Music industry executives request removal of ‘urban’ descriptor in open letter to labels

"The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of Black people"

An open letter signed by music industry executives and addressed to record label heads has made a number of requests in order to combat racism in the industry, including stopping the use of the word ‘urban’ to describe and categorise music.

The letter, dated June 9, is signed by the Black Music Coalition, The Show Must Be Paused UK, as well as staff from Warner, Universal, Atlantic, Columbia, Sony and Ministry of Sound, among others. It comes shortly after a slew of Black Lives Matter protests worldwide against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

The letter references the music industry blackout which took place on June 2 in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. NME participated in the blackout. Now, the signatories are asking labels to commit to more action.

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“The music industry has long profited from the rich and varied culture of Black people for many generations but overall, we feel it has failed to acknowledge the structural and systematic racism affecting the very same Black community and so effectively, enjoying the rhythm and ignoring the blues,” the letter reads.

“Your public statements of support throughout the recent times were impassioned and we appreciated them, but we now want to drive forward tangible changes, giving power to that show of support.”

Read the full open letter here.

The signatories made five requests in the open letter: mandatory anti-racism and unconscious bias training for all non-Black staff, setting aside an amount of money each year to support Black organisations and projects, career development opportunities for Black staff and addressing the lack of Black staff in senior positions, replacing the term ‘urban music’ with ‘Black music’, and establishing a task force that reviews the company’s diversity and equality goals.

The requests come after Republic Records and Milk & Honey announced they will remove the word ‘urban’ from their verbiage.

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“We will no longer be using the term, as we believe it’s an important step forward, and an outdated word, which has no place in 2020 onwards,” a statement from Milk & Honey read.

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