June 4, 2009

Performance Royalty Tax: Fighting Over Crumbs

Why has this turned into Black Performers vs. Radio One?

On Tuesday Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson of the Supremes, George Clinton, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave among others turned out for House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers' Town Hall meeting at Wayne State University in Detroit. It was called "Awareness for Fairness" and apparently it took a decidedly anti-Radio One tone at the meeting. One reason being is the proliferation of syndicated shows at Radio One's Detroit R&B and Old School station Mix 92.3 WMXD.

The whole mind set or thought out there is that Radio One is BLACK RADIO. Radio One may be the largest Black Owned radio company but they are not Black Radio. There are other independent Black radio stations across the country. But for many places in the country, the Black music station is owned by Clear Channel, CBS Radio or another large media company. So the perception is that Black radio doesn't play the music the listeners want to hear or has gotten rid of local talent in favor of syndicated hosts. And listeners are angry about that. They are angry at Cathy Hughes.

But I ask, "Why are long retired R&B singers being trotted out to the public to lead the fight of a performance royalty tax?" Sometimes when I post something about this, I get a nice email from the people over at Music First stating that Duke Fakir of the Four Tops is in favor of a royalty tax. I like the Four Tops as much as the next person, but I can't remember the LAST TIME I heard a Dionne Warwick, a Four Tops, or Sam and Dave record on BLACK radio. You're most likely to hear one of their songs on a mainstream or for a lack of a better term "white" radio station.

Think about it. What Black radio station programs "Motown" or Soul music anymore? Classic Soul music for Black radio is Luther Vandross, Anita Baker and Atlantic Starr. Besides can't today's Black radio stations owned by Radio One simply not play a Dionne Warwick or Martha Reeves and the Vandellas song EVER again? Would anyone even notice? Dionne, then you won't see a dime. Don't you know baby boomers, the folks of your generation, don't even bother with turning on the radio anymore? They play CDs or listen to satellite radio.

I'm not even really sure if a Performance Royalty Tax will hurt small independent Black radio stations anymore; but I'm sure it will have devastating effects on Radio One's bottom line and Cathy Hughes' pockets. They will probably need a bailout or go bankrupt. But it just seems they're fighting over crumbs. Black radio has much bigger problems than a performance royalty tax. They have less revenue coming in due to under reporting of the PPM, Portable People Meter ratings system and the lack of major advertisers like GM and Chrysler ...and most importantly an image problem. All problems not easily solved.
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