George Floyd death: TV, radio and music industries mark ‘Blackout Tuesday’


Mistajam’s BBC 1Xtra show is one of several programs that will reflect the conversation around George Floyd’s death

By Mark Savage BBC Music reporter

Radio stations and TV channels have changed their programs to mark “Blackout Tuesday”, reflecting on George Floyd’s death in police custody.

BBC Radio 1Xtra is hosting a series of discussions and debates in support of the black community, with song choices that reflect black pride and identity.

Many record labels and music stars have gone quiet to observe the initiative.

MTV will go silent for eight minutes – the length of time a white police officer knelt on Mr Floyd’s neck.

The gesture will be replicated on other channels including VH1 and Comedy Central, while 4 Music will pause its output once an hour throughout the day.

There will also be moments of reflection on BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2, while commercial radio stations including Kiss, Magic, and Absolute Radio are observing a social media blackout “to show that racism of any kind cannot be tolerated”.

TV daytime show This Morning briefly went dark, showing a black screen with the words “Black Lives Matter”.

Apple Music’s Zane Lowe tweeted that he wouldn’t host his radio show, saying he stands “united with his black and brown friends and colleagues”.

“I will not be on radio. I will be taking part in Blackout Tuesday, listening, learning, and looking for solutions to fight racial inequality,” the DJ added.

Apple’s iTunes store and its streaming service Apple Music have replaced their usual carousels of new music and playlists with a slide stating: “This moment calls upon us all to speak and act against racism and injustice of all kinds.”

Listeners are then directed to a livestream of the Beats 1 radio station, where the music is focusing on themes of black empowerment and civil rights. All of the service’s usual tracks are still available through the search function, however.

Apple Music homepage on 2nd June, 2020
Apple Music has replaced its regular carousel of new music and playlists with a simple message

Spotify, meanwhile, has blacked out the artwork for several of its most prominent playlists, including Today’s Hits and Rap Caviar, and has inserted a silence of eight minutes and 46 seconds into select podcasts and playlists “as a solemn acknowledgment for the length of time that George Floyd was suffocated”.

Provoking change’

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 workweek,” 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.

All three major record labels – Universal, Sony and Warner Music, whose combined annual revenues exceed $16bn (£12.75bn) – signed up to the initiative, as did many independent labels, the Glastonbury Festival, and event organizers Live Nation.

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 criticized the initiative’s lack of clarity and direction, dismissing it as “virtue signaling”.

“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 apologized 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.”


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