It’s a year since the #TheShowMustBePaused movement saw the music industry down tools for the day to think about racial justice and inequality, and to make plans for the music industry’s future. Sparked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the campaign led to all three major labels setting up racial and social justice funds: $100m apiece for WMG and Sony Music, and $25m for UMG.
A year on, Vice has been asking how much of that money has been paid out to the charities and other organisations the funds were planning to support. The answer? “Warner’s fund has paid out $5.2 million in donations, a representative for the fund told Vice. Universal’s fund has paid out ‘close to $5 million,’ a company representative told Vice. Sony’s fund has paid out $25 million, a company representative told Vice’.”
That’s around $37m: around 16.4% of the promised total. The caveat to which, explained in the piece, is that the three labels did not specify a deadline by which they expected to have donated all the funds – although WMG has since said that it will be investing its over 10 years.
Executives running or involved with all three funds are interviewed in the article, stressing that their commitments are designed to be meaningful and long-term – “actually empowering the community” in the words of Dr. Menna Demessie, executive director for UMG’s Task Force for Meaningful Change. “We’re talking about literally generations of racism and systemic racism and power dynamics. This work is very deep, and it has to be thoughtful,” is how Yvonne Moore, who works with WMG’s fund, put it.
It’s an important moment to check in on the big announcements from a year ago, just as it is to explore what progress has been made on the other promises made in the wake of #TheShowMustBePaused – on creating more diversity, equality and equity within the music industry itself.