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This Music Company Doesn’t Care About Black Lives

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This Music Company Doesn’t Care About Black Lives

#BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused day (started by two black female executives) encouraged everyone in the music industry to take the...

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Who in Music Is Supporting the Black Community Right Now

Most music companies around America participated in #TheShowMustBePaused movement and gave their employees the day off to do THE WORK. But some did not.  Last Saturday I attended the Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in Los Angeles. It was very inspiring. For the first hour in Pan Pacific Park right by CBS studios and The Grove (and Canter’s Deli - my favorite), we listened to speeches by black community members. Namely, we heard from family members of people who had been killed by the LAPD and have yet to see justice. We all said their names together over and over again. There were so many names I didn’t know. 
Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

#BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused day (started by two black female executives) encouraged everyone in the music industry to take the day off from the normal business at hand and reflect on how we, as an industry, can do better for the black community. 

Over the course of the day #TheShowMustBePaused hashtag had 700K shares and 70K followers.

I was curious to see which companies actually participated in the day, issued statements acknowledging the Black Lives Matter movement and who donated (or enabled their customers to donate) to causes that support racial justice. 

We compiled a list of over 100 companies in music and asked them. 

+Who in Music Is Supporting the Black Community Right Now

By no surprise, as you can see, nearly every company issued statements supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and most had participated in BlackOutTuesday and made donations. 

However there was one glaring omission: ReverbNation 

ReverbNation logo

Many of you who were active in music around 2010 are confused to hear that ReverbNation is still around. But, I assure you, this company, based in Durham, North Carolina, is still alive and (unfortunately) kicking. 

This company is notorious for shaking down (amateur) artists for everything they’ve got, while providing subpar services like the ability to submit to “opportunities,” like to “A&R” from companies no one has ever heard of (which if “accepted” will throw you into a whirlwind of other shady situations), bottom of the barrel music distribution, incessant auto-posting to your socials (oftentimes without your knowledge), an awful website builder, and ineffective advertising services. Oh, they acquired a fantastic market research platform, AudioKite, a few years ago, rebranded it and then anchored it to their sinking ship. 

+Squarespace vs. Bandzoogle vs. Wix vs. Weebly vs. WordPress vs. ReverbNation… What’s the Best Website Builder?

ReverbNation claims to still have nearly 4 million users.

Well, I bet they still consider Imagine Dragons a user even though they haven’t updated their profile in 10 years. That actually goes the same for me. Shit, I still have a profile from about a decade ago. Needless to say, they still have lots of customers (artists).

ReverbNation did not issue a statement in support of the BLM movement, nor did they participate in #BlackOutTuesday, nor did they reveal they donated to any organization that supports racial justice. 

They just went on tweeting and posting like nothing in the world was going on. While literally millions of people were in the streets demanding racial justice, equality and police accountability, ReverbNation was tweeting about album release strategy – but hey they put a black guy in the photo!

They finally got back to us after multiple emails inquiring about where they stood on the issue pointing us to this statement on their website posted on June 19th:

ReverbNation Juneteenth statement

“Since our inception, we’ve been careful not to make public statements on behalf of our employees and partners. We don’t presume to speak for any individual and we respect everyone’s right to express their own opinions. That said, these are unique times of reflection and Juneteenth represents a pivotal moment in our country’s history. Certainly, recent events have exposed that we have a long way to go.

The beliefs of our company remain steadfast:

We condemn violence, racism, sexism, and abuse of any kind.

We support free speech, individual rights, and artistic expression.

Our platform, as it has been since the beginning, is equally open to any artist who chooses to pursue their passion, without discrimination.

Period.” – ReverbNation

In other words #AllLivesMatter. 

Girl holding Black Lives Matter sign

Pretty disgusting that they appropriated Juneteenth, the day that black people celebrate their liberation from slavery, to point out that the company condemns violence and sexism and supports individual rights.

How does that have anything to do with Juneteenth? After not issuing any statement, they said this?! On Juneteenth of all days.

Oh and btw racism is bad too, guys. But like, you know, it doesn’t really exist anymore. Slavery is over. And the Civil Rights Act passed, so, let’s all just move on, puleeaassse. All this race stuff is making our executive board of all white men very uncomfortable. 

Besides the fact that this is one of the most tone deaf, toothless statements I’ve ever read from a music company, it’s pretty clear where ReverbNation stands on the issue of white supremacy and racism. 

