A little over a year ago, the music industry joined the swarm of solidarity showcases led by corporate entities during the Black Lives Matter uprisings in 2020, most notably in response to the murder of George Floyd. Using the hashtags #BlackoutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused, artists were encouraged to hold off on releasing new music and amplify the fact that music corporations—which profited largely from Black people—must be held accountable.
The Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC), which was established last June to keep track of the music industry’s efforts, has released its first annual report titled Music Industry Action Report Card, written by Naima Cochrane. The report consists of five sections and has an ultimate goal to provide “a 360-degree view of the industry and is acknowledged and respected as a standard and official tool of accountability.”
So how did the music industry do? Are they on the honor roll or failing? Overall, it seems they’re as mediocre as the white men who lead most American industries.
Billboard further reports:
Section four reveals the grades that BMAC assigned to the major labels, publishing companies, Recording Academy, DSPs, live music firms and talent agencies in assessing their efforts to foster sustainable change between June 2020 and June 2021. Factoring into those scores are assessments that BMAC made in four areas: (1) initial corporate statements and commitment; (2) company representation on a senior executive level; (3) executive and follow-up on commitments and pledges; (4) additional actions and/or plans that lead to sustainable, impactful change in structures and systems.
Among the major label groups, not one received an A in any of the four areas. For instance, Sony Music earned B’s for representation, execution/follow-up and additional actions (including forgiving un-recouped accounts of artists signed before 2009) but a C in initial corporate statement and commitment for lack of “public news about earlier disbursements by Sony U.S.” through its global justice fund prior to the company’s announced third round of giving in May.
Despite Black executive vps and presidents at its Warner Records and Atlantic divisions, Warner Music Group scored a D in company representation. Noted BMAC, “According to Warner’s corporate structure included on its website, there are no Black executives at the company who report directly to WMG chairman Stephen Cooper, and none with ultimate authority and discretion.”
“As important as it is to hire Black DEI executives, and as happy as we are to see these executives supported, it is not enough,” BMAC co-president Binta N. Brown told Billboard. “Where are the Black COOs, CFOs? Where are the Black executives with genuine autonomy and discretion? We must add more Black people to company boards and corporate governance. Live got off a bit easy because in a year with no touring there wasn’t adequate data. So we will be looking to ensure there are Black headliners, especially Black women, increases in the number of Black promoters and venue operators and the list goes on.”
Amid the uprisings of the Black community, showings of solidarity from “woke allies” appeared to solely consist of empty gestures such as social media posts (those womp-womp Hollywood black boxes, for example) or pat-on-the-back promises that weren’t kept. Overall, Brown believes the actual changes made have been “surface.” “They appear to be just enough as opposed to manifesting a deep, internal churning and transformational change leading toward true equity,” she noted. “And so many of the grades are merely passing. When it comes to justice, average isn’t good enough.”