Rap Coalition

A HOW-TO RESOURCE FOR RAP ARTISTS, PRODUCERS, & DJs. Since knowledge is power, here is your best defense to succeed in the urban music industry...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Music Industry’s Refusal to Breed New Talent, Cripples it
By, Kevin Ross from Radio Facts
July 5, 2009 · Posted in radio facts

Over the last decade the music industry has been on a downward spiral ever since Napster reared its ugly head in 1998. The record labels took a hard hit as millions of participants downloaded and uploaded free music on a peer to peer network set up by of all things… a college student named Shawn Fanning. Shawn was very smart and very dumb. He was a computer programmer and the setup of the system was ingenious but he didn’t set it up where he could make a profit. He was shut down by court order and later sold the brand and logo and even though the company is still in business today, it immediately lost its appeal when users had to now pay for the service. Has the industry learned its lesson since then? Security companies often hire criminals to help them make their systems more secure. Why didn’t the labels hire Shawn? The industry should have seen this coming after all, the industry created mp3 technology a couple of years before Napster came along. Instead of utilizing this kind of talent, the industry spent millions fighting against the technology. A fight that is still going on today but it’s now coupled with slow record sales.

If the record labels have suffered, radio has taken an even harder hit. The lost profits from file sharing all but shut down artist’s promotions for many stations, which were not almost fully owned by corporations on the urban side like Radio One and Clear Channel. Trade magazines died and the frivolous spending came to a screeching halt. Industry parties, conferences and trade ads with labels bragging about their chart position all died simultaneously around 2002.

Radio corporations realized they were not going to be able to incorporate massive incomes from the labels which was what attracted several of them to purchase mass stations in the first place and they had to come up with other ways to garner revenue. Radio One owner Cathy Hughes raised eyebrows in the early 2000s when she went national with a campaign to stop programmers from receiving payola starting with her stations. Her statement was, (paraphrasing) ‘Why should I pay them and they are getting money from other sources to play music on my stations?’ The other corporations didn’t touch that one publicly and Cathy stood alone in the media but the other corporations followed suit. They made stringent rules and watched programmers like hawks to make sure the programmers were not earning revenue that could be directly going to the station. In addition they stripped programmers of creative duties like nurturing new talent by giving them extra responsibilities.

Urban radio, it is said is 75% syndication today and even though the numbers for those shows in several markets are impressive, these syndicated shows are cancerous to the urban radio format. Why? urban radio has always been the leader in creating trends. Networks like MTV have made millions from realizing the trend over the last few decades when other networks refused to utilize research that clearly indicated black kids in urban communities created the trends that white suburban kids adopted. Hip Hop remains the prime example.

Urban radio in the 60s, 70, and even the 80s created trends, radio stars and was a make or break platform for new artists. When corporations took over the urban radio landscape and hired constipated consultants who didn’t know anything about the urban lifestyle and trends (even several of the conservative black consultants) it was the first nail in the coffin of urban radio’s creative edge. Consultants for urban radio are like the worst bacteria in your system causing the most putrid smelling diarrhea you can imagine. Most consultants for urban radio are old and dated and if you asked them who the top rapper is they would say Will Smith. They WAIT for trends instead of creating them, they advised urban radio on which announcers to use and the announcers were almost always what we call in the industry “liner-driven robots” or “Yuckers” which basically means arrogant jocks who enjoy hearing their own voice in their headphones and don’t ever really say much of anything of substance but the call letters of the station and reading public service announcements or station promotions.

These types of announcers come a dime a dozen are are about as exciting as watching water run out of the faucet. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, other trends were created to continue to rape urban radio’s creative edge. Voicetracking, (basically liner-driven robots and yuckers who announce for several stations in different markets) and syndication.

Urban radio syndication is not all bad but it’s certainly not all good. Dominating 75% of urban radio’s landscape is unacceptable and so few of the shows are creative or have hosts under 40. Syndication is killing urban radio because it is a direct hit on the development of local talent and urban radio’s (former) winning, trend-creative edge. Tom Joyner has been on over 10 years. In that time there were literally hundreds of potential urban jocks who could have started a lucrative career and they would have risen through the ranks to be a programmer at the end of that 10 years. Tom is almost 60 and his show is about as funny as a cold cup of coffee. He’s not breaking new music, he’s not creating stars and he’s not breeding new talent. Code Blue on the urban industry… CODE BLUE. In addition his presence, and others like him in the urban radio landscape, has not only stifled the development of new morning show talent but it has also halted the birth of new urban programmers in more than a decade. AT LEAST Tom is a radio veteran….

Comedians who are basically frustrated with Hollywood’s racist practices and their inability to find suitable work have found an ally in urban radio. Corporations like Radio One, Clear Channel and radio consultants TRAINED urban radio announcers to be robots and to not have personalities and then punished them for it by hiring out of work comedians who didn’t have to abide by those rules. There is currently an overdose of syndicated show flooding the urban radio market with more to come.

In the 60s and 70s urban radio announcers were STARS. They were allowed to program their own shows, book their own gigs and they probably made more money THEN then the urban announcers make today 25 to 40 years later. That practice was halted when radio stations realized they were forking over too much potential revenue to announcers who had too much power. So consultants and corporations stripped them of their self esteem by removing all opportunities to shine and making idiotic statements like “The Music is the Star.”

Corporate greed has stifled the growth of the urban industry and while corporations complain about the lack of advertising revenue and the Performance Tax issue they fail to look at what they produce. When the economy is tight, advertisers spend money where it’s most effective. What’s the answer to all that the industry is currently going through? Sometimes the answer is in the question: The industry will start growing… when the industry starts GROWING.

Kevin Ross/Radio Facts


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