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  • Jun 01, 2020

By Jon Platt, Chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing

Honoring African-Americans’ pioneering contributions to the nation’s cultural history, Black Music Month opens today, June 1. With racial strife rumbling across our country as I write this, I am struggling to reconcile the conflicting realities of the universal appreciation of Black music and the devaluation of Black life, George Floyd’s videotaped killing being the latest of recurring tragic examples. 

I have wanted to comment on the events of this past week however, knowing that my voice will be particularly resounding, I was obliged to be especially introspective and unhurried. Why do my words ring unusually louder? Look no farther than my skin and position. 

I am the only Black CEO of a global major music company.

So, to speak out on Mr. Floyd’s senseless murder is my obligation. Not to would be my irresponsibility. But figuring out what to say was a challenge. My own pain has been so paralyzing. For me, stating ‘I stand with the Black community’ would never be enough. But in due time, I found the words.  

For many of my colleagues, in our business dealings, we are targets for unfounded assumptions by people whose unspoken questioning of whether we belong is written on their faces. 

Outside of work, we must cope with debilitating anxiety inflicted by law enforcement, a burden that many in the Black community have shouldered since we were children. Profiling poses a constant threat, multiplying the opportunities for tragic outcomes.  

“New normal” is a reference that has taken hold in society with the global pandemic. But the phrase should be about more than adjustments to our workplaces, commutes and social distancing. It must reflect a reset of respect for each other as human beings.

As a music community, we are anchored at the heart of Black culture, and our industry has an unrivaled role and responsibility to help lead society out of crisis and onto the path of true justice and equality.  

Music companies have rushed to pledge solidarity with the Black community since the atrocity committed against Mr. Floyd. But I often remind my team of a fact that might seem odd for a music man to point out: “People see better than they hear.” Timely action must follow the industry’s lyrics. Otherwise, words are ultimately empty. 

We must create a platform that provides each and every colleague the encouragement for true self-expression. For people of color, this means the comfort to connect, mourn and heal in authentic ways that might be unfamiliar to, or uncomfortable for, some colleagues.  But I encourage you to lean into that discomfort.

Our industry covers every genre of music and is welcoming to new creations. Inside our companies, the workforce should be equally diverse. My dream is for our companies to be an orchestra of races, creeds and colors.

During Black Music Month, we recognize a spectrum of songs from Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ to Sam Cooke’s ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’—tunes rooted in pain, yet lighting a path forward.  Let’s follow their lead.

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