HomeBlack WomenIced-o-lation: The Darker Side of Working in Urban Radio

Iced-o-lation: The Darker Side of Working in Urban Radio

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There are some radio people who make a great deal of money and LOVE the company they work for in Urban radio. They are able to pursue outside opportunities, work reasonable hours, may be at a unionized Radio Station and they get paid well for appearances. They are heavily promoted by the Radio Station and given carte blanche to use social media to promote their platforms in and out of radio. This is how it should be across the board but unfortunately these people on the urban side are rare.

This weekend, urban radio industry vet Kris Kelley was found dead in her apartment. Is this unfortunate? Yes. Is it shocking? No, Is she the first one? No, as a matter of fact three black women in total who worked at WGCI have been found the exact same way. Val Landon in 2004, Karen Jones (Shannon Dell) in 1998 and now Kris Kelley. There have been many more black Radio DJs over the years who have been found the same way. Alone, in an apartment, dead.

I am confident that the thought has run through just about every urban radio pro and music industry exec’s mind who is about to read this story and that is… it could happen to any of us. After so many years of learning how to disconnect because of frequent moves, if we are not parents or in a current or longstanding relationship those years of struggle can take a toll on our relationships and on us.

I am actually from radio but I have never had the love and attachment that so many urban radio people have for it. I wanted to be a singer and used it as a way of becoming one.  I have worked for some of the most greedy black owners and a few of the most corrupt black programmers you can ever imagine but I learned more than I could have ever imagined about the industry and life as a whole.

Those mom and pop Radio Stations were inevitable instant vestibules that were worthless unless you got everything you could get out of it before you were fired for something “stupid” like um I don’t know… poor ratings? That was one of the first lessons I learned, when you walk into a situation not willing to “do the work” you will be fired, in a record amount of time, for the same reason.

Group of friends having fun at party --- Image by © Michael Patrick O'Leary/Corbis
Group of friends having fun at party — Image by © Michael Patrick O’Leary/Corbis


What was most disparaging was the urban Radio Station owners that trained black announcers by robbing them of their value by telling them how worthless they were and that they should be glad to have a job because the white Radio Stations were never going to hire us.

These were not white owners, no sir.. these were BLACK Radio Station owners who jumped like whores through a hoop when the corporations came along and offered them a ton of money (for their services) to abandon ship in the mid to late 90s. Most have not been heard from since.

Unfortunately, the damage was done and I realize now it was a cruel and dirty game that those black owners played on us because we were young and impressionable. Truth be told, it was not US that the white Radio Stations were not going to hire… it was THEM, the black Radio Station owners.

As age breeds clarity then it’s evident that this was their way of controlling us and keeping us on board. Unfortunately, many of us left thinking that was our truth and limited ourselves to only working in urban radio our entire careers when many of us had/have the potential to do so much more. Many black owners didn’t encourage us they discouraged us.

This was not the reality for all black Radio DJs but it was for a majority of us. Like the baby elephant that is tied to a pole with a rope and can’t move even as that rope eventually becomes a tiny string to a full-grown elephant. He is so trained to think he can’t break that string, he doesn’t even try anymore.

This is what has allowed comedians to come into our industry and take what was rightfully ours, what WE earned but because they came with leverage and confidence and they were not damaged by black Radio Station owners (who were damaged by the industry years prior) they got the glory. There are a few exceptions but nowhere near in comparison to those who are stuck.


As a champion for the underdog, I thought it was my duty to be a listening ear over the years to those who have lost their way and couldn’t take what they had learned and turn it into a GREATER opportunity. Those who could no longer find work and were suffering from depression that could easily be linked to the well-known disconnect this industry grants you when you are no longer working but the truth is, I can’t.

I don’t think any one person has the capacity to do that without it deeply affecting them but I am always trying to find a way to do it through the Radio Facts medium.
Let’s face it, in this industry, the one that we love so much, most of us have very few true friends mostly because I learned a long time ago that when you are not working 98% of the people who you are dealing with today won’t take your calls next week. If you don’t believe that’s true then God bless you.

