Celebrating the Contributions of Black Music Extend Beyond June
As June fades into the distance and summer winds down, you’re already planning for your next campaign. Now’s the perfect time to take note of what efforts you did in June—and what comes next.
You’ve probably heard that this past June 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday. This day celebrates the emancipation of the last enslaved people in the U.S. (To learn more about Juneteenth and its history, we recommend reading about it here). This historic day became referred to as Juneteenth, short for “June 19th,” and generations of Black Americans have celebrated it as a day of strength and perseverance ever since.
To honor the day, cities nationwide launch music festivals, influencers create inspirational playlists, and communities gather to celebrate. Music is at the forefront of it all. In fact, a recent SXM Media 2021 Soundboard study found that 89% of Black listeners celebrate cultural holidays and moments (including 64% who celebrate Juneteenth) and that listening to music is the most popular Juneteenth activity.
June is also designated as Black Music Month, a time to honor the artists and their contributions across folk, gospel, R&B, jazz, rock, rap, and hip-hop. Media companies and brands raise awareness during the month and shine a light on the inspiring people in the industry. For instance, we created custom music “mode” stations for Pandora, celebrating Black artists and culture. We also partnered with the National Museum of African American History and Culture for an original podcast, All Music Is Black Music, which explores how Black music and culture have influenced the music industry.
2021 Music Milestones
But Black music isn’t just a one-month celebration—it’s year-round, woven into the fabric of the culture. Everywhere you look, there are major music milestones happening this year in 2021. Legendary singer Marvin Gaye’s iconic What’s Going On album was released 50 years ago, and his words and music have served as a soundtrack for peace, love, and understanding that still resonate today. Philadelphia International Records, which showcased unique sounds of Philadelphia soul artists, like Patti LaBelle and Lou Rawls, turns 50 this year. As does Soul Train, the legendary music and dance TV show that featured R&B, soul, dance/pop, and hip-hop artists.
In yet another milestone, the powerful, uplifting track by Sounds of Blackness, “Optimistic,” was released 30 years ago.
“It’s one of the most iconic, unsung songs in Black music history,” says Akim Bryant, head of R&B programming for Pandora. “Alongside songs by Soul II Soul and Arrested Development, the song arguably was one of the driving catalysts for inspirational R&B music that dominated the early 2000s. It’s feel-good music for the mind, spirit, and soul,” he adds. (BTW, Jimmy Jam, half of the producing duo behind “Optimistic” now hosts his own show on SiriusXM, and noted that of all his collaborations, his favorite one was this song.)
All of these celebrated Black artists and their styles gave rise to hip-hop and rap. This year marks the 25th anniversary of several major hip-hop songs and albums as well, including Ghostface Killah’s debut solo album Ironman, Nas and Lauryn Hill’s single “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)," and 2Pac’s final album All Eyez on Me, which features legends Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and George Clinton.
These iconic artists and many others have motivated their Black audiences to demand social and political justice. Their music is powerful, comforting, and energizing. Black Americans have rallied around music during some of the most difficult periods and darkest days, from slavery to the Civil Rights Era to the Black Lives Matter movement. Music delivers messages of peace, understanding, and tolerance.
Just think about Marvin Gaye’s words from “What’s Going On:”
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today.”
Make Black Music a Cornerstone in your Marketing Plan
For brands looking to support all these efforts, it’s important to approach the space with authenticity and consistency. 3 in 4 Black Pandora listeners say they “are more likely to support companies that are consistent with their support of the Black community, and believe it’s important for brands to show visible support for the Black community throughout the year.”
So, how can brands do this? You definitely don’t need to (and shouldn’t) wait until June to speak out during Black Music Month. Keep a pulse on Black subcultures, festivals, and influencers throughout the year. Consider sponsoring stations, podcasts, and franchise events—whether that’s a branded podcast episode with Black talent and creators, or sponsoring a Black music station for an upcoming festival.
As the newest federal holiday, Juneteenth serves as a strong reminder to pause and reflect on music’s ability to unite people, raise awareness for critical issues, and work toward change. Black artists have been leading and inspiring generations of listeners, and their music and lyrics continue to make an impact each and every day, all year long. That means that advertisers need to be consistent with their support throughout the year, not just in the month of June. Reaching Black listeners with relevant messaging is always important, and making authentic connections is essential.
Pandora Soundboard, Black Listener Study, AA18+ (N=505), June 2021.