President Joe Biden’s proclamation on June as Black Music Appreciation Month, issued just a few weeks ago, succinctly summarized the richness and strength of our cultural contribution, and its need to be recognized. He also set out an agenda that pushes the nation to accomplish that: “We must rededicate ourselves to rooting out systemic racism from every part of our society, and work together to advance racial justice and equity.” But what does rededication entail?
Recorded music is one of America’s most remarkable intellectual global contributions, and at its core, American music is Black music. From blues, gospel, jazz, country and rhythm and blues, to house, rock-and-roll and hip-hop, Black artists are the frequent inventors, cornerstone and backbone of musical genres and the recording industry. Despite this objective fact, Black people in the recording industry – artists, producers, songwriters, managers and executives – are more likely to receive less, ask for less, be remembered less and be credited far less than their white counterparts.
The slavery mindset is alive and well in the profession. Black artists have historically been cheated and denied ownership of their masters, voices, copyrights and trademarks, often through bad contracts that took advantage of a lack of financial literacy.