No harm done and you can’t be pissed because it’s just business. I can respect that, so as a result, I don’t go to many industry events unless it’s client or business related because I never bonded with those people intentionally and I’ve never been good at being phony but I have still extended a favor or two to them from time to time when they are between jobs etc.

“We fail to understand that the time to “DO THE WORK” is when you ARE working. That’s the worst time to relax.”

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We must all have better ways to allocate our time and who we spend it with and understand this is the Music and Radio BUSINESS. I got it early on and it makes sense. As with ANY business, when you can’t do anything for people they throw you away but that doesn’t mean you have to relegate YOURSELF to the garbage bin.

Unlike most other industries, Radio and Music is a “Lifestyle” occupation and it’s very easy to cross the lines and to really believe that these people are your friends. That’s not to say some are not but we all must be realistic and understand that for the most part…. it’s BUSINESS and it’s WORK FIRST.

Time and again I have seen people who I once admired rise through the ranks, get older, lose their jobs, get sick or whatever and disappear into lonely isolation. Even if I have never had a conversation with them, I may get an email or a message on FB or even a phone call on my cell phone, (when I did not give them my number).

They put things in the subject line like “Call me.”  There is no “Hello,” or “Nice to Meet you” or “How are you?” just “Call me” like, drop everything because I owe it to them. I can tell they are really hurting on the inside and they are trying to maintain a level of previous dignity. I have gotten attitude when I don’t call them and nasty responses but for the most part, I laugh it off and try to return their calls because I get it. It’s the wounded ego, accustomed to everyone being at their disposal… looking for a band-aid.

Urban radio people tend to make half if not much less than pop radio counterparts in the same markets but there are some urban Radio DJs who are so dedicated to the game it’s akin to addiction but the glass pipe is a glass ceiling and most of the time a self-imposed one because we don’t exercise our leverage when we have it. We fail to understand that the time to “DO THE WORK” is when you ARE working. That’s the worst time to relax.

I see people in their 40s, 50s and even 60s still waiting for their big break, instead of jumping on technology or making their own way they get stuck and remain in the mode of “Who’s gonna hire me next?” They get validation and joy by being affiliated with call letters. I have seen countless urban Radio DJs die while looking for another gig, even part-time. For some it literally becomes their identity.

So what’s the solution to all of this? At this point there are two types of people in the industry. Those who are working and those who are not. Unfortunately, that’s really what it boils down to. Those who are working are trying so hard to keep their jobs, remain relevant and progressive that they have to keep their eyes on the prize. To their credit being in a race and turning to the sidelines affects your ability to win. I have talked to both ends and I get both sides.

Those who are not working want validation they want those who are in the race to cheer THEM on and to know that they have not been forgotten about. They want to reach out to people who they talked to before to express their frustrations in hopes of being offered employment sometimes just validation.

The people who are working have informed me that if they took all those calls they would never be able to do THEIR jobs. One told me “Man, I don’t have time to talk about yesterday and the old industry, I’m trying to keep a f$%kn job TODAY.”

When we are depressed it is always advisable for us to reach out to others. Working in an industry that is so exclusive like radio and music, no one can understand us like other industry people so when we reach out and we are rejected that could be the catalyst to even more harm being done. What’s the solution? Understand the concept. Cherish the memories and find a way to create NEW ones perhaps in another industry. If you feel that radio is all you know, then challenge yourself to learn something else because unrequited love is not only heartbreaking it can be hazardous.

In addition, people who are currently WORKING don’t even talk to each other much, ESPECIALLY on the Urban side. Talk to people WHILE you are working so that you can KEEP working. Take someone you don’t need anything from to lunch from time to time.

