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Music Labels Suspend Work on 'Blackout Tuesday' in Support of George Floyd Demonstrations

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06/01/2020 | 05:47pm EDT

By Anne Steele and John Jurgensen

As protests over the death of George Floyd and others continue in cities across the country, musicians and entertainment executives are encouraging workers to take Tuesday as a chance to reflect on racism in the country, in some cases even if that means taking off work.

"As gatekeepers of the culture, it's our responsibility to not only come together to celebrate the wins, but also hold each other up during a loss," many in the music industry, including Quincy Jones, circulated in a message posted across social media.

As the demonstrations grew over the weekend, major entertainment companies, including Walt Disney Co., Netflix Inc., Spotify Technology SA and Vivendi SA's Universal Music Group issued memos to employees or gave public statements on the movement. Those efforts appeared to coalesce and grow more pronounced on Monday, as some leaders called for a "Blackout Tuesday" that would ask employees to highlight black artists or forgo sending emails or taking meetings in an effort to focus attention on the issues raised by the demonstrations. In just a few days, the music industry has had to meet an expectation by many consumers that their favorite brands or performers will weigh in on political matters.

In response to the deaths of Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others, two black female music executives, Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, put out a message with the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused urging the industry to take Tuesday to reflect. "We will not continue to conduct business as usual without regard for Black lives," they said. "Tuesday, June 2 is meant to intentionally disrupt the workweek."

"The music industry is a multibillion-dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art," the executives said. "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."

Various labels have responded to Blackout Tuesday, with some, including Universal Music Group's Capitol Music Group, pulling back on conducting any business. Interscope Records employees were asked not to send emails or have meetings tomorrow; the label will not release any music this week. Slated releases from Smokepurpp, Machine Gun Kelly, 6lack, Jessie Ware and others will be delayed.

Warner Music Group's flagship Warner Records label and publishing unit Warner Chappell will both hold town halls with artists and employees.

"This is not a day off," Sony Music Entertainment's Columbia Records shared in an Instagram post. "Instead, this is a day to reflect and figure out ways to move forward in solidarity."

Music-streaming giant Spotify said it would black out the logo and headline images, as well as promote the music of black artists, on its flagship, urban and R&B playlists and podcasts, including Today's Top Hits and RapCaviar, its influential hip-hop playlist. Some playlists and podcasts will include an 8-minute, 46-second track of silence "as a solemn acknowledgment for the length of time that George Floyd was suffocated."

"We are using the power of our platform to stand with Black creators, amplify their voices, and accelerate meaningful conversation and long-needed change," the company said.

Spotify is also encouraging its employees to take time "to reflect and educate themselves."

Other entertainment companies, including the Creative Artists Agency talent firm, said they planned to participate in Blackout Tuesday.

On Monday, about a dozen cable channels owned by ViacomCBS, from BET and MTV, to Nickelodeon and CBS Sports, went dark at 5 p.m. eastern time for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Against a black screen, a countdown clock ticked down as the words "I CAN'T BREATHE" pulsed on screen to the sound of a person inhaling and exhaling. The spot also urged viewers to take action by contacting partner organization Color of Change.

ViacomCBS also planned to participate in Blackout Tuesday and urged teams to cancel meetings and other routine business so that employees could reflect on how to "push for progress," adding that suggested activities and resources would be circulated Tuesday morning. In a memo to employees, President and Chief Executive Bob Bakish described it as "a day to focus our attention away from work and towards our community, as we stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues and loved ones in the U.S. and around the world."

--John Jurgensen contributed to this article.

Write to Anne Steele at Anne.Steele@wsj.com and John Jurgensen at john.jurgensen@wsj.com


Stocks mentioned in the article
ChangeLast1st jan.
AT HOME GROUP INC. -2.26% 6.495 Delayed Quote.20.73%
CHANGE INC. 2.38% 7750 End-of-day quote.166.51%
JUST GROUP PLC -2.54% 47.66 Delayed Quote.-38.10%
NETFLIX, INC. 3.33% 493.255 Delayed Quote.47.38%
SONY CORPORATION 0.92% 7580 End-of-day quote.2.42%
SPOTIFY TECHNOLOGY S.A. -4.27% 260.135 Delayed Quote.81.54%
THE EASTERN COMPANY 1.54% 18.48 Delayed Quote.-40.39%
THE NEW HOME COMPANY INC. 3.75% 3.3201 Delayed Quote.-31.33%
VIACOMCBS INC. 1.89% 23.695 Delayed Quote.-44.60%
VIVENDI SE 2.21% 23.6 Real-time Quote.-10.57%
WALT DISNEY COMPANY (THE) 1.68% 114.03 Delayed Quote.-22.44%
WILL GROUP, INC. 5.03% 668 End-of-day quote.-46.65%
WORLD CO., LTD. 6.68% 1596 End-of-day quote.-40.69%
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Sales 2020 67 300 M - -
Net income 2020 -114 M - -
Net Debt 2020 43 040 M - -
P/E ratio 2020 8 123x
Yield 2020 0,78%
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Nbr of Employees 223 000
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