Brianna Agyemang (L) and Jamila Thomas (R) at the Billboard Women In Music 2020 event
Photo: 2020 Billboard Women In Music/Getty Images for Billboard
#TheShowMustBePaused Creators Brianna Agyemang & Jamila Thomas Talk Vision, Next Steps
The two young music executives behind the movement that became "Blackout Tuesday," discuss their vision for a more just music industry in a recent interview
Last Tuesday, June 2, the music industry came to a sudden stop for #TheShowMustBePaused movement envisioned by Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas. While the message may have been muddied by brands and others posting black boxes, the mission was effective—major labels and music orgs closed shop for the day and joined conversations on making real change.
Today, in an in-depth interview with Billboard, the two New York music executives share their vision for moving the industry forward and the important purpose behind the pause.
"We're taking it one day at a time. No one thought [we] could black out the industry, but they couldn't keep Brianna and me from trying," Thomas, who's the senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, said.
"We're the least expected, but we're here for a reason—and we're not going away," Agyemang added; she's the senior artist campaign manager at Platoon, Apple's artist-services division.
"We had found out about George Floyd's killing, after those of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, at the hands of police. It was just a really heavy week for the Black community. And people still had to work. It didn't seem like anyone had a chance to really take in what was happening in the middle of the coronavirus, which was also attacking the Black community disproportionately. It was just a lot while trying to keep the show moving. So I called Jamila that Friday [May 29] and said we should take the day off, that it's not business as usual. Then we came up with the tagline #TheShowMustBePaused and some graphics," Agyemang explained, sharing the emotional week that pushed them to action.
"As our friends began posting, it spread like wildfire. Then people started reaching out, asking, 'OK, where and when do we want to pause?' It just kind of centered ourselves as a community. We wanted to make sure that if people were willing to take that pause along with us that we—if they were asking what they could do on Tuesday—would help provide them with things to do. So we went into planning mode."
For their "day off," two women hosted a digital summit that brought together music professionals of all stripes to talk change, with almost 1,500 joining the productive conversations.
"We held three different discussions during that one day. We reached out to people directly, sending them invitations to join us for a community conversation. The turnout was overwhelming, with nearly 1,500 people joining overall, from top-level executives, artists and lawyers to interns. The idea was to talk to everyone about developing a realistic plan for moving forward," Thomas told Billboard.
"Urban artists occupy most of the music charts, and we celebrate the genres [R&B/hip-hop] at industry events and the GRAMMYs. But when that community takes a hit, it seems like it's every man for himself. You can post something if you want. Or you can donate. But there's never a united front. Progress is needed in the work space, and progress is needed in the streets.
There's no better time to do it than now, because the country is literally in a moment of transition. And music has to be at the forefront of that because of its influence. It starts with us working together. All those partners coming together on that call and blacking out on Tuesday was the first time that has ever happened. If we can just keep that same spirit going, then change will come," she added, explaining the topics they delved into during the summit.
"After the summit, there were so many announcements from labels and other companies. I felt inspired from this."
"The conversations were done in a safe space because we wanted to make sure people felt comfortable talking, being vulnerable and sharing their feelings or providing solutions and ideas," Agyemang said. "I wished we had had more time to talk that day. What I loved most is that it felt very positive. While we do have things that need to change, it didn’t feel like it was impossible based on those conversations. It definitely feels more like a whole music community now than I will say it felt in the past."
And those boxes? It was never part of the plan. There was nothing they could do to stop people from posting them, so they focused on making sure the resources to take action were clear and accessible.
"Our graphic copy explained the reason for the music business blackout. And at the bottom was the hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused. That was always our hashtag. But it was like the game of telephone: Things get muddled in the communication," Agyemang explained. "The goal was not to mute ourselves. The goal was to take a break from your daily nine-to-five duties to refocus and recenter. And that meant that you could take a pause and just breathe. Or take a moment to think or use that time to focus on what you could do within your community to make a change and help make progress as well."