I do it all the time and learn so much in the process and THIS is how you develop true long-term relationships. Join organizations within or outside of the industry and be a blessing to someone who needs YOU. Call and check up on an old industry friend from time to time and if they ask you for work be honest with them and don’t string them along. What you give out of your heart comes back in the most rewarding ways. Finally, do yourself a huge favor ask yourself four questions:

  • Do I trust the people in my life that I call my “friends?”
  • Am I a part of a local organization where I am accountable and people respond to me on a regular basis
  • Who could I call if I needed to go to the Hospital and who would stop everything and take me (and who would make up excuses)?
  • If I really needed a friend to be there for me during a crisis, who would come through and who would not?

In addition, you MUST be all these things to others if the roles were reversed. Whoever doesn’t make the list don’t make the mistake of calling them friends and limit your time with them or replace them.

We MUST establish a life outside of the industry and surround ourselves with people who care about us OUTSIDE of business. Isolation is not the answer just because other industry people won’t talk to you and you are not working. I’m open to suggestions from readers as to how Radio Facts can help to resolve this issue as I have just heard today that at least 2 more former urban programmers are in trouble.
My best
Kev

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32 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, that’s a tough read!
    Kelley was such a lovely young lady, always smiling and always positive.
    Rest In Heaven Kris!

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  4. The industry sounds ruthless and cut throat..everyone does not have the ability to navigate the terrain..I wonder if being more grounded is an answer to dealing with the rejection ? Building a broad base and diversification may create staying power in a fickled industry that values youthfulness and the flavor of the hour. Glad I am not seeking to make this a primary goal..it’s only fun for me…

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  6. Kev, you hit on so many truths that it’s scary. I worked with Kris at WAMO and she was the consummate professional with a beautiful spirit.
    I’ve been out of the business for almost three years, trying to make my own way in media. No success as of yet, but I’m still trying. The only time you’ll hear me on the air is if I’ve voiced a commercial or as a pundit on someone’s talk show.
    There is a kind of loneliness that you deal with after awhile, and while I’ve never limited my choice of formats, I haven’t exactly looked for another radio gig with the of zeal that I had when I left Los Angeles. Do I miss radio ? From time to time, I do. After all, she’s been a big part of my life for all of my adult life. For years, radio was the biggest part of my identity.
    Like you, I realized early on that I was just as disposable as anyone else once I was out of the business. Fortunately, I’ve garnered enough goodwill and have genuine relationships with enough industry folks that will still take my call or reply to any social media interaction. These days, I find myself tamping down any mention of my former career with average folks that want to bring it up. I simply don’t like to talk about it much.

    • Greetings Mark..
      We must all realize that we can’t do this forever and the way things are today does not guarantee it will be like this tomorrow. I think you are making a wise decision by trying to move past it and here’s to wishing you well in your future endeavors. I’m glad you have made those lasting connections that are often rare.
      I wish I could think of a way to keep people who are not currently working up to date but I guess the email list is the best way for now.
      My best.
      K

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  8. The above is not exclusive to urban radio. It also apply to country, pop and all the others. It’s a rough business and the rules are the same.

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  10. This is a very well written article with so many truths and you often say what many feel but can’t say in fear of losing their job. Obviously, in radiio you can voice everything except your opinion, how unfair and unfortunate. However, I usually just read your articles and don’t reply but as a 20 + year friend and former co-worker of Kris Kelly’s it truly hit home with me and I personally wanted to just say thank you for illustrating what true passion is and highlighting what the industry lacks. Kris always reminded me, “These ppl are not your friends if you can’t do anything for them” I learned that the hard way but realized that God puts ppl are in your life for certain reasons and certain seasons and she will be missed. Thank you for acknowledging her because she gave her all.

    • You are not the only one. Thanks for your honesty. This blog has been around for 16 years and rarely gets comments from industry people. I greatly appreciate your input as I have often wondered if I was wasting my time being an advocate and supporter of urban radio pros.

