How the Black Music Action Coalition is making the music industry better for Black creatives and executives.

By Audra Heinrichs.

It began with a black square. 

On June 2, Instagram feeds went dark, after people across the globe posted a black square in conjunction with the #TheShowMustBePaused initiative, also known as #BlackoutTuesday. The movement faced criticism from activists and organizers, as the #BLM hashtag became flooded with black squares as opposed to useful information regarding actions and resources. Although the response was ever-so-slightly misguided, it was overwhelming. 

Originally, the campaign was conceptualized by two Black music executives, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, in the hopes that fellow industry professionals would “take a beat for an honest, reflective, and productive conversation,” regarding the many ways systemic racism manifests itself, while paying tribute to Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, among others.

Just weeks later, the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) was formed in alliance with #TheShowMustBePaused. The coalition, led by a committee of music executives like Ashaunna Ayars, formerly the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Island Def Jam Music Group and Warner Bros., and Shawn “Tubby” Holiday, a longtime publishing executive who currently runs Columbia’s urban music department. The advisory committee is comprised of fellow industry veterans Clarence Avant, Irving Azoff, Quincy Jones, and Ron Sweeney. 

According to its website, the coalition champions Black artists, songwriters, producers, managers, agents, executives, lawyers, and other industry professionals by coming together to address how leaders at music labels, organizations, and companies can do better by Black artists, executives, and the communities at large. 

In an open letter to colleagues, the coalition outlined a plan to meet with the CEOs and senior management of every major music label to implement tangible changes to further enrich and advance the work and livelihoods of Black employees and artists.

BMAC also seeks to be a resource for its growing network of 200+ members, disseminating vital information and furthering the conversation on racial justice and equity through policy, philanthropy, and voter education. Currently a nonprofit 501c6 trade organization, BMAC is funded entirely by its executive committee but will reportedly begin soliciting contributions to fund basic operations and expenses soon.

Today, nearly 200 artists including Cardi B, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, Travis Scott, and more have pledged support toward the coalition’s goals.