Archive for June, 2009

The BET Awards has emerged to be the single most important awards show celebrating black entertainment accomplishment. And while I really don’t watch BET on a regular basis, I have recognized the awards show as the preeminent show for black music and entertainment. I know that the show was hugely anticipated as parties raged in LA all week and stars converged from all points to the City of Angels to imbibe in the festivities.

And then we were all shocked by the news of the sudden death of Michael Jackson.

Now BET was front and center all over the world as THE place for a Michael Jackson tribute. CNN broadcast live from the red carpet.. All media, particularly those that wouldn’t normally cover BET were providing anticipation for what the BET Awards would be in terms of a tribute to the fallen MJ. The entire world was watching, through BET, how the black community would celebrate the life and legacy of our beloved Michael Jackson..

And then, true to form, BET’s show fell short, providing the world with a confirmation that our people… our culture is full of coonery and buffoonery. What was BET thinking??

I followed the preshow comments on twitter. Everyone, fans and industry heads, were wondering what in tarnation was happening. It was an utter joke. An gargantuan display of stereotypes and musical garbage.

Now, to be fair, there were some great moments in the show. The O’Jay’s tribute: Tyrese, Johnny Gill and Trey Songz did a great job and they were followed by the O’Jays who were…well, the O’Jays.. pros, awesome pros…… the duet with Jamie Foxx and Neyo singing “I’ll Be There”… The icing on the cake for me was to watch Janet Jackson sum up enough courage to come out and speak briefly to everyone. That took strength and fortitude… She was elegant, articulate and I pray for her comfort in this time of bereavement. Her grief will take a lot of time to stabilize from…..For me that pretty much summed up the positives.

The show was ruined by:

Lil Wayne and this new guy called Drake… What was up with the little girls dancing all over those grown men?

Ving Rhames: What was up with him? On the red carpet he was trying to explain to CNN that the Rollin 60’s gang are misunderstood.. On the stage, he tried to contrast Michael with a gun..an analogy that went over everyone’s head… this just after he tried to re-enact his role in “Baby Boy” with a shocked Taraji P. Henson and Tyrese Gibson. These antics ruined the presentation of Video of the Year, which I suppose is the highlight of this awards show…

Soulja Boy Tellem: To be fair, I already hate the song “Turn Your Swag On”.. so I guess this is a jaded criticism… To me his raps smack of uneducated buffoonery. A fact even more exacerbated by the atmosphere of a tribute for Michael Jackson… They could have left him off the performance lineup.

Joe Jackson: I am sorely disappointed that he is using this tragic time to promote a new record label.

New Edition: As we get older gentlemen, we need regular exercise…

Tiny: Ghetto Fabulous at the highest level. And the gum smacking, southern drawl made her look really wack. Perhaps that’s just her way… But I’m just sayin’

Frankie and Neffie: Couldn’t BET find something more positive to promote? I’m just sayin’…

T-Pain: I already had a beef with this guy since I saw him at the Grammy Awards two years ago… Big Ass Chain and sipping from a red plastic cup??? Stepin Fetchit is a good comparison.

Jamie Foxx: Shameless plugs of his upcoming tour…. I get it. I’m speculating that maybe BET was short on his normal fee and to compensate they allowed him to promote his tour.. I ain’t mad, but it’s the way it was promoted… it could have been promoted with much more subtlety and with much more class. Other than that Jamie was…well, Jamie… I ain’t mad at the moonwalk!!!

In the end, I was really disappointed with BET. I have wondered for some years now if they are purposely promoting coonery to the world as a strategy to keep us dumbed down. I mean the shows and videos are proof in the pudding. But for the Awards I would think they would kick it up a notch. I understand that the suddenness of the times caused a huge re-write of things.. The Awards are a huge undertaking and have been in the planning for months… BUT it seems that they could have done a better job…

Or maybe it’s not BET that we’re shocked with. Maybe the reality of current African American Pop Culture is too much for us to bear. We are looking for a scapegoat in BET when maybe we ought to blame ourselves. We have not taken advantage of the times to promote more positive images of ourselves. We have allowed the pimp, the hoe, and the baller image to permeate our consciousness.. Being dumbed down, illiterate and ill-mannered is at the top of our consciousness while the well mannered, sensitive, cultured black person is pushed under the rug.

So in the end, is it BET that we should be disappointed with? After all, they just did what they do. Provide us with a front row seat to coonery.

Or is it our fault for allowing coonery and debauchery come to the forefront when showcasing or describing our people?

I’m just sayin’…

All this talk about saving black radio is very interesting. There are many bloggers, prognosticators and pundits announcing the impending death of black radio and imploring the public to step forward and save it. They say black radio has lost sight of what it means to the community. Black Radio is becoming almost irrelevant.

Now, as a black radio veteran I can tell you that the medium is certainly important – a conduit to culturally relevant music, news and information. , Black radio is all about lifestyle. This is the history. But real business conditions affect the art and legacy of black radio:

With consolidation, we saw the soul of black radio change and, in a lot of cases, evaporate. Corporations are able to own multiple properties in a market, giving them powerful leverage in the sales and marketing arena. Music choices are made from a central headquarters location, corporate creative elements enter the airwaves, homogenizing the sound of local heritage properties…

The advent of syndication has removed the local appeal from black radio in critical dayparts. This is a key ingredient in the essence of black radio. Listeners want to connect with their station from a community level. And while nationally syndicated shows find success across the nation and some of them do a good job of connecting with the market, the casualty is that local feel that is so important to the community.

No Urban Dictates is a longstanding battle fought by black radio for years. The war for advertising revenue parity is a tough and gritty conflict. If you are in black radio and reading this, you need to take this moment and give one of those account executives a high five…

Portable People Meter has just changed the advertising game and is the main challenge of a major market black radio station. We were already in the throes of the aforementioned advertising battle and now they throw this in. They have changed the paradigm of how the audience is measured. The PPM does not accurately reflect who and how many people are listening.. They are under-sampling in the community and that short changes us at the bargaining table.

Performance Rights Act is making its rounds through Capitol Hill and possibly could become Law. H.R. 848 is sponsored by Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and would require stations to pay performing artists for playing their music. This will severely exacerbate the challenges faced by black radio. The argument is that the station benefits from the songs they come out with, therefore the station should pay the artist. If that is the case, then the playing of a song is like a commercial, because artists are hoping that the consumer will like the song and that will translate into the purchase of their CD. Like a commercial encourages the listener to buy the latest widget. If its hot, sales will soar… if it’s wack…. Speaking of wack, if the record is wack does radio get a refund???

These are just some of the real business issues facing the black radio station. The question is now how do we adapt and overcome market conditions in order to survive? The basic way we even operate as broadcasters has changed. The listener has so many more choices. And as we adapt to market conditions and changes in media consumption habits, our art changes…

Save Black Radio? Yes, Black Radio is in a state of strategic inflection. Change or cease to exist… And you know what? We(black radio) will survive.