Musings: The Show Must Be Paused — And Then What?

Musings: The Show Must Be Paused — And Then What?


Over the past few days, there’s been quite a bit about of talk about The Show Must Be Paused movement. Founded by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two sisters working in the music industry, the initiative was founded as a response against the long-standing racism and inequality that exists in the larger world and within the music industry itself.

So tomorrow, June 2nd, The Show Must Be Paused, the initiative advocates for the intentional disruption of the workweek.  “It is a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collective take to support the Black community,” the initiative’s founders write in a statement on their homepage.

“The  music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is o hold the industry at large, including major corporations and their partners, who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable. To that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the Black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent,” Thomas and Agyemang continue.

“This is not a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced.”

Some of what these sisters are saying is spot on. I’ve worked in the music industry — as a journalist, photographer and blogger — for close to 15 years. There is rampant inequity in the industry: look at the editorial staff at sites like Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Rolling Stone and countless others. How many black faces will you see? Not many. Considering that every contemporary style and genre of music can trace its origins back to a Black artist, isn’t that weird? How is that possible when hip-hop is the lingua franca of those about 55 and under? How many Blacks are in positions of authority at labels — particularly at the majors?

Doing what I’ve done for as long as I have, I could almost count the number of Black publicists I’ve worked with on one hand. Of course, my experience is a little different because I cover quite a it of rock and electronic music but the larger point remains — I rarely see faces like mine.

But I have several problems with the initiative. I’ve read their statement multiple times and I can’t make sense of it. Who is this really aimed at? What are we attempting to do here — and how does that create the much-needed positive change within the industry and in our larger world? How does this help

I’d suggest that my colleagues should be championing and amplifying the work of the countless Black artists, Black journalists, Black photographers, who help keep them employed and make their companies money. Champion the Black professionals within the industry, too. Support and champion Black-owned businesses. Support and champion Black labels, too. And we should do that for our loved ones in the Latinx community, the LGBQTIA+ community, the Asian Diaspora. I can tell you that as a one-man band operation, every retweet, every eyeball on this site and these words mean something — spiritually and more importantly, financially.

Each of us will be figuring out what is the best way forward over the upcoming months. But what I will say is that I’m proud of these two sisters for getting an entire industry to listen and take stock. It ain’t perfect; but it’s a start.