars including J Cole, Tinashe, Nick Cannon, Ariana Grande and Halsey were among those to join protestors across the US over the weekend.

Music mogul Jay-Z has been speaking directly with Minnesota governor Tim Walz as part of his fight for justice.

The rapper and producer issued a statement about the phone call with Walz via his label Roc Nation’s official Twitter account, in which he thanked Walz for bringing attorney general Keith Ellison on to take over the case.

“Earlier today, Governor Walz mentioned having a human conversation with me – a dad and a black man in pain,” he wrote.

“Yes, I am human, a father and a black man in pain and I am not the only one. This is just a first step. I am more determined to fight for justice than any fight my would-be oppressors may have.”

Jay-Z also urged politicians to “do the right thing and prosecute all those responsible for the murder of George Floyd to the fullest extent of the law”.

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