Country music star Morgan Wallen had the No. 1 album in America for a third week running when TMZ released a video, shot by Wallen’s neighbor on Feb. 2, that showed Wallen yelling the N-word.
The response was swift and historic: major radio conglomerates yanked Wallen songs from the air, just as streaming services pulled him from their top playlists. His record company announced an “indefinite” suspension.
This is not where the story ends, however. In the first full chart week following the racist video leak, Wallen streams and sales actually rose. He secured the No. 1 album on the Billboard charts for a fourth straight week. And on social media, it became clear that opinions in the Nashville music industry were split on appropriate consequences for Wallen.
This week’s Rezak Music Business Lecture assembles a panel of music industry leaders to assess the Wallen situation. Each in their own way is uniquely qualified not only to discuss this incident, but also to move the conversation beyond the dynamics of Nashville and one racist incident. What does institutional racism mean in the context of today’s music industry? What changes can and should the industry make to create an equitable climate and culture? What are the role and responsibility of those who attend this panel? What does it mean to be anti-racist in the context of the music business? These questions and more will be discussed.
- Jonathan Azu, founder and CEO of Culture Collective and Diversity In Music
- Tim Blacksmith, manager and founder of Delirious Blacksmith Management, which manages superstar producers Stargate; founder of Stellar Songs, publisher for Sam Smith, Charli XCX and others; 45th & 3rd Music; and Tim & Danny Music
- Cortez “Tez” Bryant, a regular on Billboard’s Power 100 and R&B/Hip-hop Power Players lists; currently manages Lil Nas X, T.I., Trippie Redd, and G-Eazy. His first job in the music industry was managing a then-fledgling rapper, Lil Wayne, all the way to the top of the charts.
- Noelle Scaggs, co-lead vocalist of Fitz And The Tantrums and founder of Diversify The Stage
- Caron Veazey, manager and founder of Something In Common and co-founder of the Black Music Action Coalition
- Andrea Williams, Nashville-based journalist who wrote the recent Vulture article “Morgan Wallen Is Exactly What Country Music Wanted … Now What?“
This event was published on February 9, 2021.