BMG to review historical record contracts due to "shameful treatment of black artists"

Leading music firm BMG has vowed to investigate historical inequalities in the record contracts of Black artists.

It comes after the music industry’s recent ‘Black Out Tuesday’, which prompted a leading music manager to suggest ways forward to improve inequality for artists of colour.

Ty Stiklorius, who manages the likes of Kelis, John Legend and Erykah Badu, wrote in an open letter: “If the music industry wants to support black lives, labels and platforms can start with amending contracts, distributing royalties, diversifying boardrooms, and retroactively paying back all the black artists, and their families, they have built their empires on.”

As Music Business Worldwide reports, BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch confirmed a review in an email sent out to managers and performers.

It reads: “Mindful of the music industry’s record of shameful treatment of black artists, we have begun a review of all historic record contracts. While BMG only began operations in 2008, we have acquired many older catalogues. If there are any inequities or anomalies, we will create a plan to address them. Within 30 days.”

He went on: “In common with many music companies, at BMG the reality is that black people are not as well represented as they are in the populations in which we operate. We are not as diverse as we could be. Despite numerous initiatives over the years, we have not made sufficient progress. We pledge to do so and will produce a plan to do so. Within 30 days.

“Racism and social injustice exists in all 12 countries in which we operate. We need to play our part in tackling it. Each BMG office will create a plan to do so. Within 30 days.

“Blackout Tuesday was an important moment of reflection. The real test for us all is now to come up with a credible plan for change.”

BMG was founded in 2008 and is one of the world’s leading music rights firms, controlling the back catalogues to artists such as The Rolling Stones, Kylie Minogue and Avril Lavigne.

Their action comes after the renewed focus on racial injustice across the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 when white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, with footage of the incident being viewed by millions of people across the globe.

Chauvin has since been sacked and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Three of his colleagues, Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and J Alexander Keung, are all facing charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd’s funeral took place in Houston earlier this week.