Bernie Hayes

For many years independent record labels, producers, writers and artists have been victims of unfairness and bias. Local artists and companies in cities across the nation have been systematically excluded from this multi-billion-dollar enterprise.

In his 2007 article “Major Record Companies Manipulated Control of Black Music,” RBG Scholaran wrote, “The real goal was to put black record companies out of business and capture their market share."

To understand how major corporate record entities manipulated control of black music, Dr. Kwaku Person-Lynn wrote in 2006, we have to understand this story begins in the 1980s with the sale of Motown Records, a once black-owned record company, to MCA Records and Boston Ventures Limited Partnership. The African-American community felt a great loss of one of its cherished institutions.

It seemed like war had been declared against the survival of black-owned record companies. Solar Records was involved in a suit and counter-suit with Warner Brothers Records for control of its assets. Sussex Records, a once fast-growing black-owned record company, was forced to cease doing business for tax reasons. Philadelphia International Records, a quality black-owned record company, was under the distribution control of CBS Records.

These days, Jerry King of Jamestown Records, based in Atlanta, has been working tenaciously to bring justice and change to the industry. He stresses that in the black music market, the three remaining major labels are making the bulk of the profits from the sale of black music.  

“There is a systemic collusion between many radio stations which ensures that independent black music labels do not receive air time, therefore not being able to attain any progress for profit, jobs and diversity,” King says.

King said the drum represents the heartbeat and soul of Africa. “It indicated communication, endangerment to the community, festivity and celebration and music,” he wrote. “It enriched the community. That same innate drumbeat prescribes that same enrichment in all areas revolved around black music.”

By contrast, he wrote, “The business model of terrestrial radio in collusion with major record labels is to silence the beat of the independent drum.”

It is mysterious to me how some record companies and black radio programmers and deejays can be such hypocrites regarding black artists. They become very selective of artists they know as opposed to new artists who are trying to make it.

When some artists record a CD and there are cover tunes, they are usually overwhelmingly rejected, but now on the R&B Soul charts is Larimore’s “Hit the Road Jack,” a song that sold millions for Ray Charles. It is currently being heard on nearly every Southern Soul radio station. Another example is Alicia Keys’ “How Come You Don’t Call Me,” originally recorded by Prince, and Destiny’s Child’s “Emotion” by the Bee Gee’s.

“It is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder,” Frederick Douglas said. “We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be denounced.”

This should apply to all record company executives, radio station programmers and star-struck deejays.

If you want to help, contact me here of Jerry King in Atlanta.

I can be reached by fax at (314) 837-3369 or e-mail at berhay@swbell.net. Please watch the Bernie Hayes TV program Saturday Night at 10pm and Friday Morning at 9 am and Sunday Evenings at 5:30 pm on KNLC-TV Ch. 24.

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