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‘Pay me what you owe me’: On Black artists and royalties

Photo: Jimmy Rudson

The recent re-igniting of the Black Lives Matter movement, as a result of the constant brutalization of Black bodies that have been seen on tape, and the unseen oppression that Black people have experienced for centuries, has led to the examination of unfair treatment of Black people in various industries. The beauty industry, the government, and the television industry, have all been forced to make serious changes regarding their practices and their relationship with the Black community. The music industry is also under fire, rightfully so, for the way that Black artists are oppressed.

It is easy for consumers to have a hard time empathizing with artists who appear to live a lavish lifestyle of designer clothes, bags, shoes, traveling, and so on and so forth. It is reasonable actually to be uncaring about the artists’ point of contention in the fight for equality in their workplace. A Megan thee Stallion’s plight with bad contracts or the Migos’ issue with their lawyers seem like small fries compared to what the average Black man or woman goes through in their daily life and workplace experience, but I can assure you, it matters and they’re not that far apart.

No matter how high you rise socially, you are not exempt from dealing with systemic racism. This systemic racism rears its ugly head when you view the deals-with-the-devil that some artists are made to sign in order to create and display their art. The wealth gap between Black and White families have been a hot topic lately, and within the music industry; That wealth gap is difficult to close because of bad and predatory contracts. You will be surprised at how many of your favorite artists don’t ‘got it like that’, AKA, they’re not as rich as they seem.

Black music sets the tone for pop culture here in the United States. Period. It is unfair for Black artists to be responsible for most of the fashions, the catchphrases, and the styles that tends to bleed into all other genres of music and culture, but the pay doesn’t reflect the work. I know this sounds familiar. How many times have you been under-appreciated and underpaid at your job? How many times have you seen your hard work reproduced and received the same raw deal that you’ve always gotten, with no real compensation? It’s not fair on any level. Black artists help make our lives better with their art, so it’s time we demand that they receive their dues.

Written by Manny King John

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