SHARPTON, COCHRAN & MJ GEAR UP TO BATTLE MUSIC BIZ!
On Tuesday July 9, 2002 I attended a music industry summit
in Harlem at the headquarters of the National Action Network. The
Summit was called by Rev. Dr. Al Sharpton, Johnny Cochran, Michael
Jackson and many other prominent people in the entertainment, legal,
and political activist communities. Contrary to what some of the
media has been reporting, the Summit was not solely for the airing of
grievances by Michael Jackson. As you may or may not know, Michael
recently said some very candid, open and straightforward comments
about the historical racism and economic disparity that is prevalent
in the music industry. This has been extremely detrimental,
specifically to the African-American community who has historically
been at the forefront of innovation in America. One cannot talk about
the history of the United States without talking about the
contributions African-Americans have made. Most notably, all
recognized popular American musical art forms have been created and
developed first from within the African-American community (i.e.
Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop, R&B, Soul etc…)
Our music was often called “race music” by white Americans to
highlight the fact that as a people, the African-American experience
is unique and our expressions culturally rich. Let me emphasize once
again that the focus of this Summit was not on Michael Jackson. No.
The focus of this Summit was on calling attention to the historically
corrupt, exploitative and one-sided business dealings perpetuated by
the music industry. The focus was on what particular strategies can
be implemented to end the injustice.
Let me clear up some of the inaccurate reporting being done by the
larger media outlets.
THE LIES: Michael Jackson is disgruntled because his last musical
project “Invincible” only sold 2 million copies and he is desperately
trying to save his career.
THE TRUTH: Michael informed the audience that Invincible has actually
sold 10 MILLION copies worldwide to date and he is personally
satisfied with the numbers.
THE LIES: Michael has gone crazy and this is just another “bizarre
publicity stunt” to call attention to himself.
THE TRUTH: The larger media outlets have always been fond of attacking
him at random. Michael was in Harlem just 7 weeks ago along side the
likes of former President Bill Clinton at a fundraiser for the
Democratic National Committee and the larger media outlets called him
an ICON then. Why is he “Wacko Jacko” now for bringing up some very
real issues that directly impact peoples lives?
THE LIES: The idea that racism and economic disparity exists in the
music industry is farfetched considering the success of certain
individual artists and people like Will Smith, Mariah Carey, Sean “P
Diddy” Combs etc…
THE TRUTH: There are absolutely no Black owned public relations firms,
travel agencies, advertising agencies etc… that have contracts with
any of the major corporate labels. If $20 million dollars is being
spent on marketing and promotion of an African-American artist or
someone doing a recognized African-American art form, then why have
the talents of African-American business men and women been overlooked
and not deployed to help facilitate the process? Are African-American
businesses unable to effectively market, promote and work in tandem
with any of the major labels? With African-American consumers making
up a large percentage of the buying public through our extensive
spending power, how much of the monies generated from successful
commercial endeavors pushed by the music industry goes back into
African-American neighborhoods? For every Will Smith who has
generated tons of income for his employers you have a multitude of
artists stuck in unfair contracts that find them in debt to their
label for expensive which they have no control or say of.
THE LIES: Many African-Americans in the music industry do not support
THE TRUTH: This has been a long-standing concern in the
African-American community. A broad based coalition has already been
mobilized. Some of the supporters who were in attendance included:
Londel McMillan – the legal mastermind who helped Prince free himself
from a horrible contract with Warner Bros. He also represents the
Artist Empowerment Coalition which includes members such as Stevie
Wonder & Chaka Khan.
Terrie Williams – founded the Terrie Williams Agency in 1988 and is
recognized as one of the top public relations and communications
firms. She has written a number of best-selling books and has a
client roster which includes Fortune 500 companies.
Dave Mays – founder of The Source magazine. One of the more popular
and influential publications geared towards Hip Hop music, culture and
James Mtume – Musician and Producer extraordinaire as well as a
longtime community activist and spokesperson.
Shakim Compere – Manager of Queen Latifah and Flavor Unit Enterprises.
David Patterson – New York State Senator.
Doug E. Fresh – longtime Hip Hop entertainer and grassroots community
Also in attendance were reps from National Music Distribution, family
members of W.C. Handy (credited with pioneering Blues music), the
daughter of Otis Blackwell (the man responsible for writing many of
the hit records for Elvis Presley) and many others just too numerous
to mention. The room was packed and the media turnout was extensive.
There are many who support the issues being discussed and are
committed to lending support whether quietly behind the scenes or by
more visible and public actions. Look for a possible Class Action
Lawsuit to be filed as well as an upcoming meeting being called with
the heads of the 5 major distributors and their respective label heads
(i.e.. Tommy Mottola, Clive Davis, Doug Morris etc…).
In closing, please don’t believe the false hype and negative media
propaganda tactics deployed by the larger communications outlets.
They are only presenting distorted facts in an effort to discredit
what is credible. They are trying to put the emphasis on a few people
(i.e.. Michael Jackson… who happens to be the best selling artist
of all time and has generated BILLIONS of dollars) to fool you into
believing that this issue is irrelevant and inconsequential to the
lives of the everyday person. If you have any sort of conscious or
soul, please don’t make snap judgments as to the motives of this
movement and the people who are spearheading it. It is really the tip
of the iceberg of a long overdue need to reform how big business
operates in the United States and globally. It is also tied into the
growing Reparations Movement that has also attracted many heavy
hitters (i.e.. Russell Simmons). It is time for this generation to
pick up the torch and continue to build on what our ancestors have
accomplished so far. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. so eloquently
stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Thank
you for reading and Blessed Love!!