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Music business steps up after Black Out Tuesday

After the events of Black Out Tuesday, which saw music companies worldwide down tools on 2 June in solidarity with anti-racism protestors, a number of firms have announced details of follow-up initiatives intended to deliver lasting change in both their companies and across the wider music business.

As previously reported, both Live Nation, which donated to the Equal Justice Initiative, and Warner Music Group, which established a US$100 million fund to donate to charitable causes, are backing up their words with concrete actions – but they’re far from alone, with other live and recorded music businesses similarly making good on Tuesday’s promises.

ATC Live
London-based booking agency ATC Live, whose roster includes Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Johnny Marr and Metronomy, on Wednesday published a list of eight changes it is making to ensure its agents “do better as a team” in future.

They include committing to improving diversity among its staff and artist roster; matching donations made towards charitable causes by employees; and encouraging artists to use their public platforms as a means of promoting “positive change”.

Universal Music Group
Recorded music giant UMG, which also owns a number of festivals through its U-Live division, has announced plans for a ‘taskforce for meaningful change’ that will increase the company’s “efforts in areas such as inclusion and social justice”.

In a letter to employees, the group’s co-chairs, UMG chief counsel Jeff Harleston and Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam, explain that the $25m ‘change fund’ will focus on six main areas: ‘aid/charitable giving’; ‘global’ (initiatives to increase equality and inclusion across UMG worldwide); ‘internal/institutional change’; ‘legislative/public policy’ (ie lobbying for political change); ‘partners’ (working with); and ‘programming/curation’ celebrating the achievements of black creators.

“We know our community, colleagues, artists and partners are suffering. We feel it and we’re living it, but we’re also energized [sic] to fight for change,” say Harleston and Habtemariam. “We’re asking for you to lock arms with us – we want to hear your voice. Now is the time to be heard!”

Creative Artists Agency has made a new appointment to its company board, in a move it says – along with its participation in Black Out Tuesday and the return this year of its Amplify leadership summit, which “inspires and connects multicultural leaders” – underscores its “commitment to diversity and inclusion”.

Lisa Joseph Metelus, CAA Sports’ head of basketball marketing and servicing, is the latest addition to the agency’s new leadership structure, the CAA Board, which was established earlier this year.

“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world,” says CAA president Richard Lovett. “Lisa is a force. Beyond being a proven leader in one of the most successful divisions of CAA Sports, she is among the most accomplished and respected executives in the industry. She has a powerful voice, both smart and visionary, and we look forward to further amplifying her insights and perspective across the agency.”

“It is critical that our board better reflects the real world”

In addition to its symbolic actions on Black Out Tuesday, music streaming service Spotify says it is matching all financial donations made by its employees to organisations “focused on the fight against racism, injustice, inequity, and [for] driving meaningful change.”

This 19 June (or Juneteenth, the holiday marking the end of slavery in the US), direct-to-fan music and merch platform Bandcamp will donate 100% of its cut of sales to civil rights organisation the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

The company will also provide a further $30,000 annually to organisations campaigning for racial justice and creating opportunities for people of colour.

“The current moment is part of a long-standing, widespread and entrenched system of structural oppression of people of color [sic], and real progress requires a sustained and sincere commitment to political, social, and economic racial justice and change,” reads a blog post announcing the measures. “We’ll continue to promote diversity and opportunity through our mission to support artists, the products we build to empower them, […] how we operate as a team, and who and how we hire.”

Google’s YouTube says it has made a $1 million donation to the Center for Policing Equity, a think tank that works with police forces across the US to address discriminatory behaviour.

“We stand in solidarity against racism and injustice and are pledging $1m in support of efforts to stop it,” says the company.

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Musicians lobby Spotify as Bandcamp shows support

Artists are asking Spotify to triple the amount it pays out per stream, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to put the brakes on live events.

An online petition initiated by US musician Evan Greer demands that Spotify triple its royalty rates permanently “to put urgently needed cash into artists’ pockets”. The campaign also calls on the streaming giant to make a $500,000 donation to the Sweet Relief Covid-19 fund, which is dedicated to providing financial support to musicians.

The pressure on Spotify comes as online music marketplace and discovery platform Bandcamp waives its revenue share on sales for 24 hours until midnight (PT) on 21 March, dedicating 100% of proceeds from music and merch to artists. The site, which has generated $10.3 million for artists in the past 30 days, typically takes a cut of between 15% and 10% on all sales.

“Many artists have found merch and digital sales to be a last remaining financial lifeline”

“With the Covid-19 pandemic decimating live music and shuttering record shops, many artists have found merch and digital sales to be a last remaining financial lifeline as they confront a very real threat to their livelihoods,” reads a statement on Bandcamp’s website.

“It’s more important than ever for fans to support musicians by purchasing from them directly.”

Artists are using the platform to see exclusive merchandise from cancelled tours and make surprise releases, whereas labels are dedicating revenue from sales on the site to food banks, public health charities and musician relief funds.


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Bandcamp protests ‘Muslim ban’ with ACLU donation

Bandcamp, a platform for artists to sell tickets, music and merch direct to fans (D2F), has announced it will donate all profits this Friday to the American Civil Liberties Union in protest against US president Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Muslim ban’.

In an open letter, company founder and CEO Ethan Diamond attacks the introduction of executive order 13769, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, which bars the entry of Iraqis, Iranians, Libyans, Somalians, Sudanese, Syrians and Yemenis into the US for 90 days and has been criticised by the president’s opponents as Islamophobic.

“Like 98% of US citizens (including the president), I am the descendant of immigrants – my great-grandparents came to America from Russia and Lithuania as teenagers and worked in sweatshops until they were able to afford to bring the rest of their families over,” he writes.

“Last week’s executive order barring immigrants from seven Middle-Eastern countries from entering the US is not simply immoral, it violates the very spirit and foundation of America”

“[Almost] everyone you speak to in this country has a similar story to tell, because we are, in fact, a nation of immigrants, bound together by a shared belief in justice, equality and the freedom to pursue a better life. In this context, last week’s executive order barring immigrants and refugees from seven Middle-Eastern countries from entering the United States is not simply immoral, it violates the very spirit and foundation of America. […]

“And so all day this Friday, 3 February (starting at 12.01 am Pacific Time), for any purchase you make on Bandcamp we will be donating 100% of our share of the proceeds to the American Civil Liberties Union, who are working tirelessly to combat these discriminatory and unconstitutional actions.”

Bandcamp announced last April it had paid US$150 million to artists on the platform since its founding in 2008.

IQ spoke to promoters and agents in the Americas in November about what Trump’s shock election means for the international live music industry.


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