An array of artists, producers, songwriters, managers, record label representatives, attorneys, and other music executives formed the nonprofit Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) on Monday. In alliance with #TheShowMustBePaused, the group wants to ensure that the music business — which is arguably kept afloat by black music and black creators — continues to combat systematic racism beyond a fleeting moment of uproar and activism.
In an open letter to colleagues, the coalition said it was inspired by recent efforts from players like Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony Music, Apple, YouTube, BMG, and will work to ensure continual efforts, with an official plan coming within the next 30 days. “Our highest priority at this moment is to meet with each company’s CEO, senior management and your newly formed foundation boards to mutually develop a plan to address the deeply rooted systemic racism in our industry,” the coalition said, adding that it will examine “inequities in the treatment of black artists, the recruitment, advancement and salary parity of black executives, and a general analysis of how your company will make things right by black artists, executives and the greater community.” The coalition also aims to give the black community a say in how funds are distributed.
“The music industry unfortunately has not been immune to the systemic racism that plagues our country,” BMAC founding member Binta Brown, who oversees much of Chance the Rapper’s music-related strategies, tells Rolling Stone. “Fixing our society requires addressing the issues in music, media and entertainment, and it requires all of us working together. Our aim is to harness the power of music and activate our community to effectuate real, positive systemic change not only within the music business, but for our artists, black communities, and society as a whole.”
So far, 160 artists have signed onto the coalition’s goals. Billie Eilish, Cardi B, Harry Styles, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, Post Malone, Snoop Dogg, and Travis Scott — to name a few — have all pledged their support.
Other leaders of BMAC include branding expert and former Island Def Jam marketing executive Ashaunna Ayars; G-Eazy co-manager and co-CEO of The Revels Group Jamil Davis; Columbia Records’ Co-head of urban music Shawn Holiday; 50/50 Music Group Management CEO Prophet; Earth, Wind & Fire manager Damien Smith; Right Hand and Keep Cool Records co-founder Courtney Stewart (Khalid, Normani); and veteran music executive Caron Veazy. LVRN founder/CEO Tunde Balogun, who works closely with Interscope Records and has helped launch the careers of Summer Walker and 6LACK, is also a founding member, a rep tells Rolling Stone.
Industry veterans Clarence Avant (a.k.a. the “Godfather of black music”), longtime manager Irving Azoff (who’s worked with everyone from the Eagles to Nicki Minaj), renowned producer Quincy Jones, and attorney Ron Sweeney make up the BAMC advisory board.
Other industry players are involved as partners, though it’s not yet clear what role they will take. Artist managers on board include Adam Leber and Gee Roberson (Lil Nas X), Andrew Gertler (Shawn Mendes), Anthony Saleh (Future), Andrew McInnes (Diplo), David Stromberg (Travis Scott), Danny Rukasin (Billie Eilish), Dre London (Post Malone), Jeffrey Azoff (Harry Styles), Moe Shalizi (Marshmello), Sal X Co (The Weeknd), and Ty Stiklorius (John Legend).
“I’ve always been an advocate for antiracist initiatives and am honored to be a part of the Black Music Action Coalition,” music attorney and BMAC partner Dina LaPolt, who’s known for her work defending the rights of Tupac, 21 Savage, and more, tells Rolling Stone. “It’s an inspiring, much-needed, long-overdue, and positive change in the music industry.”
BMAC sees itself as an advocacy and trade organization, but not necessarily a union. A representative tells Rolling Stone that the group has not asked founding members to pay fees and does not plan to do so; instead, organizers have been funding operations out of the pockets of willing volunteers. However, the rep says, the group will actively seek contributions later on to grow and sustain the team.
“We must work together on this,” says Brown. “Systemic problems require systemic solutions, and that means each of us must be active in working together to create a just, fair and equitable society for all.”