Pennies from Kevin: The Industry Summary 2007 Pt 2


Part 2
… one of the most impressive things that have happened in the industry this year is the continued emergence of entrepreneurialism amongst singers and rappers. Once content to have a steak and fries and a nice car, Black singers and rappers are thinking twice about the big picture now. No more thug, arrest and party shooting scenes. 50 Cent once said, “you can’t be high and handle business.” Diddy, Beyonce, Jay-Z, Latifah, 50, Master P, Will Smith and others have shown there is a monetary life outside of and inside of the music industry and you are a damn fool if you leave your 15 minutes in the hands of someone else. As quiet as it’s kept, this is also why the music industry has suffered over the last few years. There are no more ignorant black poor kids letting white executives at the labels handle and make money from their careers. They now understand their OWN power and they won’t be left in the welfare dust like so many of their predecessors from urban music’s yesteryear. I talked to one former rapper who is a real estate investor now and he told me during lunch one day that the EXACT same game he played on the streets as a drug dealer applied to doing business in real estate. “Business is business” he concluded, “some of it is legal and some of it is illegal, but I will never let anybody else handle MY money again.”

Urban Radio and Syndication….
The only two syndicated radio hosts that I can say are ACTUAL radio alumnus are Tom Joyner, Doug Banks (is he still around) and Wendy Williams. The rest of them, Steve Harvey, Big Boy, Michael Baisden, Yolanda Adams, Keith Sweat and more, were able to use their celebrity to encroach on a turn that has literally hundreds of starving and mistreated announcers waiting in the wings. Urban radio has always been a psychological game for me, at least, that you were just not going to win. To make a long story short, I started off working for what was once called Mom and Pop stations. These were black owned outlets where the owner was constantly struggling to make ends meet and any profit that was made was going to him first…. that is understandable but the second part isn’t.. it was also going to him ONLY. I’ve worked at stations where promotional items were sent to ME and the owner took them and gave them to his or her kids. I’ve worked for one station here in Atlanta where the owner was probably the meanest bitch I’ve ever met in my entire life. She was so incredibly bitter and negative that just being in the same room with her made me physically ill. After enduring six years of urban radio prison, I was FINALLY hired at KKBT in Los Angles which showed me what a REAL radio station was all about. I made so much money there that it was falling out of my locker when I came to work each day. National voice commercials,promotional items, high paying remotes and this was all from working part time!!!. I knew then and I know now Black DJs are treated WAY differently than White jocks, even today and that’s why I got out.

Speaking to jocks at Radio One, the premiere black owned corporation and Clear Channel, there are still MANY unhappy black radio people out there. Their main complain is the hard work for the low pay. Getting back to my first point about the comedians, actors and singers who piggybacked off of our hard work to have syndicated shows bigger than most black announcers will ever have, perhaps you can see how unfair that is now. By the same token, many black announcers have not parlayed their careers in to bigger and better things. Mostly because when you work for a lot of these black owners who rob y0u of your worth by telling you things like “You should be glad to have a job, the white stations are not going to hire you!” (which unfortunately was/is true) you stop pushing for something better after a spell and you start to settle. The comedians and the singers who do syndicated radio today didn’t have to experience that and I do see it as encroaching on the pros territory. There are MANY qualified black announcers who can do a nationally syndicated show but will never get the chance moreover, they may be out of a job if syndication continues to dominate. In 2007 we are seeing more and more syndication shows pop up and more and more announcers out of work. Black announcers better wise up and take advantage of their talents and be able to bend over and let the radio corporation kiss their bare naked ass if an opportunity pops up. Radio is supposed to be fun and if it’s an assembly line, it’s a waste of time. In 2007, I continue to see many black announcers “stuck” and in a rut working for stations that treat them like shit and there is no room for growth.

How can the industry grow?
Get rid of all these old and useless execs and wallets and purses. It’s no secret that record labels have consistently kept the wrong people on the payroll for years because they didn’t want to hire the right people. Yes, it does boil down to black and white. Most of the labels, during the 90s had all white A&R reps working with rappers fresh out of prison and the projects. Those reps were scared of those kids and the kids took over, which was the death of A&R. Remember the days when artists were taught how to walk and talk and any and I mean ANY kind of negative press was considered career death? Well, now an artist scores points with fans for being involved in shootings and illegal activity. I’m not saying the industry needs to hire all black people now but they damn sure need some new blood, that goes for radio too. Over the last 20 years urban radio has CONSTANTLY recycled the SAME programmers and there have been few if any newbies to catch up. Black men continue to dominate the urban radio arena and there is little diversity, inclusion and marketing savvy at most urban outlets. It’s pretty much the same thing in every market at every station. Urban radio websites are not fully connected with the stations and need TREMENDOUS marketing work and there is a lot of work to be done.

Record labels…
Because the labels are still antiquated they continue to ignore marketing possibilities. One such market is gay and lesbian. Two words that black people still hate to hear in a group but can palate when they are not under pressure to be like the crowd. We ALL know someone or have someone in our family who is gay or lesbian but the black church still has issues with this group and continues to teach parishioners to discriminate and hate them. My view on the black church is that it’s a cult and it’s so possessive that urban radio stations follow the rules as well. But labels don’t have to… That’s one thing that white artists and label reps know better than Black artist and reps, the power of niche groups. I can understand rappers not wanting to be involved with gay culture, even though many of them have been to jail and have their own “secrets” (I mean, really) but black females rappers and singers should dominate this market. Madonna took advantage of it and so has Tyra Banks and Diana Ross but today’s female rappers are for the most part ignoring the opportunity to move units and to establish themselv
es in other ways. The older demo is also constantly ignored when it comes to promotions. The perception that people over 35 don’t buy music is absurd especially in today’s technological market but most of the stations that play AC music lose the listeners interest for anything new because they play they are stlll playing Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love” from 1985 (laugh). On the other end, older artist trying to make music with hip hop beats or a young feel should leave it alone. Patti Labelle is NOT going to get a bunch of 17 year old girls to go out and buy her latest single. But she can still do something in her age range that is appealing to the 35 plus crowd.