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  12. Wow, As an outsider er listener I never knew it was so hard for radio personalities to stay on air. As a Chicago kid growing up in the 90s I used my radio to survive, I listened faithfully to all the urban stations and clamored to find it again on my dial whenever I discovered a new one. No matter how bad the signal was. You guys (Radio hosts and announcers) were the celebrities not the other way around. Artists and Comedians I thought had to kiss up to you guys to get an on air interview to promote themselves right? I established (mental)relationships with my Radio show hosts, knew all the segments, had a fit to get through on the phone to be on the radio. If you got through and actually got to speak with the hosts it was like winning the lottery. To hear that you guys (the heart and soul of the stations were not and still aren’t valued is unbelievable. I hated everyone time a good show with a good host or team was replaced by some comedian or unknown with more popularity than personality. Somebody needs to do a big screen documentary on the Urban Radio Scene.

    • Thanks Glo..
      Things are not always as they seem. Your sentiments, I’m sure, are greatly appreciated to the many urban radio DJs and jocks who feel unappreciated.
      Kev

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  14. Kev, a former radio friend forwarded your article, and I appreciate you both! 😉
    When I heard of Kris’ passing thru another mutual radio friend yesterday, my heart broke… But I wasn’t surprised. I currently work on-air and it’s an interesting “game”, to say the least! I only know of a handful of radio vets who’ve left the industry unscaved because they truly prepared themselves for the inevitable! I’ve been in radio since I was 16 and now in my 40’s, I don’t recognize my 2nd love very well (music being my 1st)! It’s sad but as you said, “business”! Once you get that understanding it’s easier to navigate! I’ve never taken the “celebrity” aspect of this job too seriously. I know how it appears to listeners, but I’m always replying to the accolades with, “This is a job, don’t get it twisted! As quick as it comes, it could go!” #truth
    But as mentioned before, you MUST have an OUTSIDE life! I have a strong faith in God so I KNOW all things are possible and I don’t relegate myself to just radio! I’ve taken to social media and technology like a fish to water as I am a consumate student and never wish to box myself in! Maybe that’s were you can help “radio heads” as well! Showing other facets of the business like the tech and advancements and maybe even the LIFE outside of it as something to prepare for: The inevitable!
    Blessings and thanks for an honest and sweet article! Kris will be missed… If only by the many she touched personally, that’s quite enough!
    IMJ

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  16. Wow…Kevin Ross, Frank Ski, Al B. Sylk and many others, I couldn’t agree with you all more. After being in this industry for 30 years, I have NEVER read an article in this industry that speaks on so many truths in so many ways, on so many levels. Kevin, you are on point with EVERYTHING you have revealed in this article. I can honestly vouch for every word you have written. The blessings are the lessons learned. The revelation of people showing you who they REALLY are and what you REALLY are to them is painful but yet freeing. The truth really will definitely set you free! Through all of this, I have chosen not to be bitter, but instead strive to be better. I pray that many readers will open their heart and mind to receive ALL of these truths! I will be sure to share this article with everyone, to encourage them that whether you are still working in this industry or not, there is life after radio! I am now a self-published author, I’m a full-time freelance voiceover talent, in my spare time I book a few artists for gigs due to my “business” relationships and I’m taking courses such as coding, graphic design, digital content, WordPress, etc. If you are not currently working in the industry, please check with your local unemployment offices because all states have grants to help pay for these courses. Unemployment offices also offer free seminars on career transitioning. If I can do these things, please have faith that you can too! You just have to shake the dust off and let go of the ego, so that you can grab onto the many other blessings that are waiting for you! As we continue to witness, life is too short, so it’s important to live life like it’s golden because it really is! Follow your dreams in 2016 and have a great year on purpose!

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  18. Though I was on the sales side of the urban radio business, I saw all of the things you mentioned very early in my radio career. This is one of the reasons why I made a conscience effort not to identify myself with the very powerful call letters that I worked for. It can be intoxicating, but you have to step back and pay attention to how easy your trajectory can turn into a downfall. I saw it a few times. Instead, you must be strategic and leverage it to further your career. I did in 2013. It was the best move I ever made. Though I dealt with a lot working in urban, I definitely still have love for it. It built me, but if you’re not careful it can break you down.

