Cannes Lions

Black History Is Happening Now


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2018 gave us Beychella and Kendrick Lamar winning the Pulitzer, but unfortunately the negative news and attacks against Black bodies continued to grow. The challenge became to reframe the dialogue around what it means to be Black in America, while authentically celebrating Black excellence and artistry. However, in an age where brand pandering is abundant, we were committed to creating a program that not only made sense from our brand, but would also drive conversation about the way Black history is celebrated in America.


Black History is Happening Now is a campaign created to use music and the arts as a way into showcasing a different perspective of Black history, with an emphasis on the present and future. It was manifested in the form of a year-round content hub on Spotify, quarterly curated by some of the biggest names in music. Beyond that, we carried out different programs, fellowships, and grants aimed to amplify a generation of rising Black creatives across music, visual art, and podcasts.


Most of the brand-supported activity around celebrating Balck achievements takes place during Black History Month, also the shortest month of the year. Spotify had also followed this model in previous years. Essentially, African American culture, which very much continues to shape American History, is siloed and only widely acknowledged for 28 days in the year. Similarly, schools across the U.S. shift their curriculums to highlight prominent Black figures in history. By analyzing that so many of these efforts were short lived and fixated on the past, we arrived at our breakthrough insight. There is enough Black history currently happening, especially in music and the arts, that can and should be amplified year-round.


‘Black History Is Happening Now’ is the multi-platform campaign that was born out of this strategy. We started by creating a dedicated content hub on Spotify and partnered with some of the biggest names in music to curate quarterly playlists, themes, and podcasts. We then geared the campaign towards rising Black creators, by using our platform to establish programs such as a boot camp for aspiring podcasters, a music fellowship, and grants for Black women content creators. To cap it off, we partnered with 2 visual artists to design a merch collection inspired by unsung moments in Black music history, and gave it away in a one-day immersive pop up shop in SoHo. Through the entire campaign, we continued to use our key insight to push the truth that Black history is happening now, and Black artists, Black women, Black voices—should be celebrated year-round.


On the Spotify platform, there was a 741% increase in visits to the Black History Hub, and a 41% increase in playlist streams featuring black emerging artists. Off-platform, the program drove over 12 million video views and over 70 press articles.

Over 18,000 women of color applied for the Sound-Up Bootcamp - of the 10 winners, one has had their podcast developed as a fully-funded and promoted Spotify Original. A Cultural Fellowship on Spotify’s playlisting team was won by a young woman whose unconventional entry on Twitter went viral, attracting over 15,000 retweets. She has since moved into a more senior role on the team.

Black History is Happening Now has inspired brands like Tumblr to follow suit with campaigns that uplift Black voices throughout the year.

In addition, activations like Wear Black History created cultural moments, with the pop-up event in Soho attracting long-lines for the unique merch.

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