"People move so fast online. So we quickly took action to tell people about things they could do on Tuesday to help. We had to double down and tell our friends that we wanted them to communicate where people could donate, where they could march, pray or speak to a therapist. We had put together information for the summit we were holding that day. We wanted to let people know that now that we have you here, we want to talk to you all. That this wasn't a date to be silent," Thomas added.
This is just the beginning for the powerhouse pair and the collation of changemakers they've already formed—they are actively planning the second phase of action for #TheShowMustBePaused.
"We didn't put our names on the original graphic because it's not about us. It's about a movement for all of us. We're humbled by all the support but we're also not afraid. We're assuming this leadership role, honored that people trust us to lead them to the next steps, working together as a community," Thomas stated.
"We literally stopped major companies for a day to come up with plans on how to help the black community and move forward. It has been a success thus far, and it has only been a week. We're just going to continue to move in a positive direction," Agyemang noted. "When George Floyd died, it was like, 'Here's another thing after Ahmaud Arbery, after Breonna Taylor, after COVID-19.' [Tuesday] was a way for people to release and pause, because in the end we have to fix it and we have to heal as a society. And we can do this by changing the future."
Photo: Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
Pearl Jam Named Record Store Day 2019 Ambassadors
Pearl Jam's Mike McCready says "if you love music," record stores are the place to find it
Record Store Day 2019 will arrive on April 13 and this year's RSD Ambassadors are Pearl Jam. Past ambassadors include Dave Grohl, Metallica, Run The Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P), and 61st GRAMMY Awards winner for Best Rock Song St. Vincent.
McCready was also the 2018 recipient of MusiCares' Stevie Ray Vaughan Award.
The band was formed in 1990 by McCready, Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder, and they have played with drummer Matt Cameron since 2002. They have had five albums reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and four albums reach No. 2.
"Pearl Jam is honored to be Record Store Day's Ambassador for 2019. Independent record stores are hugely important to me," Pearl Jam's Mike McCready said in a statement publicizing the peak-vinyl event. "Support every independent record store that you can. They're really a good part of society. Know if you love music, this is the place to find it."
With a dozen GRAMMY nominations to date, Pearl Jam's sole win so far was at the 38th GRAMMY Awards for "Spin The Black Circle" for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Pearl Jam will be performing on March 3 in Tempe, Ariz. at the Innings festival, on June 15 in Florence, Italy at the Firenze Rocks Festival and at another festival in Barolo, Italy on June 17. On July 6 Pearl Jam will headline London's Wembley Stadium.
Photo: Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images
Original Misfits Unleash One Night Only L.A. Reunion Show
Dark punk legends to play first show with Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only since last year's Riot Fest reunion
There's big news today for punk-rock fans aware that the Misfits made much more than just T-shirts.
The massively influential punk band announced a special show touted as the "only 2017 performance in this world… or any world" and billed as "The Original Misfits" in Los Angeles at the Forum on Dec. 30.
This will be the first Misfits show featuring original singer Glenn Danzig and original bassist Jerry Only with long-time guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein since the band reunited for a pair of Riot Fest appearances in Chicago and Denver in 2016. Last year's Riot Fest gigs, which featured drummer Dave Lombardo, marked the first time in 33 years the original Misfits members played together.
"OK Los Angeles, you've waited almost 35 years for this, here's your chance to see the "Original Misfits" in this Exclusive L.A. only performance." said Glenn Danzig. "No Tour, No BS, just one night of dark metal-punk hardcore brutality that will go down in the history books. See you there."
Tickets for this "one night only" show go on sale Friday, August 25.
Photo: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images
Lady Gaga Steps In To Support Youth Impacted By Hurricanes
GRAMMY winner pledges support for those impacted by hurricanes this year through Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program
On Oct. 10 Lady Gaga announced she is devoting her $1 million donation in support of those impacted by the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico and the earthquakes in Mexico, to a specific cause — the mental and emotional well being of children and youth.
