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Jeff Tweedy Shares Potential Plan for Reparations in the Music Industry

"I believe everybody that is participating in the music industry today has an enormous debt to a lot of artists that were never paid"

On June 18, Jeff Tweedy announced that he would start donating 5% of his writer royalties to racial justice organizations and urged other artists to do the same.

And in a new interview, Tweedy explains not only its importance but also how this promise can turn into an industry-wide mission.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say our culture wouldn’t be our culture without black genius,” the Wilco singer told Rolling Stone. “There’s a shameful history there, and there are things the industry should still be ashamed of. There are things about the way Black artists are treated today that are different and unfair. It isn’t an equal playing field.”

He plans to start pushing for these donations with BMI, which currently allows artists to do this on a “one-off basis” but are looking into a sustainable “automated system.” Tweedy also has plans to bring a “board of trustees.”

“…I’m 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,” he said. “We’re in the early stages of that, and there’s still an opportunity, in the short term, to continue the discussion as best we can with BMI, and start there, because it’s where I’m registered.”

Despite his passion for this initiative, Tweedy admitted he’s no expert in this kind of activism and revealed that he’s been looking to his kids, Sammy and Spencer, for some guidance.

“They’re both very committed to the community and the cause,” he said. “They’re in a position where, like a lot of white people trying to be good allies and trying to understand what our role is moving forward, are advocating for a lot of listening and a lot of following. I just think that it was important for a white artist to be the one to come out and address this openly, as a conversation starter.”

When asked about the unequal playing field for Black artists, Tweedy pointed out how touring and festivals treat white and Black artists.

“I do see that black artists don’t tour the same way that white artists do,” he said. “I don’t believe they have access to the same venues. Even festivals, a lot of times, there’s subtle segregation in the days that are designated as ‘hip-hop days.’ [You see] a music industry unwilling to fight back against a society that wants the hip-hop day to be over with by six o’clock.”

And while some artists have been inspired by Tweedy’s mission, there are still many who have not joined the cause. Tweedy hopes that white artists will, at least, address one big issue.

“The thing that white artists really need to address is the same thing everybody needs to address in our society: greed,” he said. “Greed is at the heart of a lot of these fucking issues. It’s about allowing yourself to have somewhat of a revolution of your mind regarding what that actually does for you. To claim ownership of things like art and spirit and ideas and have that be tied to financial reward is at the root of the problem. It’s part of the reason that I wanted it to be a part of my statement that I have to address that, too.”

Read Jeff Tweedy’s complete interview with Rolling Stone here.