April 15, 2014

Radio if Not Hurting; is No Help for Black Artists

Black artists such as Beyonce, Aloe Blacc and Pharrell have broken through to radio audiences and consumers of music despite no promotional push from radio. In the case of Pharrell we began posting stories and videos on this blog back in January on his hit song 'Happy' and the dances people were creating in their own cities around the world, when very few stations (most notably Black radio) even had the song on their radar. What took corporate radio management so long to get on-board with this song? Check out Pharrell's comments on Oprah Prime on the OWN network [below]. He tells Oprah the song had "zero airplay and then BOOM!" it became an international hit overnight.

Beyonce of course created an unprecedented buzz across social media with the release of her self-titled album in December 2013. The album broke all sorts of sales records on iTunes. Those radio stations and corporate owners if initially upset with the success of her ability to move her product by bypassing radio completely as a promotional tool; need to take a hard look at their business model in 2014.

In the case of Aloe Blacc, Black radio has proven not useful for the artist. If you hear Aloe at all--the best chances are on mainstream pop radio. He has used the Beats headphones television commercials to get his name out there before the public.

This is not to suggest that radio has outlived its usefulness with these three examples. The problems come about when corporations that control playlists on Urban and Urban Adult Contemporary radio stations are not able to redefine themselves in a moments notice and become stuck within their monetary success. It's easy to relegate hip-hop artists from the so-called "streetz" to your urban property and then re-cycle the same R&B artists on your classic soul urban ac property. It takes a minute (like three months) to realize that Pharell's 'Happy' is a hit that can be added to both formats, along with your pop station and maybe even your country station. What radio listeners are looking for is a vitality that is missing from corporate playlists. They are looking for radio stations that are willing to think outside the box and take a musical risk. Even if listeners don't communicate this within the circle of marketing, research, and focus groups. We know there are great, young, dynamic, non-cookie cutter artists out there across the country. But we just don't know who they are...

Yes, most R&B songs on Urban AC radio are tried and tested through and through, but radio has to loosen up the reigns when it comes to what R&B artists get played on the radio. So we ask, "How long will the Urban AC/Today's R&B/Classic Soul formula created by a Clear Channel radio executive years ago continue to exist?" ( We guess as long as it continues to make money.) Stations are more interested in creating a format rather than create great radio. For that reason large corporate owned mass produced music factories disguised as a radio station, is low on our list for radio listening.

This brings up what appears to be the deliberate push by records companies to promote White artists and redefine Black music on radio stations while Black artists are becoming less commercially viable in 2014.

Check out two great articles on the topic:
 The Whitewashing of Popular Radio - A bad history repeats itself

The Letter That Has the Industry Buzzing

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