In almost any moment during Black history, you’ll find music at the center of it. desde Mahalia Jackson to N.W.A. to Mickey Guyton, Black musicians have contributed much to this thing we call life. After all they’ve given us, why not give back?
When it comes to showing your love to the Black music community, your next step can be something simple, yet consistent.
The music industry has rightly shifted course in encouraging others to support Black music and the artists that make the whole world sing. Milestone events like #TheShowMustBePaused and its impact on the music community are only just the beginning — where you, your momma, and your cousin, too, can assist in helping Black record labels and its musicians during Black History Month and all year around.
Take a look at some impactful ways to contribute below.
Where to stream their music
There are numerous ways to digest music these days. All sorts of DSPs promise listeners a mixture of experiences, but with royalties still presenting a major issue for artists, streaming their music is a vital part of keeping them active.
While there are plenty of services to choose from, here are a few that champion Black music: deepran Atlanta-based startup and music discovery app; track, a Black-owned music technology platform that gives indie artists the power to share their music without needing to sign a contract; and Polaristhe first Black-owned streaming service dedicated to sharing authentic culture and music.
For the enthusiastic audiophile, diving into the catalogs of Black-owned record labels like Awful Records, Mahogani Music and Top Dawg Entertainmentaid in championing Black artists and help money go directly into their pockets.
How to support live experiences + side hustles
In a time when 360 deals — which entitle record labels to a percentage of earnings from all of an artists’ revenue streams — are abundant, bundling has become a game-changer. Artists who’ve become imaginative entrepreneurs themselves (think Curren$y’s Bandcamp bundles or Nipsey Hussle’s $100 mixtape) have opened the lane for others to have side projects such as podcasts, Patreons, or NFT’s.
Issa Rae‘s Hoorae Patreon gives members a chance at early access to exclusive playlists and editions of her Issa’s Raedio Show on Apple Music. On the NFT front, community brands such as Black NFT Artrun by creative agency Umba Daima and the Black Artist Databasehosts a wealth of musicians, producers and bands.
Post your faves on social media (and tell your pals to join in)
Think of three friends and then think of three Black musicians you love who haven’t yet “hit it big.” Share and play their songs that you enjoy and watch the magic happen. Follow meet-up groups like Black Everywhere to trade MP3s and in Slack groups or IRL, or simply have a listening session with friends and family the next time you’re together.
By talking about new music discoveries, you share why you love this music, and your words can help spread the message in their melodies.
How and where to donate, whether it’s an artist or an organization
Those who are interested in financially supporting change in the music world should also consider places such as the Black Artist Fundthe Women’s Center for Creative Workor Art Hole Collectivean online group that provides a safe space for creatives of color, as places to donate your resources to.
If you’re looking to help specific artists you love directly, you can always use places like Patreon, CashApp, or Venmo to help keep an artist afloat. (Note: It may be in good taste to first ask artists if it is OK to send them direct funds.)
How to book Black artists for your next event or live experience
With your local music venues most likely on hiatus or on strict attendance contrast, you can book your favorite or up-and-coming artists using the Black Agent Network and BYBS, which was started by two Hollywood veterans. If you’re philanthropic, you can donate to one of GoFundMe’s #SaveOurVenues campaigns.
No matter how you choose, you’ll be providing an avenue for many Black musicians and record labels to remain full-time and keep their livelihoods active.
Subscribe to local music newsletters, podcasts, and publications
There is a niche growth market for local and indie musicians who have (or are building) a following for their art. Platforms such as substack and Medium enable musicians and others to share what they’re working on powered by your subscription dollars. Add in a few patreons to donate directly to Black musicians that you enjoy who want to help foster new history-making sounds.
Non-profit organizations you can support
There are advocacy organizations that date back generations that all want to preserve and encourage music made by Black artists. An added benefit can be your donations to places such as Music by Black Composerswhich fosters diversity in classical music; The Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts; and The National Association of Negro Musicianswhich, according to its website, “has been a champion for African and African-American music and musicians” for over a century.
Read the work of Black music and culture journalists
It’s important to listen to Black writers, as they are arguably just as ingrained in the Black music community as the artists themselves. There are plenty of Black voices and outlets that you can support with something as simple as a click of the mouse.
Discover the power in the process by the likes of Mankapr Conteh, Timmhotep Aku, Naima Cochrane, Craig Jenkinsamong many others, to give a boost to the work that creates discussion around Black music and musicians.
Get up, get out, and show up for racial justice in your daily life
While February honors the accomplishments and contributions made by Black artists, Black history is something that happens every day. In showing up for concerts, sharing new discoveries on social media, and streaming music, you’re adding value to these voices and perspectives.
Show your support outside of the music industry, too, calling out racism no matter where or when you see it. Remember that even the smallest gesture can lead to the biggest impact — and in turn, you can help preserve the art and the people who have long contributed to music, culture and beyond.
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