“When confronted by the leaders of several Black-owned media companies, General Motors (GM) listed my network, REVOLT, as an example of the Black-owned media it supports,” Diddy wrote in the lengthy op-ed in which he noted that Revolt receives ad revenue from the car maker, but does not consider that an example of success.
“Instead, REVOLT, just like other Black-owned media companies, fights for crumbs while GM makes billions of dollars every year from the Black community,” he continued in the missive entitled “If You Love Us, Pay Us: A Letter From Sean Combs to Corporate America.”
“Exposing GM’s historic refusal to fairly invest in Black-owned media is not an assassination of character, it’s exposing the way GM and many other advertisers have always treated us,” Combs added. “No longer can Corporate America manipulate our community into believing that incremental progress is acceptable action.”
Diddy claimed that corporations such as GM have “exploited” Black culture, “undermined our power and excluded Black entrepreneurs from participating in the value created by Black consumers,” noting that while brands spent $239 billion on advertising in 2019, less than 1% of that was invested in Black-owned media companies. He also claimed that of the $3 billion GM spent on ads, Revolt estimates only $10 million was invested in Black-owned media.
“Like the rest of Corporate America, General Motors is telling us to sit down, shut up and be happy with what we get,” Combs wrote. At press time it was unclear what inspired the impassioned note, which ended with Combs demanding that corporate America reinvest an equitable percentage of what it takes out of the Black community back in. “If the Black community represents 15% of your revenue, Black-owned media should receive at least 15% of the advertising spend,” he said.
In a statement shared with Billboard, a spokesperson for the carmaker noted that despite Combs’ claims in his open letter, “GM spends significantly less that $3 billion annually on advertising.” In addition, the company says it plans to increase its media spend with Black-owned media over the next four years, and to go beyond advertising and sponsorships to include investments and more.
“General Motors is committed to partnering with minority-owned media organizations, including Black-owned media companies. In 2021, for example, we doubled our spend with Black-owned media groups to 2%,” read GM’s response in part. “We will increase our spend with this important segment to 4% in 2022, and will continue to grow our spend thereafter with a target of 8% by 2025.”
Combs’ forceful call for empowerment and investment, however, elicited a torrent of equally intense responses on Twitter that Combs may not have anticipated. In a flood of sharp-edged tweets, users pointed to long-standing allegations that Diddy — whom Forbes dubbed a “near billionaire” in 2019 based on his reported $740 million fortune — has a purported history of underpaying the acts signed to his Bad Boy roster and affiliated songwriters.
In January 2020, former Bad Boy rapper Mase addressed Diddy in a pointed Instagram post alleging that “your past business practices knowingly has continued purposely starved your artists and been extremely unfair to the very same artist that helped u obtain that Icon Award.” His comment was in response to a message of Black empowerment Combs made at an industry event prior to that year’s Grammy Awards.
“Diddy, it starts with us. I was recently approached to host a show for Revolt and it came without pay. We cannot keep knocking white folks for their disrespect towards minority creators while doing the same thing to each other,” read one tweet in response to the artist’s open letter. Another Twitter user posted a cartoon image of man with a cross, sideways look and the message, “the entire 90s Bad Boy records roster reading this right now like.”
Many other tweets called out what they said was Combs’ hypocrisy at asking for corporate accountability to the Black community, including one in which two cartoon Diddys point at each other with the comment, “Diddy writing an open letter to corporate America about not paying black artists.”
Billboard has reached out to Combs for comment.
See some of the Twitter reactions to Diddy’s letter below.
Ironically this is a letter that should be penned to you… Mr Corporate Combs😔✍️ pic.twitter.com/a0jsF7Ie7u
— Jimmy Whispers ⚓ (@monomyth_ivxx) April 8, 2021
the entire 90s Bad Boy records roster reading this right now like pic.twitter.com/31vYGkHVxd
— Chukwu D. Okoye (@ProsodiJ) April 8, 2021
Diddy writing an open letter to corporate America about not paying black artists pic.twitter.com/WcUAqmI1j9
— MONTENEGRO (@cxrodge3) April 8, 2021
Diddy calling upstairs from downstairs. https://t.co/fotx4ECsLk
— AME Youngboy (@MelechThomas) April 8, 2021
Diddy: IF YOU LOVE US PAY US
All the artists diddy has failed to pay: pic.twitter.com/SFSiEvnvoI
— Big Girl Slay 💋 (@Biggirlslay) April 8, 2021
I want Diddy’s audacity https://t.co/Al70A9pgO2
— OLONI BABY (@Oloni) April 8, 2021
The call is coming from inside the house
— Get Me Off This Ride PODCAST 🙅 (@GetMeTFasap) April 8, 2021
Free Mase brother, you can’t lecture corporations when you’ve stifled a black brother. Allow Mase to own his records, take a reasonable price otherwise you ain’t different from these corporations manipulating artists.
— Musau Mutanda Moses. (@MutandaLaw) April 8, 2021
Diddy talking about his letter to Corporate America:
Also Diddy leaving before paying a check to Black Artists: pic.twitter.com/N8Vpsq82xz
— In My Mind (@MeAloneInMyMind) April 8, 2021
There’s too many stories about artists having to eat cat food for survival under Diddy’s umbrella for him to be writing an open letter to corporate America.
Just make a new flavor of Ciroc and go!
— ᴅᴏʟʟᴀʀ (@callmedollar) April 8, 2021