Sony Music CEO Rob Stringer (pictured with Pharrell Williams in January) has detailed his company’s plans to observe “Blackout Tuesday,” an industry-wide initiative to stand in solidarity with the black community — and in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hand of a police officer, in which all music business will essentially “pause” as per the hashtag, #TheShowMustBePaused.
The movement was created by Atlantic Records exec Jamila Thomas and Platoon’s Brianna Agyemang who on June 1 laid out a plan of action and provided relevant links. “Tuesday, June 2nd is meant to intentionally disrupt the work week,” they wrote. “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.”
That missive prompted music industry leaders to hold all-hands meetings and Zoom calls with their staff, allowing employees to speak freely about issues of race, both in their own experiences and as it relates to greater popular culture. Others, like Stringer, have openly polled their own executives on what would be appropriate during this time.
At Sony, which is headquartered in Tokyo, the “Blackout” will be recognized globally and involve a day of town halls and “conversations.” Among those scheduled to speak are filmmaker Spike Lee; Ben Crump, the attorney representing the families of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor; artists Kane Brown and Kirk Franklin; the head of the new National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, H. Beecher Hicks, III; and activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham.
Stringer, a native of the U.K., has run Sony Music Entertainment as its CEO since 2017. In September 2018, Jon Platt was named chairman of Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which came under Stringer’s purview as well. Platt, the highest ranking black executive at a global music company, wrote a powerful op-ed this morning calling for change.
Read Stringer’s memo in full below:
As promised, I am following up with a few updates regarding our plans for Blackout Tuesday globally tomorrow and immediate actions we are taking as a company to reckon with and respond to the impact of recent events on our people and communities. I am sending you this email now because it is already Tuesday in some of our countries.
First, I want to recognize the tremendous hurt and grief so many are feeling in this moment, and the disproportionate burden being carried by our Black community. While the news has been focused on the U.S., racial injustice is not just an American issue—from Paris to Rio to Johannesburg, we have seen the horrifying toll racist acts have taken on communities of color, and our values demand that we not only speak out, but act. As a global company, we have a chance to make an impact around the world, and we are engaging all of our teams in these efforts.
And, this is, of course, Black Music Month so while we have talks and screenings that have already been scheduled, we will do much more to acknowledge the larger context in which all of us are living.
As it relates to Blackout Tuesday, Sony Music’s observance must be meaningful. We are dedicating the day to education, reflection, and action in support of, and solidarity with, the Black community. I know all of your teams have been busy planning a range of activities—from town halls to breakout sessions to conversations with artists, organizers, and movement leaders.
Confirmed guests include Filmmaker Spike Lee; Ben Crump, the attorney representing the families of George Floyd, Ahmad Arbery, and Breonna Taylor; Kane Brown; Henry Hicks, head of the new National Museum of African American Music in Nashville; Kirk Franklin; Activist Brittany Packnett Cunningham and more. And, perhaps most importantly conversations amongst ourselves as to how we can be better together.
Representatives from our employee resource group, HUE, will join some of your activities and will be available to speak with employees throughout the day as well. HUE’s mission is to promote the diversity of people of color, while also bringing awareness to our large influence to popular culture – specifically in the media industry.
Of course, Tuesday is just one day. As a company with a long legacy of shaping culture and uplifting communities, we are committed to be a part of long-term change, and our efforts—both internally and externally—remain ongoing. I am grateful to everyone who has sent thoughtful suggestions for ways Sony Music can continue to positively affect these issues and will share more updates as I have them.
After all of your suggestions about how we can engage in these important topics, many people pointed to support we can give to specific organizations. I am pleased that starting today, we will extend throughout the month of June our Giving Tuesday initiative that we began earlier this year to match your donations to organizations working for social justice around the world. We encourage you to donate when you receive the email in the next few hours.
In partnership with outside experts, we are expanding our mental health support and have arranged for immediate resources to be made available to everyone for grief counseling. And, soon you’ll get more details about a group meditation session we have put together for tomorrow. I encourage you to utilize these resources, and also to check in directly with your colleagues and teammates who may be feeling especially vulnerable at this time.
In addition to these important activities, we encourage you and your teams to observe a moment of silence at 9am your local time (1pm in Australia and New Zealand) in memory of all those who have lost their lives to racial violence and injustice.
As a company that values tolerance and inclusivity, it is also worth pointing out that in many parts of the world, June is also Pride month. We will be participating in a schedule of events that are extremely important to our employees, artists and communities and you’ll see those come through over the next few days.
While for some of us, the last several weeks have been a wake-up call, for so many others, as my friend and colleague Jon Platt pointed out in his op-ed, racial injustice has always been a daily reality. All of us need to recognize our role and do our part—with our words and our actions—to create the better world in which we all want to live, regardless of how uncomfortable the dialog might be.
Thank you to all who have participated during an already challenging time to help us with these efforts. As always, my virtual door and inbox are open to you to share your thoughts, feedback, and ideas with me.