August 13, 2022

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Morgan Wallen: Can Nashville Wake Up & Diversify?

After the video was released on Feb. 2, the country music industry mobilized quickly. The next day, Wallen — whose album Dangerous: The Double Album was spending its third week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart — was dropped from virtually all country radio playlists; his record label and management company, Big Loud, posted on its Instagram account that it had decided to “suspend Morgan Wallen’s recording contract indefinitely”; WME had dropped him as a touring client, CMT had pulled all Wallen content from its platforms; and streaming services yanked him from editorial playlists. (On Wednesday, Wallen, who had been positioned as country next potential global star, issued a video apology, saying that he had begun meeting with Black leaders, had stopped drinking and, notably, asked his fans to stop defending his actions. Big Loud declined to comment on whether his contract was still suspended or what the suspension means).

It was a rapid reckoning unlike anything the country music industry had seen before. But was it enough? No, say many Black leaders and members of the country music community, who add Nashville needs to take this moment to reflect and act on impacting lasting change.

Though the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) praised the country music industry’s swift action dropping Wallen in a Feb. 5 statement, the advocacy organization formed last year to fight systemic racism in the music industry is among those saying Wallen’s actions are symptomatic of much bigger issues in Nashville that affect artist rosters, radio playlists and corporate offices.

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