Jeff Tweedy elaborates on the need for music industry reparations for Black artists
Back in June, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy announced he would, going forward, be giving 5% of his publishing royalties to organizations that are "working toward racial justice," and he encouraged others to do the same. "The modern music industry is built almost entirely on Black art," he wrote in an open letter. "The wealth that rightfully belonged to Black artists was stolen outright and to this day continues to grow outside their communities. No one artist could come close to paying the debt we owe to the Black originators of our modern music and their children and grandchildren." Tweedy also called on performance rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC to investigate ways to implement a program like this and form a coalition with him. "Hundreds of us joining together could provide some tremendous relief. Thousands of us committing to a reparations initiative could change our business and the world we live in."
In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Tweedy talks about the response to his call to action and his reasons for doing it. "I have to admit, I’ve been a little bit disappointed in the response, or lack of response, or outreach, from my peers," Tweedy tells RS. "I don’t think I would want to say that in any way that sounds condemning, because that’s what I put out there, and I can’t take for granted that it’s the best idea." He added that he's still talking with BMI and that he's "hoping to be able to put together a coalition of Black community leaders and people within the music industry that would help me administer and direct and be somewhat of a board of trustees."
Jeff also talks about the need for Black artists to have more access to venues, but why he's still focusing on the publishing industry. "American culture is Black culture," he says. "It’s not my place to be this voice of this, but it is real and it is true that [royalty theft] is an unaddressed crime." He continues: "What would the world look like if Big Mama Thornton had been paid? What would the world look like if those artists, even all the way back to minstrelsy, the first massive cultural/musical movement in the United States, which grew out of slavery and made a lot of money for a lot of white people, [had been compensated]? It’s not just the rock & roll era, or the jazz era. I don’t draw the line at just the bad contracts the Chess Brothers put together for Muddy Waters."
Read the whole interview at Rolling Stone.
Tweedy and his family have been doing a regular livestreamed performance series throughout coronavirus quarantine, lots of covers included. They recently they did renditions of Neil Young, My Bloody Valentine, and Arthur Russell.