Dozens of people gathered at a Nashville hotel with music industry artists and community leaders to address the relationship between music and politics and how it affects people and society on May 21.
The forum, entitled ‘Money, Power, Respect: Music and Politics’ was held at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Nashville and was sponsored by the National Museum of African American Music.
The panel, moderated by Eric Holt of the Lovenoise Group, discussed ways music influences politics and society.
Metro Nashville Council Member Jerry Maynard said that the reason many music artists never address social issues with their music is because they want to use their music to reach a diverse audience, making a decision not to address controversial issues. He also said that church pastors and other celebrities do not get involved in social issues because they are looking out for themselves.
“They make the conscious decision not to take that risk or make the decision that they are going to take that risk,” said Maynard. “They will look at their own self-interest and put their self-interest first.”
Maynard also said that many people are not using their platform to speak out on social issues because they do not want to get involved.
Independent recording artist Nate the Great said there are artists who are supportive on an issue and there are others who will not speak out. Eric Holt said there are artists who are doing positive things below the radar.
“There are spots ‘here and there’ of artists putting forth the effort to help move a certain cause forward, just in a different way, mainly because it’s a different time,” said Holt. “Today, we have a lot of things that come that we’re made aware of through social media and the important news culture that we’re in. A lot of times the facts might be a little different than the reality. As an artist, you have to play it a certain way.”
Maynard said that music artists should use their platforms to speak up on particular issues, saying people need to get out and vote in presidential and local elections.
When it comes to the importance of music, Maynard said that it changes people by giving them hope. Music and Entertainment Industry Adviser Hank Locklin said music was important to people as a source of inspiration. Recording artist Nate the Great said music (hip-hop) could be educational, focusing on lyricism. He asserted that politicians really have a connection to understanding the importance of music in making a change in society, saying music can be a reflection of society and a call for action. Locklin said when it comes to listening to music, there is always a message in the songs that people hear.
“Messages in songs are always going to be from the audience. Are there messages? Absolutely. Could it be deep? Yeah. Could it be shallow? Yeah,” said Locklin. “I think it’s up to each individual listener to find that thing, and if you find that message and it inspires that person and encourages that person to go out and act positively to that, then whatever that message is, is the right one.”
Dave Ragland, director of Inversion Vocal Ensemble, said he thought the forum was very creative because people do not get an opportunity to attend a forum where music and politics both are discussed. He said music influenced him by the way messages are being portrayed in songs by the artists. Ragland also said that, with today’s audience, the message has to be impactful. The artist has to be though provoking.