SPREADING AWARENESS OR CREATING SILENCE
On Tuesday, June 2, music industry executives and artists initiated an artistic Blackout on social media platforms in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery resulting from police brutality incidents. All three major record labels (Sony Music, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music) released statements, saying they would take part in “Blackout Tuesday” to stand in solidarity with the Black community.
Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas, senior marketing directors at Atlantic Records, stood as leaders and creators of the campaign, stating the purpose was to “intentionally disrupt the workweek.” They said, “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.” On this day, major record labels used the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused, indicating the opportunity and need for fans to educate themselves on the systematic racism that has affected the United States and how to take action against this issue.
Many artists and fans of the music industry engaged in this campaign by posting a blacked-out tile square in order to interrupt feeds and algorithms, thus making the Blackout the sole post on platforms to raise awareness to all people. The blacked-out square represented a sign of solidarity with the Black community, and a way to drive attention solely to the Black Lives Matter movement and the racial injustices America faces.
Almost every post at the beginning of the day was a blacked-out screen, and many were happy to see so many individuals involved in the campaign and becoming active. However, many expressed discontent with the campaign, as they felt it wasn’t adhering to the intended efforts of Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas. For one, many felt the black squares were overloading social platforms, and stopping the spread of useful information that supporters needed in order to sign pledges, donate, and petition. In addition, many placed the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on their post, instead of #BlackOutTuesday, making it almost more difficult for activists to find resources to support the Black community. Others felt the activism was only performative. Their arguments were that people were willing to simply post a square and a hashtag, but reluctant to speak out against the events.
While the Blackout may not have been carried out by all social media users successfully, it did encourage those who were vocal to urge users to remove the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag and instead include valuable links and programs that people could utilize to make real change. Jack Antonoff, a popular producer, voiced his disagreement on Instagram of the black square. He then urged his fans to donate to organizations and promised matched donations, to fans who reached out to him directly.
Although the Blackout did create controversy, it served as a way for people to wake up to the issues, even if people disagreed with the black square. The backlash of the black square urged users to post about programs, mental health resources, petitions, and pledges in order to support the Black community during this very tragic time in America.