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  21. Now that we know the truth what shall we do???? CeCe answered that question well…out of this some good can come for those who are willing to act…Kevin thanks for setting the stage…Be Encouraged…

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  23. Kevin, thank you for shining a light on a subject so many of us radio family members endure but are unable to speak. I too worked with Kris K and am sadden beyond belief that a fellow broadcasting “sister” is gone. Sometimes the loneliness is self imposed too. Once we’ve been “let go”, it’s as if the entire industry has let go of you too. For some of us, picking up that phone and reaching out is harder than anyone could imagine. Oh. Sure. We worked hard, helped others with our knowledge and if put to paper, the resume would be 10 miles long. But it’s the FOMO (feeling of missing out), being left out, left behind, that really weighs on the spirit. I pray this wasn’t what happened to her, but for me, it’s been very hard to keep those feelings at bay. But with G-D/JESUS I still press toward the mark. Yes there is life after radio. Yes, you will miss it and remember. But to those in it or who used to be in it, just remember this article and these words and keep pressing on. My father once said: if G-D woke you up this morning, then HE still has a plan for your life. A plan to BLESS YOU!
    R.I.P Kris and deepest condolences to her family, loved ones, friends, and radio family.

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  25. As always, WELL WRITTEN, Kevin. People continue to wonder why I don’t go back “in” to radio (no more than my own commercial services business and internet shows) and it’s because of situations like this that never changes. In fact, it keeps getting worse. What can you do? Keep reporting. That’s all you can do. People have to decide for themselves to either NOT take it…and change the industry at a very radical level…or just keep being fodder for the fire. Am I bitter? HELL NO. I left. Had to pull myself up from scratch nearly by myself after the murder of my husband. AND DID I MENTION the people who hired me after my husband was murdered KNEW they were gonna FIRE me 89 days later (as that seemed to be their standard). YET…THEY HAD ME MAKE A MAJOR MOVE AND GO THRU THAT BS ANYWAY?! Oh I was DONE OFFICIALLY after THAT!
    Been thru hell and back…and I’m gonna REPEAT THAT?! I think not. Radio people…you who are truly talented are “truly talented.” Channel that talent and energy into something that will work for YOU and not just someone else. One never knows what tomorrow may bring. But my stately lately…and what I’ve been saying for the last year: “If I die tonight or tomorrow, I’m damn sure gonna be doing whatever makes me happy TODAY.”
    Live for YOURSELF…and not for radio…because this business will only give you a cheap gravemarker and just forget about you after your body’s cold.

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  27. My heart is heavy. Kris Kelley, soul sistah #1, smart, funny and super cool. I thank you for the sisterhood we shared at WAMO.
    Porsche Stevens, Cumulus Mphs

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  29. Kev, I really appreciate your article. I started in this business over 25 years ago in college. Radio has always been my mistress, but at some point with consolidation and corporate takeover of Black radio ….oh and yes syndication of comedians…left many of us to seek positions in other industries. I transitioned from full time Urban radio jock to part time talk show after the 2008 elections. I’m glad that i utilized my communication skills in other areas of broadcasting and decided to return to school and complete my Communications degree. I am about to graduate with honors and looking to go to law school and start a sports and entertainment agency. School has enhanced my skills in film, video editing, writing, and media marketing. Yes i am in my 40’s now, but i can now create my own position or choose to work in other areas of the business. Diversifying our skills is the only way to exact revenge on the horrible grind of surviving Urban radio and the villainous station owners of yester-year.
    New media and of course music streams have destroyed Black Radio. I long for the days of full service Black Stations. Thanks for the article again Kev…great read.

    • Congrats Shawn! I love hearing these kind of success stories as a result of this industry! So proud of you! Thank you for sharing because you have inspired a lot of people that really needed to hear you put it in this perspective! I wish you all the best!

