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BMG Promises to Review All Contracts ‘Mindful of the Music Industry’s Shameful Treatment of Black Artists’

Hartwig Masuch, Geschäftsführer von BMG Rights
Daniel Naupold/picture-alliance/

In the wake of the protests around George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, many music companies have promised to donate thousands or millions of dollars to Black-empowering organizations. Yet the music industry has a long history of unfair business arrangements, particularly with artists of color, and BMG has taken the music industry’s recent initiatives a step further by pledging to review all of its contracts “Mindful of the music industry’s record of shameful treatment of black artists.”

While the move is in many respects easier for the German-based company, which launched its music division in 2008 and has relatively few Black artists in its roster, than it is for U.S.-based labels whose catalogs go back many decades, BMG has acquired many catalogs, such as Sanctuary, Mute, S-Curve, Broken Bow, the reggae label Trojan and others, that it promises to vet contractually.

In a memo to staff from BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch earlier this week, the executive wrote, “Mindful of the music industry’s record of shameful treatment of black artists, we have begun a review of all historic record contracts. While BMG only began operations in 2008, we have acquired many older catalogues. If there are any inequities or anomalies, we will create a plan to address them. Within 30 days.”

Masuch also promised to diversify the company’s staff. “We are not as diverse as we could be,” he wrote. “Despite numerous initiatives over the years, we have not made sufficient progress. We pledge to do so and will produce a plan to do so. Within 30 days.”

He concludes in the memo, which was dated Tuesday, “Blackout Tuesday was an important moment of reflection. The real test for us all is now to come up with a credible plan for change. We are committed to do so.” Read the memo in full below.

BLACKOUT TUESDAY: ONE WEEK ON

We are determined that last week’s action is more than a black square in a social media post or a series of slogans.

We need to play our part in addressing historical injustices inflicted on black people.

Last Wednesday we embarked on a journey designed to make lasting change.

We know we cannot change the world by ourselves, but we are determined to change our part of it. For the better.

Mindful of the music industry’s record of shameful treatment of black artists, we have begun a review of all historic record contracts. While BMG only began operations in 2008, we have acquired many older catalogues. If there are any inequities or anomalies, we will create a plan to address them. Within 30 days.

In common with many music companies, at BMG the reality is that black people are not as well represented as they are in the populations in which we operate. We are not as diverse as we could be. Despite numerous initiatives over the years, we have not made sufficient progress. We pledge to do so and will produce a plan to do so. Within 30 days.

Racism and social injustice exists in all 12 countries in which we operate. We need to play our part in tackling it. Each BMG office will create a plan to do so. Within 30 days.

Blackout Tuesday was an important moment of reflection. The real test for us all is now to come up with a credible plan for change.

We are committed to do so.

#BlackLivesMatter

Your BMG Team