Radio Facts: Kevin, I finally took a moment away from making “reminder” phone calls to advertisers with amnesia when it comes to paying their bills to read what both you and Chuck D had to say about HR848. This is something we actually discussed at our last NBPC meeting, and it's something I've been talking about for months now. I've called my US Representative and have a pledge that he will work to defeat the passage of the bill. I think the problem is that many people weighing in on this subject are doing so from a major market/major artist/label perspective. What will be an inconvenience to some will be absolutely devastating to small market radio all across the country. The artists who were at that meeting agreed that it's tough enough to garner much radio airplay if they are not already well-known. Passage of this legislation will make it almost impossible for an unknown artist to get played. (“You say you want me to play your record? And pay you to do it? What was your name again? Don't hold your breath darlin'. It ain't gonna happen.)
I agree that there is greed involved on the part of major corporations, and perhaps even a lack of appreciation for those artists who provide the music for the soundtracks of our radio stations. The thing that is seemingly forgotten, however, is the fact that there are still radio stations which provide valuable information and service to their listeners. My station is where my Black folks (and others in northwest Alabama) tune in to find out what to do when they are mistreated at the polls on election day, or how to keep our kids from dropping out of school, or what to do about the many health disparities that exist (or whether passage of the health care package will really mean “death panels,” or how to invest or keep from losing homes, and so much more. Yesterday, on my talk show, my guest and I discussed the alarmingly high numbers of kids as young as age thirteen who are testing positive for HIV in Alabama.
We get calls every day from people who tune in for great music, but who tell us how much they appreciate the information we provide. Does being the voice for our community always translate into revenue? No. On one hand , my station is very fortunate because our listeners will walk into businesses and tell them they are there to shop because they heard that business being advertised on WZZA. Luckily, that means that some of those advertisers will continue (even in this economic climate) to buy some commercial time. And I, in turn, can pay the light bill with that money. I am by no means rich. Sometimes we struggle to stay afloat. But we continue to be that advocate for our people because no one else is doing what we do. There are other radio stations like mine who actually provide a service. In other words, Jack the Rapper's legacy has survived and continues in ‘real' radio stations who remember that we are here to do more than make a buck.
We also receive phone calls every day from recording artists who ask that we play their songs, providing them with the exposure that will hopefully translate in to record sales (or paid downloads) for them, as well as making them familiar to consumers who will buy their concert tickets, ring tones, or whatever else they have to sell. Many of us have never taken a nickel to add a record. (I once heard one of my mentors say if somebody's gotta pay to get their record played, it probably ain't that good, so they probably don't have enough money.) The fact is, there are good guys out here in radio, doing what we do to provide info-tainment to our listeners. Radio's relationship with artists has been mutually beneficial. But if radio stations have to scrape up cash to pay artists to play their music, some of us will strongly consider going talk. Others won't stay in business. That means fewer outlets through which new artists can be heard. Everyone loses.
I agree with you that artists are in a much stronger position when it comes to negotiating their deals, and should do their homework. We are not as much victims of racism today as of lack of preparedness. There was a time when I buttered my bread by promoting artists. I have known artists who were given advances, and used the money to buy everything but what it was intended for – promotion of their music. While there are artists who may have been or still may be taken advantage of, that is NOT radio's fault. So, rather than artists basically biting the hand that helps to feed them by demand ing that we radio folks pay for the privilege of making them famous by promoting them, they should partner with radio more. Let's work together and stop the crabs in a barrel mentality.
And Kevin, you've got to stay strong babyboy. Don't let anyone shake your faith in what's right and just.
I'm following in the footsteps of my father… and Uncle Jack Gibson. Just Tellin It Like It Tis.
Tori Bailey, Owner/GM, WZZA Radio
Continued success and thanks for your well wishes.
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