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  31. Well now Kev, you are right on point in some instances! It can be a lonely world after music and radio, if you let it get you down! Even before I took my place in the music industry for 25 years, as a promotion manager for several major labels, I was…and I still am, a loner! I’ve lived in every major market and loved every minute of it. What I found when jumping around, is that the business is click-ish! To this day, I have some friends (very few) in the business, that I would do anything for, and they as well, would do anything for me. Then there are those that that literally hate your guts, those that want a ticket to every concert and those that want to be the first to get every cd release! These folks range from the postman, to your fellow record promoter! You just really have to keep everything and every person in proper perspective, know where you stand and keep it moving! I have NEVER been a part of any “click-ish” group, so when moving from city to city or company to company, I pretty much had to fin for myself. Fortunately, I have NO FEAR and to this day, will go to the other end of the earth all by myself! I don’t need you to direct me to a radio station, I don’t need your jock list, DJ list, or store list (back in the day)! You really have to be confident during and after time spent in the business. When you are no longer “valuable” to insiders or oursiders, you can quickly become a part of the Twighlight Zone!
    I had a few rough times after leaving the business while trying to find a job! You are looked upon as “different” to people in the outside world! When interviewing, they didn’t know what to make of my resume, damn sure didn’t understand what I actually did and clearly didn’t understand how I made that much money! Many times folks would ask me, “What exactly did you do? Followed by, this job doesn’t pay that much and you’re over-qualified for the position! I heard those lines so many times, until I thought I was gonna lose my mind! I never got depressed, but I did get frustrated with their lack of knowledge about the industry. People in the industry are generally looked upon, as folks that par-take in only sex, drugs and rock-n’-roll! While we all have had our share of fun, it really is work! Not just work, but could be considered…STRESSFUL WORK! I can remember getting MAD at folks and thinking to myself, “You have NO CLUE who I am, much less what I’m capable of!
    To make a long story short, one day after leaving the business, I received a rejection letter from a company after applying for a job. I looked at the bottom of the page and saw that the HR person had actually signed her name. This woman all but told me on paper, “Thank you for applying, but you are not who we’re looking for!” I read that line over and over again and decided to write a response! (I’m being nice, I decided to blast that witch)
    Ms ….,
    I just received your reply after applying for your sales position! I realize that you don’t know me from Adam, but let me tell you who I am…
    My name is Myra!
    If your company needs a sales person, I will blow everybody out the water!
    If your company has goals, I am your “goalie”…
    If you need a team player, I can be your entire team…
    You really have no idea who I am, and it would be in your best interest, to call me so I can tell you how I can benefit your company!
    Within minutes my phone rang!!! She said, “I have never received a response like that!’ I said, “You have never met me, my name is Myra!” We talked for 2 plus hours! Two days later, I had a phone interview with a VP and was hired by the end of the conversation!
    My 2 cents may be all off in left field, but I felt it was important to remind ALL that have retired, been fired, or have lost your confidence…KNOW WHO YOU ARE! That “gift of gab” behind the mic, or while sitting in front of a PD, is what makes you SPECIAL! It didn’t just happen, you were born SPECIAL! Rely on NO ONE! You came here by yourself, learned to talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk by yourself, so ain’t no sense in thinking that you need Tom, Dick (bunch of them), or Harry to survive! Re-create yourselves after radio, or records! You ALL are walking “business plans”. Oh, and for those that don’t take your calls, or for those that have positions that have gone to their heads, do know, that they too will fall. It’s all a matter of time! Life is inevitable, UP…DOWN…LIVE…DIE!
    Stay “prayed up” and you will never be alone!
    Oh, PS – They hate me at my company! I don’t follow directions, I don’t sell like they sell and I talk back! Shit, I’m a PROMOTION PERSON FIRST…AND FOR LIFE! I think “IN and OUT THE BOX!” Please don’t try to contain me! Lol!!! BTW…Nationally, I hold the #2 spot in one sales category, out of 4000 people, the #12 spot with the highest percent to plan and #1 in my region in 4 other categories! Yep, I walk in like I OWN the place! It’s that record business EGO!!! LOTFLMAO…ya’ll know what I’m talking about! Cuse’ any mistakes, I’m sleepy and I ain’t proof-reading! I-DO-ME!

