Labels, artists and DSPs join campaign to protect Black art


There has been a growing wave of concern and anger within the music industry about how Black artists’ lyrics have been used as evidence against them in US courtrooms. Now a host of labels, artists, streaming services and civil rights organisations have come together to express those views in an open letter to legislators.

The letter has been signed by all three major labels, BMG, Kobalt, Spotify, TikTok, YouTube Music, Tidal, Audiomack, Deezer, Live Nation, AEG Presents, SoundCloud, Quality Control and a who’s who of artists (50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Camila Cabello, Coldplay, Drake, Jack Harlow, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, Megan Thee Stallion, Post Malone, Travis Scott and many more.)

WMG, whose senior execs Kevin Liles and Julie Greenwald have been at the forefront of the protests this year, drafted and published the letter yesterday.

“Rappers are storytellers, creating entire worlds populated by complex characters who can play both hero and villain. But more than any other art form, rap lyrics are essentially being used as confessions in an attempt to criminalize Black creativity and artistry,” claimed the letter.

It cites a current trial in Georgia of members of the Young Stoner Life label, with allegations that they are a criminal gang that “rely heavily on the artists’ lyrics… The use of lyrics against artists in this way is un-American and simply wrong.”

“Beyond the obvious disregard for free speech and creative expression protected by the First Amendment, this racially targeted practice punishes already marginalized communities and their stories of family, struggle, survival and triumph.”

The letter is a powerful statement of unity from the music industry, with the aim of influencing individuals within the courts system and legislative bodies alike. “If prosecutors are unwilling to end this practice on their own, then laws need to be passed that end this flagrant abuse,” said Liles.

Written by: Stuart Dredge