As you probably know, last week the music industry participated in a day-long blackout as an act of reverence for the lives lost to police brutality. It was also intended to be a time to reflect on how those behind the scenes in the industry are complicit to the very system being protested.
Though #TheShowMustBePaused was created and coined by two black execs, (Jamila Thomas of Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang of Apple’s Platoon) they aren’t the majority; in Canada’s music landscape, black executives and owners can be hard to come across. This is particularly off-putting when you consider that globally, the music industry propels and props itself on black talent.
In response to the industry blackout, Regent Park rapper Lil Berete posted, “I need more people that look like me at Canadian record labels, from Black A&R to Black execs.” The screenshot was captioned, “We don’t need a day, we need change #blacklivesmatter #blackculturematters #blackmusicmatters.”
A commenter on Instagram rebutted, “Then start up a record label, people can’t keep getting mad just because white people run an industry…It’s business, whoever’s on top, is on top, and whoever's not, feels like they're being scammed.” But starting a label is easier said than done. Those challenges are amplified for black artists and entrepreneurs, who can fall victim to the systemic barriers that make accessing capital and industry mentorship even harder.
In spite of these challenges, there are still black artists and entrepreneurs choosing to go the independent route. Here are some Canadian black-owned indie labels that you can support.