Fight the Power

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  • As we wrap up Black Music Month, I realize that there are a lot topics I had wanted to discuss that I might not get to before the month runs out, which only makes sense because there’s no way something as rich, deep and wide as black music could be contained to one month. And, of course, it isn’t really … not on the TJMS, at least. We love, honor and respect black music like no other. Black music is the lifeblood of black radio, and we need each other to survive. If Rep. John Conyers is successful at getting radio stations to pay a performance tax to artists when we play their music, it will be a financial burden that could break the back of black radio – and if there’s no black radio, or it forces more consolidation of the industry, nobody will win this thing.

    Forget about what black radio has already done for black music, black communities, the black movement and, yes, black leaders and politicians. Let’s just imagine what a world without black radio would look like. Sure, mainstream radio stations play black music, but are they committed to it? Would every black artist who stops by every black radio station to promote new music have an open door or would one or two of the ones with the widest appeal be given the chance? Would the people concerned about missing two-year-old Jada Justice, an African-American toddler from Gary, Indiana, have a forum to express their anger that the story wasn’t getting the national attention that it would have gotten if Jada were blond with blue eyes?

    We are already a shrinking industry trying real hard to survive and battle against bigger, wealthier competitors for a share of revenue. We’ve never been treated completely fairly – rarely able to command the same amount of money for a product often equal to and sometimes superior to our mainstream competition. We were the last invited to the party and are the first kicked out when it’s time to make changes, operating with the worst signals and power in most cities, and, through it all, still able to make it work because there was and a demand for our services. We’re the ones that Babyface and Beyonce, Chrisette Michele and Neo, Cosby and Chris Rock, President Obama and yes, John Conyers call when they want to reach black America because nobody does it like black radio does. If they or anybody reading this blog thinks mainstream radio, satellite radio or MP3 players are substitutes for black radio, I’d love to hear that argument.

    In the meantime, as you consider a world without black radio, the big show takes it beyond that to a world without black people, period. How wack would that be? What kind of music industry would there be? What would happen to professional sports? Heck, what would happen to the post office?

    Holla at me on Facebook, Twitter or text me at OhOhOh (646464). And, of course, you can always find me at the radio station playing the hits and keeping alive the hope of black radio – and the black artists, black leaders and the black community that that depends on it.

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