Why I Support Abolishing The Term “Urban” Music
I think it is important to build and staff platforms that specifically address music creators from marginalized communities, which is why I want to ensure support for Black music creators, Latin music creators, LGBT music creators, and disabled music creators at The MLC.
Being intentional in recognizing and supplementing historically disadvantaged groups means to do the work to understand how these creators are often under/mis-represented, left behind, overshadowed, and disconnected (especially when it comes to the music business education and career resources gap that ultimately contributes to marginalized music creators being disproportionately overrepresented in unclaimed royalties pools).
Some firms have begun to announce Black music divisions. I am here for that.
Let’s not forget that since 1909, when music first earned federal copyright protection, the default for everything in society was White. We do not need to callout a “White music division” when the way in which all industries operate is to center whiteness. The de facto MO when we hear “mainstream” is that the audience is the White masses.
These types of platforms give firms a dedicated channel through which partnerships can be forged in marginalized communities where we can reach marginalized creators to effectively communicate opportunities to advance their careers. It also creates a two-way pipeline for receiving input that can be applied to improve the firm’s communications and operations to better serve these communities with nuance.
I fully support Black music divisions at music companies; and yes this term is important and intentional, just like Black Music Month, which is this month of June.
The term “urban music” no longer reflects the demographic of the creators who create within the genres that are typically encompassed in the term “urban” (R&B and Hip Hop). Music creators of all racial and ethnic makeup create “urban music”. The intent of the term was to specifically focus on Black artists. But there are Black artists who create pop, country, rock, and EDM. These artists are underrepresented within those genres and are often dismissed to “shouldn’t you be making urban music?”
The urban music category was intended to represent music made by Black artists from the inner-city. It was to create a platform and ensure resources were allocated to Black artists, but that isn’t accomplished when #1 everybody makes Hip Hop (eg G Eazy, Macklemore) and R&B (eg JoJo, Justin Beiber), #2 Black artists are not being prioritized in non-urban genres (e.g. edm, country, rock, pop), and #3 Black artists aren’t limited to the inner-city.
If the goal is to empower Black artists, we need to do so across all genres. Abolishing the genre-limited term “urban music,” which represents only two genres begins to open the platform to Black artists who create any genre of music.
And yes, it is important to specifically call out Black artists as their careers matter. It is the same reason why we have Black Lives Matter. The “I don’t see color” BS disregards the decades of institutionalized racism that suppressed Black artists and set a tone for them getting shitty record deals and smaller marketing budgets.
Black music platforms are not about genres, it’s about music created by Black artists regardless of genre. It’s about ensuring that resources and budgets are allocated equitably to Black artists.
Abolish “urban music” and stand up “Black music” divisions. Fund Black artists across all genres!
Urban Music = Hip Hop and R&B
Black Music = Music created by Black artists regardless of genre. The focus is on the creator and not the genre.