Are black radio’s chickens coming home to roost?
Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of Radio One, has been hitting the air waves and the black press pleading to anyone who will listen that Rep. John Conyers’ Performance Tax Bill (HR848) will destroy black owned radio.
The bill would require radio stations pay more money to artists to play their music. Anyone who knows anything about the entertainment/music industry knows the artist is always the very last person to get paid and usually that check is peanuts unless they are a major player. And by major, I mean Madonna. Most folks no matter how successful their records are still are sitting by the mailbox waiting for that check to come it.
The complaint is that this bill would adversely affect black owned radio stations as they tend to be not as financially well off, so Hughes went on the Tom Joyner Show Friday to plead her case.
You could almost feel sorry for her.
More after the jump.
While Hughes is black and there are still some black owned radio stations, I would argue that “black” radio, as it historically was, died a long crusty time ago. I can still remember when the last black owned, independent station in St. Louis shut down (before Hughes and Radio One turned up). It was a blues station, KATZ-AM, and my mother’s favorite station. Everyone mourned its sale as it was independent as they came, playing absolutely nothing mainstream (Denise LaSalle, anyone?) and being the last beacon of where the DJs were still colorful, yet community oriented. (RIP, Doctor Jockenstein.)
I was a teen at the time and hated KATZ because I hated what I thought of then as my mother’s old fuddy duddy music, but even I knew it was bad if KATZ was going down as the last of its kind. Therefore when Hughes popped up and started buying up stations across the country, we were excited. Would she bring back stations similar to KATZ or what St. Louis’ Majic 108 FM (now an entirely different station) used to be when they were black owned? A mixture of music and a community forum?
And the answer was … no.
What we got in St. Louis was a constant rotation of booty shaking music and not … much … else. Black radio was black radio in name only and felt deader than ever.
Let’s be honest. For many of us, black radio died a long time ago. We aren’t producing any more Marvin Gayes and Stevie Wonders. What passes today as classic Soul music is Jamie Fox’s “Blame it on the Alcohol.” It’s not that the black community is not full of talented, would be musicians singing and rapping on street corners in every hood but black radio is too busy playing Soulja Boy every five minutes to give aspiring artists a fighting chance.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the strong legacy of black radio stations, as the companies were instrumental in not only giving us the latest hits but giving the community critical, need to know info during the 60’s and 70’s. Ms. Hughes should be especially honored for her innovative approach to black talk radio with WOL in Washington DC.
But this ain’t the early 80’s and the days of radio hosts like Petey Green have long been replaced by the Lil Waynes of the world.
Scott points out that many black people have begged, cajoled and pleaded for Hughes’ empire and other stations to give us more than sugar water and sexually charged ear candy to stimulate our brain matter, but these pleas have largely been for naught. He sees this as Karma, pure and simple.
In a later post on his site, Scott compares the radio stations to snitching drug dealers in their efforts to keep from having to play artists.
When I heard the Tom Joyner Morning Show, today I thought about the scene from New Jack City when drug dealer Nino Brown, facing a possible trip to the electric chair, started fingering everybody in the courtroom …
Well, it didn’t take too long for Joyner to start squealin’ on the record industry.
(In the ‘hood they call it snitchin’)
“It’s not us. It’s the record companies!”
Bingo, Tom! But black radio has been an accessory to the crime.
In drug dealer terminology you might not be the king pin who brings the drugs over from South America but urban radio is the main distributor. So both of you are guilty of putting poison in the black community.
But this bill isn’t the only thing keeping Hughes up at night.
Radio One’s stock has fallen to Mickey D’s dollar menu levels. Urban Radio Nation reported that there was an emergency meeting of the executive board on Friday and that the company’s stock closed Thursday at 93 cents a share.
During the company’s Aug. 5 teleconference with Wall Street analysts and investors to report the company’s second quarter earnings, CEO and president Alfred Liggins III, reported that the company was making every effort possible to get the company’s share price above a dollar. At 10 a.m. this morning, shares of ROIAK were up 2.15% or 2 cents to 95 cents. If Radio One does not achieve compliance, and it does not appear that is likely, Nasdaq will provide written notification that Radio One’s securities will be delisted.
This makes Hughes recent “Obi Wan, you’re our only hope” letters to black consumers all the more relevant. Her baby, her company that she built from the ground up is facing extinction in today’s tough economy. All radio stations are hurting, but Radio One seems to be hemorrhaging cash, hence why paying out to artists and record companies sounds like a death sentence to them. But is this a death sentence Hughes and other black radio stations deserve?
Already a minority in the medium, the few African American owned stations could become fewer says key people of interest. Hughes appeared on Radio One talk syndicates to discuss the bill and urge listeners to interact with their representatives to stop the bill. Ballentine urged Gospel stations could be affected mostly. (Dryerbuzz.com)
Blog Dryerbuzz.com makes the point that any extra cash to the artists will come at the expense of black radio stations, but in today’s environment where artists are seeing even less money due to illegal downloading and record companies trying to cash in on touring (traditionally the main way a musician actually makes money), what can you do? Should broke artists continue to starve for the sake of the radio stations? Will the radio stations stand up to the record companies on the artists’ behalf (if only to avoid having to pay more themselves)?
The radio stations can’t survive without the music from the artists, they deserve to be paid, but if the radio station kicks the bucket, who’s going to play the music?
While stations owned by larger, non-minority owned corporate entities will be more than happy to supply people with their Lil Wayne fix, is black-owned radio something that must be preserved, even if we’re not always happy with the results?
In other words: Are you for saving Cathy Hughes if it would save your local black gospel station? Or should the free market be allowed to absorb more and more of the weaker, cash strapped stations as it happened in St. Louis?
Or is this really the consumer’s fault? It’s easy to complain about Hughes and accuse her of only wanting to make money by her stations playing a lot of meaningless pap, but it’s meaningless pap that someone must want to listen to, otherwise she wouldn’t play it at all.
Yet that same meaningless pap must not pay like it used to considering Radio One is trading below a four-piece chicken McNugget. So what’s going on here?
Can this house be saved? Do you even want it to be saved, or are we talking about something that is already dead and gone?