    • Myra….All I can say is you are the WOMAN! Your confidence along with the “Do me” and “Be who you were created to be” attitudes are contagious! Your post had me in stitches laughing so hard! I woke up the entire household and probably some neighbors a few doors down, as I was giving my own high five to the air! LOL You wrapped it all up into a nice package so well. I’m touching and agreeing with you because the bottom line is “It’s not ‘what’ you belong to, it’s ‘Who’ you belong to that matters! #WINNING

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  33. Kev,
    To your question “What Can RFFocus Do?” You already did with this piece especially your four questions. A poignant piece about need to think ahead, think wide and to keep moving forward.

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  35. In addition to your articles, urban radio is noy urban at all. Just take a look who is over every department. Clearly NOT urban at all…

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  37. Thanks for writing this article. It truly breaks down a truth that most in the industry are always thinking, but rarely ever say out loud.
    I gave a good portion of my life to the industry and now that it’s unfolded, I often try to block out like it never existed.
    It was no secret that breaking into Chicago radio would be a challenge, but I never knew leaving out would be the real hard work.
    I had the privilege of working with Kris Kelley and I must say it was a very valuable experience that I will never forget. She was one of a kind and had an unmeasurable amount of talent on and off the mic.
    Early on in my radio career I remember being told by a mentor of mine, to survive in this business you need to have the heart of a lion. And now when I reflect back, I realize that was only part of it. You need a support system and a solid foundation outside of the business otherwise it will drain you dry.
    Although working in this industry you can have a lot great moments, there is a dark side and you have to know who you are to pull through it all.

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  39. GUY SIMS
    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH…. “Already?” Although I have only scanned the article and comments after I “discovered” this story, I have been in this business for over 40 years and for the most part I have been independent of this industry and have maintained some degree of autonomy… I haven’t made a lot of money but I have been able to sustain myself as something of a creative success which wouldn’t have happened if I weren’t something of a “maverick.” Sometimes I was able to cash in. In joining this profession after I left the Army, I was something of a militant and a visionary as to what radio could do for an upwardly mobile black population; but that was before it was hi-jacked and “pimped” by a bunch of “sellouts” in terms of the prevailing leadership then in collusion with and/or heading up impotent so-called black media associations or organizations that should have been reaching out into the “hedges and highways” as some activist preachers have done to enlighten the owners and operator, the “flock” they were supposed to be leading instead of using “black radio” and their listeners as pawns to serve their own greed and ambition. Something they are still doing. They were schmoozing to much then and they’re schmoozing too much now. Schmoozing seems to all that my contemporaries… do?
    Back then realizing the potential we would picket radio stations to pave the way for others at the risk of our own careers. Many people acquiring their media assets in a environment that was beginning to evolve knew little about radio communications, and seemingly while trying to cram as many churches on the air as they could, cared little about the need of black audiences in the first place unless they were try to rile them up behind some political strategy. Developing the black business community into a platform of strength was not on their agenda unless it was taking “sales orders” riding the trend, which was their only ambition. They weren’t building up any treasury that’s for sure. I’ve sold plenty radio (and major newspapers, TV and tried to develop minority business in small and large markets, too). But at the same time I also sold success as a commodity so I was there to witness these phenomena. Now we have come full circle.
    I spent a lot of money and time trying to get a Construction Permit, too. I gambled because I could see the “handwriting on the wall.” I would need my own business. I like radio. Back in the late 70’s I experienced blatantly the “Two-fer Rule” surreptitiously go into effect and since then it’s gotten worst if not out of hand. It’s even more divisive now then it was then. For example, there is nothing more ludicrous then a white person telling a black person servicing the black community – supposedly, how to play “black music.” It’s also disrespectful and the integrity, the intellectual and spiritual welfare of the audience is at stake. It certainly wouldn’t be tolerated the other way around (role reversal). I’d never let that happen to me. And I am good enough not to let that happen to me. If you want the “milk,” you’re going to have to want my Cow and Calf, too. I ain’t giving up ‘nuthin’ up or away but hard luck, bubble gum and love and right now I am fresh out of “bubble gum and love.”
    From what I was able to gather, they overworked Ms. Battle and because black radio itself failed to grow as she grew, they weren’t capable of protecting, nurturing and sheltering Lavonne aka “Kris Kelly” and the community she came from and wanted to serve (their other Ms. Kelly facsimiles in this business suffering as well). And while a host of qualified black professionals have been passed over again and again black radio continues to shrink along with the community it serves…
    Other “Ms. Kellys” trapped in some “Ivory Tower” elsewhere working for some greedy corporate sociopath in a white-owned or black-owned white operated radio station who’s callous and wanton disregard guided by their corrupt and misguide conservative and selfish behavior insist on partnering with destructive and negative musical forces that wreak long term havoc in black communities nationwide considering the size of these Behemoths. The moral compass of the black community spends wildly under these influences. These dynamics undermines every institution we hold sacred: church, politics, music, education, health, cultures, entertainment, finance, morality and economics… you can be more truly conservative with those ideals than that. Not only are these concepts good for black communities at large, but it’s good for our nation. Who are these barbarians anyway? There is no telling what Ms. Battle could have really contributed to the growth of the black community. As the news story said, someone went to check on her “welfare” so something must have wrong in the “first place.” Now I am going back to read the rest of the comments… BUT as I said in the beginning… ENOUGH IS ENOUGH….!!! Greed aside, it’s time for a show of solidarity again… We might still have a chance.
    Oh, in closing, here is a riddle for you; I wonder what it would have been like if Gamble and Huff of Philadelphia International (records) had the internet to distribute their product when the O’Jays were recording one hit after another…? Some of you already know the answer. But here a hint… now they are owned by Sony.
    …. G.Sims

