Brianna Agyemang’s story is part of Billboard’s annual Women in Music list, which spotlights more than 200 female executives and activists changing the industry.
Agyemang, who is the senior artist campaign manager at Apple’s Platoon division, and Thomas, the senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, took the entire industry to task for fostering systemic bias while historically profiting from Black music. #TheShowMustBePaused was launched.
Agyemang says, “We knew what we had to do. And it was time to get it done.” Shared over 700,000 times on Instagram, their hashtag appeared at the bottom of a black square against which the duo’s mission was explained in stark white letters: “To hold the music industry accountable and transparent in its practices across representation, social responsibility and holistic compensation as it pertains to its Black artists, partners and staff.” Discussion groups with invitees from the Black music community led to conversations and corporate task forces to address diversity, inclusion and equity issues and, eventually, millions of dollars in donations in sup- port of racial justice.
On June 2, Agyemang and Thomas hosted three discussion groups joined by 1,500 invitees from the Black music community. Agyemang and Thomas spent the next 90 days galvanizing their organization’s membership and developing an action plan. On Sept. 2, #TheShowMustBePaused shifted into phase two as its founders wrote an op-ed for Billboard with a list of demands for music companies, calling for “radical activism [in] restructuring the organization within music industry companies to gain more room for growth opportunities for Black people.”
Agyemang and Thomas “seized the moment with clarity, trusted their deepest intuitions and acted on the frustrations of their generation and those prior. Their courageous leap of faith has given a voice to those who need it — which is why the initiative will continue to be a pivotal, long-lasting change campaign in our industry.” says Platoon co-founder/CEO Denzyl Feigelson.
As for how their own lives have changed, both women say #TheShowMustBePaused empowered them to take ownership of their self-worth. “Black women are never credited for our work, always hiding how we feel,” says Agyemang. “That’s part of the reason why we had to step to the forefront. This needed to be done: trailblazing a new path for our generation and beyond in the industry.”