Oh, and their CMO, Dave Marcello, sent me an email stating: “As for contributions, I’ll tell you what we’re doing but we prefer it not to be publicized, as we don’t believe this issue should be leveraged for a PR moment. We allocated a pool of money across the company that goes directly to our employees and encouraged them to consider a donation to whatever cause each person feels passionate towards, keeping in mind current events.”

So they gave all their employees bonuses. Cool. Probably not the PR moment they were intending.

Are they afraid to just say “Black Lives Matter?” Or maybe they just don’t believe that’s true.

For the white men leading ReverbNation, I guess I feel it’s my duty to point out a few things to you that you clearly have been blind to.

And because your Facebook feeds are probably jam packed with fear-mongering Tucker Carlson videos exclaiming that “Defund the Police” means “rapists will break into your homes and no one will save you,” you’re clearly not informing yourselves of the matter at hand. I know you’re all reading this, so I guess this is the only way to break through.

John Legend tweets about Defund the Police

John Legend tweets about Defund the Police

So, yes, let’s “keep in mind current events” but let’s also take a look at the realities of America and WHY there are millions of people in the streets protesting. 

As one of the organizers of #TheShowMustBePaused, Jamila Thomas, put it:

“The music industry is an industry that has profited predominantly from black art. to that end, it is the obligation of these entities to protect and empower the black communities that have made them disproportionately wealthy in ways that are measurable and transparent.”

But maybe ReverbNation doesn’t feel that they have made themselves disproportionately wealthy off of black music and culture. 

But hey, they love black people. Just look at their Instagram posts – just don’t look at their employees or executive board. 

ReverbNation executive boardFrom left to right: Chris Smith (CFO/COO), Mike Doernberg (CEO/Co-Founder), Dave Marcello (CMO), Robert Hubbard (CTO/Co-Founder), Steve Jernigan (CIO/Co-Founder), Lou Plaia (EVP/Co-Founder), Jean Michel (General Counsel)

If ReverbNation wants to know why people are protesting right now, this list is a start:

  • Black Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans (Statista)
  • Black people are 20% more likely to get pulled over than white people. (from an academic study by Nature for Human Behavior)
  • Philando Castile was pulled over 49 times over the span of 13 years – all for minor traffic violations like failing to use a turn signal (his final stop he was murdered by a cop after he informed the officer he had a legally registered firearm) (NY Times)
  • Black men are incarcerated 5x more than white men (watch 13th on Netflix or YouTube for an explanation as to why)
  • Part of the reason: Sentencing for crack is 10x the sentence for cocaine because coke is more prominent in in white communities and crack in black communities (ACLU)
  • Nixon’s top aid, John Ehrlichman, flat out admitted to Harpers Magazine the “War on Drugs” was created to heavily disrupt the black community and throw them in jail because they weren’t voting for Nixon.
  • The top 10 people on the Billboard Power List are all white
  • Black people qualify for mortgages at a rate 10x less than white people – in the same financial situation (Center for Investigative Reporting)
  • Minneapolis Police use force against black people at 7x the rate of whites (NY Times)
  • Black patients receive 40% less pain meds in the ER for acute pain than white patients (Physicians Weekly)
  • Over the course of a 10 year period where nearly 10,000 Americans were killed by police, only 1.5% of the officers were charged with a crime. (Washington Post)

But maybe start educating yourselves. Read or listen to The Case for Reparations by Ta-nehisi Coates to understand how white America has prevented black upward mobility, home ownership, business owning, white terrorism and redlining. And watch the documentary 13th, which explains why black men are incarcerated at a rate 5-times that of white men. 

And all of you at ReverbNation need to read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo about why it is so hard for you to acknowledge systemic racism and white supremacy in America. 

“People say all the time ‘well I don’t understand how people could have tolerated slavery? How could people have gone to a lynching and participated in that? How did people make sense of the segregation, the white and colored-only drinking. That’s so crazy. If I was living at that time, I would have never tolerated anything like that. And the truth is, we are living at this time and we are tolerating it.”
Bryan Stevenson, Founder, Equal Justice Initiative.

There are 100 companies in music that support black lives. ReverbNation is not one of them. 

Unless you are a proud white supremacist, there’s really no reason you should be using their service any longer. 

If there’s something they do that you use for your music career and you are unsure of what service to use instead, just pop a comment below and we can help you with that. 

+Who is the Best Digital Distribution Company: DistroKid vs. CD Baby vs. Tunecore vs. Stem vs. AWAL vs. OneRPM vs. Ditto vs. ReverbNation vs. Amuse…

About the Author

Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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