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  41. Great article Kev,
    So many times when death occurs unexpectedly from someone that was in radio or records, we want to say, what happened? Who was checkin on that person? But, more times then not, no one was checkin. As the days go by, I find myself in the same situation most of these writers are in. Out of work, in a industry that I love. I gotta tell you though that I have been enjoying my time off. When your locked into a radio job, you have no time for yourself. Most companies don’t allow you to have outside interests because most interests conflict with your job. So, its been nice being able to explore other interests. When I first was let go from my job in Charlotte, I got calls from people in the industry I hadn’t heard from in years. Now, the phone rarely rings from someone in the industry. I’m not mad or even disappointed, this is the business. Matter of fact, its what happens in most businesses. But, we somehow buy into the hype that everyone cares about us. That we have somehow joined a family that will look after us when we are out. Not gonna happen. I am smart enough to realize that if I don’t get a job back in radio, I’ve had a great career. Like you said Kev, these jobs Do Not last forever. So I challenge radio folks, whats your game plan after radio? Are you saving money? Are you learning how to use what you’ve learned to go into another business? Are you cultivating relationships in other areas? If there’s one thing I’ve always taught my staffs, was to figure out your next move. There are only a few Greg Street’s that can continue to work at a station that is young based. What am I gonna do? I’m going to continue to use my God given talent to serve my community. I regret that I didn’t have a chance to talk to Kris Kelly in a while. She was a wonderful person and a really good program director, who was passionate about radio. And thats the thing, it was never about passion, it’s just business…. R.I.P. LaVonne
    Thank you Kev for the platform to speak.

    • Good points Terri.. I remember years ago being a kid in the industry and seeing you at a Jack the Rapper in Atlanta and thinking I saw a star. I always saw you in the trades when I had just started my career in the industry… but the sooner we understand how the game works the better off we will be. We are celebrities on a smaller scale than national stars in our markets and it’s a shame we are not able to cultivate more relationships and monetary gains outside of the corporations. It the time time that we have the most leverage. BTW you are a star (lol)
      My best
      K

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