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COLUMN: Music Industry Takes A Stand Against White Supremacists & Hate

Sounding OFF

Sounding OFF is Salute Magazine’s weekly music column, authored by Music Editor Daniel Offner. The column is a weekly analysis of all things music. This week’s column looks at how the musicians and the music industry are speaking out against the spread of hate spurred by White Supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.

In the wake of last week’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when protests from alt-right hate groups including the Ku Klux Klan and Neo Nazis, resulted in chaos and violence, members of the music industry have started to take steps to eliminate the hate.

Following the protests, executives with Spotify and other streaming services have started to remove white supremacist content from all platforms.

A spokesperson for the streaming music service told Billboard, that while it is predominantly the responsibility of labels and distributors to weed out hateful content before supplying the database, “illegal content or material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us.” The novice streaming service, co-operated by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Tidal, has reportedly followed suit since Spotify made the announcement.

But, let’s be real for a second here. Racism in music didn’t just happen over night. The history of hatred has been spread out across many decades and for too long the industry itself has turned a blind eye. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “historically, racist music has been one of the most effective tools for skinheads and other racist extremists to raise money and recruit new, particularly young, members.”

Digital streaming service providers were prompted to remove white supremacist music after a recent story from Digital Music News, exposed 37 racist bands whose music was available on Spotify.

Prior to that, in the SPLC’s 2014 Intelligence Report, the watch group identified 54 racist bands whose music had previously been available on iTunes, the largest purveyor of digital music.

Freedom of speech protections have become the bulwark supporting racist music in America. In the 1990s, white separatist music became a multi-million dollar industry, when Resistance Records, which is now considered a hate group by the SPLC, was purchased in 1999 by the National Alliance, one of the most prominent neo-Nazi organizations in the U.S. In the early 2000s, the company reportedly sold more than 70,000 records annually.

The irony that plagues me is how these so-called “white separatists” feel this is a violation of free speech. That’s right… the Nazis claim to have an inalienable right to spew hate. The same group of German nationalists who once exterminated six million Jewish men, women, and children are now saying that removing their hate fueled rhetoric violates their freedom?! So these freedoms, you would like them if they can apply to only yourself, but nobody else? The hypocrisy is sweltering.

And it is only now, years after identifying the problem, that we are starting to see the music industry taking steps to rid themselves of hateful or destructive music.

On a more positive note, next week, hundreds of hippies will flock from across the country to campsites just a few short miles from where these protests were held.

Lock’n, an annual four-day music festival in Arrington, Va., will be held next week, from Aug. 24 – 27, featuring The String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic, John Fogerty, the John Butler Trio, Brandie Carlile, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, The Avett Brothers, The Revivalists, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, moe., Umphrey’s McGee, The Disco Biscuits, and TAUK among many others.

In a recent interview with Live For Live Music, festival organizer Pete Shapiro said, “one thing I know is that people need to heal right now, and music helps do that more than just about anything else. As does 20,000 people coming together to share in a one-of-a-kind experience.”

We couldn’t agree more. What better way to send a positive, peaceful, message than with four straight days of jamming out?

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