Over the weekend, music industry execs Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang called on fellow industry members to protest police violence against black people by pausing operations for the day. The pair created the site and hashtag #theshowmustbepaused, which spread quickly throughout social media as people looked for a way to offer solidarity with nationwide and international protests.
The call has transformed in a larger movement, among individuals and companies seeking to respond to the killing of George Floyd and other black Americans at the hands of police.
The Musicians’ Union stands with our Black members and all Black communities against all forms of racism, violence and discrimination. When we say "behind every musician”, we mean it. #BlackLivesMatter #TheShowMustBePaused pic.twitter.com/BHyFsqeOso
— Musicians' Union (@WeAreTheMU) June 1, 2020
"Tuesday, June 2 is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week,” the site explains. "It's a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community. 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.”
Perhaps the most visible manifestation of the movement are the black squares that have begun to populate Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites. While evocative, the visual has been met with criticism of its own. In particular, some have taken issue with the presence of the squares accompanied by the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag.
stop posting black squares under the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Instagram. it is intentionally and unintentionally hiding critical information we are using on the ground and online. pic.twitter.com/EIS44aDXXd
— y’all don’t read the room 🥴 (@anthoknees) June 2, 2020
“Stop posting black squares under the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Instagram,” writer Anthony James Williams noted on Twitter. “It is intentionally and unintentionally hiding critical information we are using on the ground and online.”
The chief concern is that a sea of black squares are drowning out much of social media’s use as both a lifeline for many on the ground, as well as a historical document of the protests. In many cases, the issue seems to be an unintentional hijacking of the feed.
Music-related tech companies have begun to embrace the movement, as well, days after many penned open letters about Lloyd’s death and subsequent protests. Yesterday, Spotify outlined changes for the 24-hour period. The list includes black logos and headers on a dozen or so playlists and podcasts, including Today’s Top Hits and RapCaviar. Some podcasts and playlists will also sport an 8:46 silent track, referencing the amount of time Floyd was suffocated.
— YouTube Music (@youtubemusic) June 1, 2020
Apple Music noted its own participation on Twitter. The service has canceled its Beat 1 radio schedule, in favor of one focused on black music. YouTube Music and Tidal also posted messages of solidarity on social media. The latter writes:
"We are heartbroken and furious at the murder of George Floyd and so many others, and fully support the Black community as it expresses its pain and anger. Recent events have only strengthened our resolve to loudly reject persistent racism and bigotry."
In solidarity with the Black community - our colleagues, artists, songwriters, musicians, producers, and music listeners, Amazon Music will observe Black Out Tuesday to listen, learn, and find more ways we can act in the ongoing fight against racism. pic.twitter.com/HA1Urd9n4c
— Amazon Music (@amazonmusic) June 1, 2020
Amazon Music also noted that it will not be posting to social today, in honor of the event. Amazon, notably, received pushback after its early messages of solidarity. The ACLU in particular took the company to task for its role in providing facial recognition technology to police departments. The conflict is certainly worth noting as corporations attempt to walk the line of solidarity and crass co-opting of social movements.
On Monday, 10 Viacom media outlets, including Comedy Central, MTV and CMT, marked the day with an eight-minute-and-46-second screen featuring the words “I Can’t Breathe,” accompanied by the sounds of struggle.