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?(Part 2)


In order to approach the situation scientifically, CBS
Records commissioned the Harvard University Business
School to do a study. Westbrooks served as the
coordinator. The title of the study was, A Study of the Soul
Music Environment Prepared for Columbia Records Group.
The Harvard team was officially titled the “Columbia
Records Project Group.” In his book The Anatomy Of A
Record Company: How To Survive The Record Business,
Westbrooks outlined some of the key rationales for the
study.
First, CBS wanted to determine the profit potential, so they
would not forfeit any market share. Second, CBS wanted to
examine the crossover potential (crossover indicating
crossing over from the Soul chart to the Pop chart in the
music industry trade magazines, or as many described it,
from the black chart to the White chart). Charts contribute
heavily to records being played on radio.
In 1972, when the study was conducted, CBS Records had
only two acts they felt could effectively penetrate the black
market: Sly Stone and Santana. “The following
recommendations were suggested to correct this: purchase
already developed talent rosters from companies like
Philadelphia International Records, Stax Records; revive
and re-establish proven talents (Isley Brothers, O’Jays, Lou
Rawls); take breaking groups and break them bigger (Earth
Wind and Fire, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes); buy into
breaking trends (Jazz Fusion through Miles Davis and his
‘alumni’: Weather Report, Headhunters, Mahavishnu
Orchestra), and perpetuate success, Michael Jackson.”
Westbrooks.
The results of the study were quite striking. For instance,
CBS Records developed a black Music Marketing Division
that was copied throughout the industry by every major
record company doing business in black music. CBS
increased its artist roster from two progressive black oriented
acts in 1972, to one hundred and twenty-five in
1980 – the largest roster of black artists in the industry.
Michael Jackson broke all previous sales records with his
album “Thriller,” anticipating another big one with his next
album, “Bad.” At that time he was the number one music
artist/entertainer in the world. The bittersweet side of this, it
institutionalized black popular music, but it caused other
forms of music: blues, jazz and folk music to suffer virtual
elimination on most radio play lists and concert bills.
According to the study, it created more jobs for blacks, a
point that must be clarified. Though dozens of blacks were
employed to capitalize on this new found market, if the
discontinued black-owned record companies had survived,
hundreds of blacks would have been employed.

Ironically, Clive Davis, President of CBS Records during the
time of the study, denies ever having used it, “I went ahead
on creative feel, intuitive reasoning and common sense, not
because I had any study or blueprint. I’ve never read that
study, I’ve never seen it, and I’ve certainly never used it as
a blueprint. [The study] did not form the basis for any move
that I made,” Westbrooks.
According to Verdine White, bass player for Earth Wind and
Fire, “Columbia did a Harvard study on black music. Clive
followed the Harvard study in terms of the viability of black
music. He really made black music his goal. By signing us,
Philadelphia International, Bill Withers, and Herbie Hancock
(Miles was already on the label), they wanted to make a
change.” Mr. White said that since the 1920s and Bessie
Smith, Columbia had not been successful with black music.
Ray Barnes, a successful record producer at the time (late
1980s), suggests that there
may have been a hidden agenda behind the Harvard study.
He speaks of a conversation
he had with a top black executive associated with the study
(Westbrooks): I met with him
and he had just left the major company that he was working
with (CBS). He said, Im going
to tell you something about this industry that will probably
surprise you. He said, when I
was working for the major company, they had me do a
study on what it was that enabled
black people to make the kind of music that they do. He
said, the industry realized that
black people influenced from 75 to 90 percent of all music
made in America and the world. So that meant that these
people, black people, have the influence which influenced
almost all the music. The danger that was happening at
that time was: you had Motown, you had Stax, you had
Sussex. You had these black record companies at that time
who had the majority of the black acts.
He told me that CBS, Warner Brothers, Atlantic, Polygram,
all of them got together to do
this study. They wanted to find out what it is that makes
black music what it is. The idea is
that, if we can find the ingredients, then maybe we can
make the music without black
people. Then we wont have to have them. We can make
the music ourselves.

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.