How did Major Record Companies take control of Black Music?(Part 3)



Groups and artists such as the Original Dixieland Jazz
Band; Paul Whiteman labeled the
King Of Jazz; Tommy Dorsey called the King Of Swing;
Elvis Presley promoted as the King
Of Rock n Roll; along with Pat Boone, The Rolling Stones,
The Beatles, The Osmonds,
Kenny G, Herb Alpert, David Sanborn, Jeff Lorber, Teena
Marie, Michael McDonald, are
only some of the White artists and groups, who in the past
or present, play(ed) black
music.
White artists have been copying black music since the
Spirituals, during the time of
slavery. It was not until the 1970s that music by black
artists was accepted as a stable
financial endeavor. Evolving beyond the race records of the
1920s, and Rhythm & Blues
recordings of the 1950s, which were distributed mainly in
black communities. It was
around the time of the study that the record industry began
to make heavy financial
investments into black music: making more album
commitments, rather than singles,
promoting it to pop stations, investing more marketing
dollars and making stronger
efforts in international distribution.
Mr. Barnes concludes: So he said their key then, If we
cannot make black music without
black people, then we must have a way of controlling the
black music industry. One way
of doing this, with the use of the study, was to expose the
techniques in which a successful
black business, such as Stax Records, was operating. For
example, when Al Bell, owner of
Stax Records read the study, he revealed this about his
companys business operatives:

…the Harvard report was an excellent study of our
approach at Stax on operating a black
phonograph record company, in total…Prior to that study,
our business methodology was
unknown. So as a result of that, we had very little
competition. No one knew what we were
doing. We were able to build a business at our own pace.
Subsequent to revelations in that
study, the competition became much more intense.
Not only did the competition proliferate, CBS sued Stax in
order to stop the business
agreement between Al Bell and Clive Davis (who was later
fired from CBS). In effect, the
suit served to legally exhaust Stax, a common corporate
tactic used in battling an
opponent in court. As a result, Stax was not financially able
to compete with CBS in court,
and ultimately ceased doing business.
Bell tried to fight back: We filed an anti-trust suit against
CBS for $67,000,000, alleging
violation of the Sherman-Patton Anti-Trust Act. Bell said,
We alleged clandestine activities
on their part to try to stop it (the agreement). That’s a part of
the court records. So I
suppose that its fair to say, and I want to be really clear on
this, I suppose its fair to say
that some of the people, the executives in CBS, and
employed by CBS at the time, played a
very significant role in the demise of Stax.
Larkin Arnold, former Senior Vice President of Artist and
Repertoire Black Music – CBS
Records, and a long time veteran in the music business,
disagrees: I doubt anyone, any
corporation or any group of corporations made a concerted
effort to extinguish black
companies, black record companies. Its like any other
aspect of business life. If a major
corporation decides to enter into a market place, its only a
very, very strong smaller
company that can survive. Whether were talking about
mom and pop grocery stores, or
little gasoline stations. If Gulf comes in there, they’re going
for the market aggressively, in
which they should do. If you cant compete, you are going to
go by the wayside.
We may never know the full effect the demise of Stax
Records, the suit against Solar
Records, compounded with the purchase of Motown
Records, had on the development
of black music, or the desire to develop a full service black owned
record company. Some
things are evident, there still is not one black-owned full
service record company in
America (production, manufacturing, distribution). This
would take us from being
consumers to owners/investors, the root of financial power,
leading to political power.
The deeper effect may not be just the control of black
music, but control of the black
intellect and black culture. Since major record companies
captured control of black
music, especially the huge explosion of black youth music
(rap/hip hop) the proliferation
of profanity and sexism against black women has
enormously expanded. So-called
conscious or meaningful black music seems to have faded
in the background or garners
very little radio airplay. If there were no blues, jazz, reggae,
and a very small hand full of
conscious commercial black music artists in America, there
would be no substance or
uniqueness in black music at all.
If ever there is another research effort like the Harvard
study, let the black record labels
and radio station entrepreneurs get together with some
black colleges and develop not
only sound business practices and self defense in
business, but explore how the ancient
Afrikans in the Nile Valley built those great empires, and
use that as a template to do the
same. Strong black-owned institutions are needed for the
music the world is dancing to.
If not, good, solid, meaningful black music may sorrowfully
become a thing of the past.
Some feel that has already happened. The generations to
come may be left with the same
discussion many debate today, what happened to that
really good black music of the 60s
and 70s, or even the conscious rap of the 80s?
This is an excerpt from the book “Star Holocaust”.

How did Major Record Companies take control of Black Music?(Part1)

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To understand how major corporate record
entities manipulated control of black music, we have to go
back in time to dissect an elaborate, complex, financial and
legal methodology.
It is the common story of large businesses swallowing up
smaller businesses, but in this instance, there are some
unique peculiarities needing closer inspection.
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
Afrikan American community felt a great loss of one of its
cherished institutions. Around that same period it seemed
like war had been declared against the survival of black owned
record companies. Solar Records was involved in a
suit, 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, lifeline to its financial survival,
of CBS Records (also known as Columbia Records).
These are mammoth events virtually placing the dominance
of recorded black music in the hands of major record
companies. The hidden agenda may have been the closing
of all doorways towards the development of full service
(production, manufacturing, distribution) black-owned
record companies in America. Had this occurred, as improbable
as it seems today, it is possible that black
record companies would have ultimately controlled a larger
or equal percentage of the music business, competing with
major record companies.
It was told to me by Dave Parker (oldest promotion man in
the business at that time), that of the $500 million dollars
made in 1987 by CBS Records, approximately 80% was
from black music. black-owned record companies were
obviously seen as a potential threat to the control of the
music market.
The battle to control market share can best be understood
by looking into the case of Stax Records. In the 1970s, it
was the largest, most diverse black-owned record company
in the music industry. Stax artists roster included such stars
as: Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Al Green, Rufus and Carla
Thomas, The Staple Singers, Booker T. & the MGs, and
more. It also had a jazz label, blues label, gospel label, and
even a comedy label where such artists as: Bill Cosby,
Richard Pryor and Jackie “Moms” Mabley launched their
careers.
This era paralleled the turbulent 60s, with the social,
cultural, political and musical climate being fueled by the
black Consciousness Movement and the Viet Nam Peace
Movement. The financial profits generated by black
recording artists and the phenomenal success of black
films and soundtracks caused black entertainment
businesses to be closely monitored.
Stax Records reached several peaks with the
overwhelming success of “Wattstax.” The live concert of
Stax artists in the Los Angeles Coliseum attracted some
one hundred and twelve thousand black people, without
incident. It produced a film of the same event that was seen
worldwide, and was the first to get into the revolutionary
technique at the time, video production.
The success continued when Isaac Hayes, one of Stax top
artists, won the Oscar for best original film score for “Shaft.”
This was during a time when black record companies (Stax,
Sussex, Motown) had the lion’s share of black artists. The
major record companies, not to be left behind, sat up, took
notice, determined to find a way to control the lucrative
black music market.

CBS Records took an aggressive lead by hiring Logan
Westbrooks, a pioneer in black music marketing, to
maximize their profit margin in black music. When
Westbrooks joined CBS, he was unhappy with the way
records by black artists were being marketed. “There was a
vice-president of pop promotion, and the person that
headed the black music division would report to that
individual.
My position was that we should have a complete and
separate marketing division reporting directly to the Vice President
of marketing, which is the same way that the
White side was structured. That also was on the premise
that CBS realize that the black market is a separate entity
and should be approached from a black marketing
standpoint as opposed to the way it had been done in the
past. They bought it.