Something happened at the Moonitor convention in Miami last week that still has people talking. I mean, besides the fungus growing on the sheets in the hotel. Besides the constant construction to seal the rat holes. And besides the programmer’s wife who came in a day early and found her husband with a transvestite.
One of the panel discussions actually caused controversy. (Makes me think about instituting panels at The Network 40 Summer Games.) In a group gathered to discuss the differences between R&B and Rhythm stations, tempers got a little out of control.
Wow! Such emotion. Too bad they don’t exhibit the same passion for the music.
Anyhow, some valid and invalid comments were made that still have people forwarding annoying e-mails across the ethernet.
The points I choose to address in this Editorial are the following, not necessarily in order of their importance: Programmers of Crossover stations not returning calls from the Urban departments of record companies and being accused of racial bias; radio stations being listed under different formats by trade magazines; and credit for breaking artists given to different departments within record company.
First of all, playing the race card against programmers or promotion people is without credibility in our business. If I was Black or Hispanic, I would probably wake up angry every morning. The racial injustice of our world (although diminishing drastically with each year that passes) is unfair. But anger is a wasted emotion topped only by jealousy. The combination of the two is a combustible mixture guaranteed to burn anyone to ashes. To single out the radio and music industries is unwarranted.
No other industry is as color blind as the music business. Nobody cares what the color is, only if it’s a hit. If you’re really steeped in anger, you can point to the many artists who were ripped off in the ‘50s and ’60. You would be right. It was about color. The color of money.
It’s about money in this business…as in every other business. We can talk about art for art’s sake, but the bottom line is the bottom line. Today, more than ever. That’s why it’s called the music business.
It’s easy to hide behind the race card as a reason for your inability to do the job. But it’s not the right card to play. If you can’t get a programmer on the phone, perhaps it’s because he doesn’t want to talk to you. Or doesn’t have time. Or because he doesn’t know you. Or any of a hundred other reasons. PDs have every excuse in the book not to take your call. Trust me: Race isn’t on of them. Dan Kieley and Scott Shannon don’t pick up every time I call. And it isn’t because I’m white. More likely because I’m annoying.
Blaming radio stations for format descriptions is also an empty argument. Better to blame trade magazines that decide where to put particular radio stations. I’ve beaten this point into a pulp over the past several years. Trade magazines have absolutely, positively no right to define a radio station’s format.
That’s up to individual radio stations. Network 40 never has and never will assign a format to a station. We let the stations make those decisions. We either accept their description or we don’t take their reports. Trade magazines that segregate should be blamed. Most PDs don’t care what you call their radio stations…they just care that their audience listens. Why take it out on a PD whose station is listed as Crossover, yet plays the same records as an Urban in the same market? Record companies can’t change radio stations, but record company dollars can change how trade magazines reflect formats. You want to be angry? Be angry at your company for supporting trade magazines that don’t recognize your distinctions.
While we’re on record companies, let’s discuss who is responsible for breaking a Mainstream artist. Is it the Urban department? The Crossover department? The Pop department? Hold on to your seat. It isn’t any of you. It’s the people who listen. Record companies spend countless millions in promotion and marketing trying to move records across formats. Companies succeed only when the mainstream record buyers like the record. Three cheers for those of you who take Urban product to Top 40, but if the listeners don’t like it, it isn’t a hit. If it is a hit, the credit should goto the artist and the promotion department as a whole, not a particular division.
You want to end racial tension in our business? Start in your own department. Urban, Crossover and Top 40 must work together to break records…regardless of color. Then you’ll all share equally in the glory…and the best color of them all.