Gaga announced on her Born This Way Foundation website she will support Save the Children’s Journey of Hope program, which uses a variety of tools to help young people deal with trauma in the wake of natural disasters.
"Through a curriculum that includes cooperative play, discussion, art, meditation, and mindfulness practices, young people learn to recognize and understand their emotions and develop healthy coping skills," Gaga wrote. "Tens of thousands of youth have benefited from the program since it’s development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Save the Children is working to bring it to hundreds of thousands more in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico."
The announcement came on World Mental Health Day, and the Fame Monster has invited all of us to step up and consider making a contribution to the Journey of Hope program to support to mental and emotional needs of children.
"Mental health is just as vital to our wellbeing as physical health. That’s true for each of us, everyday, but it’s especially important for those coping with disaster and recovering from trauma," wrote Lady Gaga. "We must do everything within our power to support the full, vibrant recovery of these communities, from meeting their immediate needs to helping them to rebuild sustainably."
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Rap Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Dreamville, Meek Mill, 21 Savage, Tyler, The Creator, and YBN Cordae all earn nominations in the category
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Rap Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Rap Album.
Revenge of the Dreamers III – Dreamville
Dreamers III, the third installment in the label’s Revenge of the Dreamers compilation series, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and achieved gold status this past July. In addition to a Best Rap Album nod, Dreamers III is also nominated for Best Rap Performance next year for album track “Down Bad,” featuring J.I.D, Bas, J. Cole, EARTHGANG, and Young Nudy.
Championships – Meek Mill
In many ways, Championships represents a literal and metaphorical homecoming for Meek Mill. Released in November 2018, Championships is the Philadelphia rapper’s first artist album following a two-year prison sentence he served after violating his parole in 2017. Championships, naturally, sees Meek tackling social justice issues stemming from his prison experience, including criminal justice reform. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, his second chart-topper following 2015’s Dreams Worth More Than Money, and reached platinum status in June 2019. Meek Mill's 2020 Best Rap Album nod marks his first-ever GRAMMY nomination.
i am > i was – 21 Savage
Breakout rapper and four-time GRAMMY nominee 21 Savage dropped i am > i was, his second solo artist album, at the end of 2018. The guest-heavy album, which features contributions from Post Malone, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, and many others, has since charted around the world, topped the Billboard 200 – a first for the artist – in the beginning of 2019, and achieved gold status in the U.S. As well, nine songs out of the album’s 15 original tracks landed on the Hot 100 chart, including multi-platinum lead single “A Lot,” which is also nominated for Best Rap Song next year. 21 Savage’s 2020 Best Rap Album nomination, which follows Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung Performance nods for his 2017 Post Malone collaboration, "Rockstar,” marks his first solo recognition in the top rap category.
IGOR – Tyler, The Creator
The eccentric Tyler, The Creator kicked off a massive 2019 with his mid-year album, IGOR. Released this past May, IGOR, Tyler’s fifth solo artist album, is his most commercially successful project to date. The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, marking his first time topping the coveted chart, while its lead single, "Earfquake,” peaked at No. 13, his highest entry on the Hot 100. Produced in full by Tyler and featuring guest spots from fellow rap and R&B stars Kanye West, Lil Uzi Vert, Solange, and Playboi Carti, among many others, IGOR follows the rapper’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, which received the Best Rap Album nod that same year.
The Lost Boy – YBN Cordae
Emerging rapper YBN Cordae, a member of the breakout YBN rap collective, released his debut album, The Lost Boy, to widespread critical acclaim this past July. The 15-track release is stacked with major collaborations with hip-hop heavyweights, including Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Meek Mill, and others, plus production work from J. Cole and vocals from Quincy Jones. After peaking at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, The Lost Boy now notches two 2020 GRAMMY nominations: Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song for album track “Bad Idea,” featuring Chance the Rapper.