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How Independent Artists Apply The Show Must Be Paused Movement

June 4, 2020

Like the rest of the world, we've been paying attention to the movement to end police violence and address systemic racism in the United States. More specifically, we've been trying to find the right way to help artists use their voice and platform to help — no matter the size. The music industry recently began an initiative called The Show Must Be Paused.

Headed by Platoon's Senior Artist Campaign Manager Brianna Agyemang and Atlantic Record's Senior Director of Marketing Jamila Thomas, The Show Must Be Paused initiative encouraged those who work in the music industry to devote their day to amplifying the message of the movement on June 2nd. 

Using social media hashtags like #TheShowMustBePaused and #BlackOutTuesday, the message spread across social media quickly. It reached many, many people beyond the music industry. Your social feed probably soon became overwhelmed with empty black boxes and messages of support. 

In addition, a lot of major music companies announced their own plans to address racist and oppressive culture within their companies. Apple Music, Spotify, and many others spent the day highlighting music from black artists. 

Despite only having a few short days to organize, The Show Must Be Paused encouraged some media giants to at least publicly acknowledge an effort to make a difference. Agyemang and Thomas released a statement applauding the industry's reaction while noting the movement is just beginning. 

"Yesterday was a strong start to the change we want to make in the industry, "Agyemang said. "We are taking all thoughts and ideas that were gathered and we will be implementing them into Phase 2 of this movement. Next steps are about clarifying needs and mobilizing the people to be the change we wish to see. The goal is to tap into the community at large to create change that is impactful and long lasting."

Thomas also noted, "The point was never to mute ourselves. This was a day to completely disconnect from work and make a difference in our community because we should not normalize what is happening."

Which brings up an important point. For all the good and important work The Show Must Be Paused promoted (and continues to promote), many independent artists struggled with how to make an impact beyond the social post.

Simply put, a lot of creators don't have the same resources as established industry companies. And the messaging might not have felt as pertinent to them — at least in terms of how they might make a difference. 

For most independent artists, there's not much power in disconnecting from their day-to-day activities because it's not a 9 to 5 (or 8 to 6 or 7 to 7) job. It's something they're doing constantly, sprinkled in among their other obligations. Many of them are already overwhelmed. They're trying to maintain traction while also dealing with the fallout of a major pandemic and the desire to do more in the fight against injustice. 

It is, quite honestly, exhausting. 

So what can you do if you're not Halsey, who took to the streets to render medical aid to protesters and broadcast the cause to her millions of Instagram followers? What can you do if your indie label doesn't have the ability to donate millions of dollars? What can you do if, no matter how much you'd like to, you can't join protesters for fear of health complications or lost wages?

Go small and go local.

Focus your efforts and your messaging on your community. Even if you only have a thousand followers (or friends) across all of your social platforms and email list, you can make a big difference by amplifying what is happening in your own neighborhood. 

Big organizations are great. We need them to fight the big fights. But there are dozens if not hundreds of smaller organizations in your city, county, and state that don't get the publicity big organizations do (but still need all the help). Crowd-sourcing your followers to donate even $50 to local organizations is incredibly powerful.

If you don't know about good local organizations, Funders For Justice is a great place to start. You can also reach out to the ACLU to find out more about action you can take in your neighborhood.

Never feel guilty about "only" being able to donate money and never feel guilty about how much you can afford to donate. Staying local is a great way to increase your impact. Even if you can't help physically, donating money ALWAYS helps. And if you can't donate money but have eight hours to help physically? Most of your local organizations will take you in with open arms. And you'll probably make a new friend or two, too. 

Keep Creating, With A Twist

Don't stop creating music. Just think about how you can create something that also addresses the matter at hand. Put out a cover video of a song that means a lot to you but also deals with the emotions and issues our communities are dealing with right now. Bonus points if the artist comes from a marginalized community. Talk about it. Remind people how important music is and how much we rely on artists of all backgrounds to build the soundtracks to our lives.

Highlight other creators in your area — especially those from marginalized communities. Collaborate and lift each other up. Do a livestream on your platform of choice and let your fans, friends, and family know that all the money you'll be raising will go towards local organizations.

You are more powerful when you make noise. Even if you think nobody is listening — they are. 

Keep It Personal

You probably have fans, friends, or family who won't agree with what you say or post. There are people who don't understand the issue. And there are people who will focus on the wrong thing. But this is your best opportunity to make a difference.

It's easy to argue with strangers on your social profiles (and also sometimes extremely satisfying and/or entertaining — thanks, Seth Rogen and John Boyega). It's harder to have hard conversations with people who otherwise support your creativity. 

That's why it's important to keep it personal. Make your messaging about how you feel and how these issues affect you as a creator. Share your story. Because when people have a story, they see you as a person. And when they see you as a person, they have to actively decide to disregard your feelings. If you share stories about how these issues personally affect you, they may become otherwise invested in it. It's human to suddenly care more about an issue when it affects people you care about. 

And also — don't worry about losing fans. You won't win over everybody. You might lose fans and they might make an effort to tell you about it. But at the end of the day, if you change even one heart, you've done more good than you can imagine. Or, as Jason Isbell says:

It's up to you to decide how you feel most impactful in times like these. But just remember than you do have an impact. Even if you don't have millions of eyes on you just yet. 

Agyemang, Thomas and the rest of The Show Must Be Paused crew also put together an excellent anti-racism resource for allies (aka white and non-marginalized people) to learn more. Check it out here and be sure to follow the movement for more information on what is happening nationally. 

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