The music industry, anti-racism and me
Music labels have collectively invested a quarter of a billion dollars for the fight against social injustice and anti-racist initiatives. Producer, singer and rapper, Piers James, unpacks what that means for the independent artist
By Piers James Images by Rosie Matheson Friday 19 June, 2020 Short read
‘One of the main issues I face as an independent Black artist is that labels and brands only want to capitalise on Black culture when it’s popular, which makes sense from a capitalist perspective. But the difference is, when you look at mainstream White pop music, the budgets and attention they give those artists never fluctuates – they’re constantly pushing them regardless of whether it’s hot at the moment or not. Whereas, you see so many upcoming Black artists hold the limelight for a minute, get their 15 minutes of fame and then drop off. These corporations move onto the next upcoming Black artist, rather than actually working directly with them, investing in them and building something with longevity. It always seems like we are fighting for relevancy.
‘I believe my music is accessible to both White people and Black people, with scope for international appeal. I’ve never considered my music to be “urban”, but when an industry wants to put a person of colour into a box that they can control and marginalise, you create a divide and a feeling of oppression. I want to be part of a revolution that brings about change and equality. It’s refreshing to see so many powerful Black artists and creatives standing up for what they believe in – we need leaders now more than ever.
‘I understand it’s a difficult time within the music industry as a whole, and that hasn’t necessarily just been caused by the Black Lives Movement. You have to remember that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. Naturally, budgets are being cut to compensate and everyone is losing out on opportunities that we may have already had in place, or that may have been accessible to us as the year went on. But, moving forwards, I would like to see the music industry do more to protect and empower the Black communities. They need to open the discussion of ways to create a more measurable and transparent plan for these artists and creatives that have made these businesses so profitable over the years.’
‘Can’t Be My Girl’ by Piers James is out now