Major streaming services including Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and YouTube Music have pledged their support for Blackout Tuesday (also called “Black Out Tuesday”) with special playlists, moments of silence, and social media blackouts. The campaign is aimed at protesting police violence and racism as well as honoring George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police has sparked universal outcry and demonstrations in US cities and around the world.
Spotify will add an 8 minute and 46-second moment of silence on Blackout Tuesday to select playlists and podcasts on the platform. The length of the moment of silence is equal to the amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd down by the neck with his knee, resulting in Floyd’s death.
Apple adds a program to support Blackout Tuesday
Apple Music’s regular Beats 1 radio programming has been cancelled 9to5Mac reports, and it is instead promoting a streaming station that celebrates music produced by black artists. Its regular recommendation and radio tabs are showing a single playlist called “For Us, By Us.” There’s also a full page takeover that’s being shown to some users, featuring a message of support for the protest movement. However, users can still access their music libraries and Apple Music catalog as normal.
Amazon Music also tweeted in support of the Blackout Tuesday movement, adding that it will be pausing all social media for the day. YouTube Music issued a tweet of support from its official account. YouTube previously pledged to donate $1 million to the Center for Policing Equity.
This part of a broader movement in the music industry. A number of record labels are participating in Black Out Tuesday following a call to action from Atlanta Records marketing chief Jamila Thomas and former Atlantic employee Brianna Agyemang that started with the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. ViacomCBS is also participating in a blackout lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds across its network and cable channels starting 5PM ET on Monday.
“June 2nd is Black Out Tuesday, a day of collective disconnect from work meant to help people reflect and come together in support of the Black community. On this day — and every day — Spotify will support our employees, friends, partners, artists, and creators in the fight against racism, injustice, and inequity,” Spotify wrote in a blog post. “We are using the power of our platform to stand with Black creators, amplify their voices, and accelerate meaningful conversation and long-needed change. As a result, you’ll notice some changes on Spotify starting at 12:01 AM on Tuesday.”
As well as pausing all social media publication, Spotify said it would replace headline podcast and playlist images and logos with a blacked out image, and more prominently promote black artists and podcasters with specially curated playlists and its existing Black History is Now hub. The company is also matching financial donations made by employees to organizations fighting racism and injustice.
Provoking change on Black Tuesday
Music companies and musicians around the world have adopted Tuesday as a day of reflection and protest in the wake of Mr Floyd’s death last week in Minneapolis.
Katy Perry posted a plain black square and wrote: “I hope that #BlackoutTuesday gives us all (especially in the music industry) an opportunity to take what we’re learning and put it into action on Wednesday, and every day going forward.”
Rihanna said her Fenty beauty label would not conduct any business on Tuesday. On Friday, a number of companies and artists began sharing a statement posted under the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, calling for “a day to disconnect from work and reconnect with our community” and “an urgent step of action to provoke accountability and change”.
The initiative was started by Atlantic Records marketing executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, then shared by hundreds of artists including Billie Eilish, Britney Spears, the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, producer Quincy Jones and Eminem.
“Tuesday, June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week,” wrote Agyemang and Thomas.
“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.
Interscope Records also vowed to stop releasing new music for a week, while many others donated money to the George Floyd Memorial Fund.
But some people in the music industry criticised the initiative’s lack of clarity and direction, dismissing it as “virtue signalling”.
“I love you all, but this music industry shutdown thing feels tone deaf to me,” wrote indie musician Bon Iver on Twitter, although he later apologised for “calling out people when they are on the same side as you”.
Indie labels Father/Daughter Records and Don Giovanni also said they did not plan to observe the blackout.
“If BLM [Blacks Lives Matter] calls for the music industry to take action, we will,” wrote the latter on its Twitter page. “But I have no interest in supporting major label record executive white guilt day.”
However, Agyemang and Thomas have stressed the blackout is just the beginning of a larger campaign.
“This is not just a 24-hour initiative,” they wrote. “We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced.