Thursday, July 30, 2009

Dionne Warwick Puts Radio One's Founder Cathy Hughes On Blast!

In a column published on Huffington Post, legendary singger Dionne Warwick is blasting Radio One's founder Cathy Hughes for crying poor and fighting the Performance Rights Act which, if passed, will force radio stations to pay royalties to artists for playing their songs. Ms Hughes is in staunch opposition, claiming this royalty will put black-owned radio stations out of business. As Ms Warwick points out, Cathy - through her 54 radio stations - raked in more than $316 million in 2008. The Performance Rights Act reads that radio stations that make less $100,000 will pay just $500 annually, while the making less than $1.25 million a year would pay $5000 or less. These royalties will come in handy for Ms Warwick who is not doing so well financially.

Here's what Dionne Warwick wrote:
I was surprised when Radio One's Cathy Hughes added my name to the list of African American artists and civil rights activists she's attacked in her vicious campaign against fairly compensating musicians for their work. Then again, since smearing African American leaders to protect her profits has become Ms. Hughes siren song, maybe I shouldn't be surprised at all.

Every time we buy a CD or download a song, the artist is paid for their work. You might not know that this isn't the case when a musician's work is played on the radio. That's because corporate radio CEOs like Cathy Hughes are exploiting a legal loophole that allows them to play these artists songs without paying them for their work.

Ms. Hughes is now very angry with me, other black recording artists, and civil rights leaders because we support the Performance Rights Act, which many now call the Civil Rights for Musicians Act. This bill, which was written by the Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressman John Conyers, closes the legal loophole the radio corporations and CEOs are using to ensure that African American artists receive fair pay for airplay.

In defending her refusal to fairly compensate the artists on whose back she earns her living, Ms. Hughes now claims poverty, which is pretty amazing considering Radio One owns 54 radio stations and reaped $316 million last year alone. She even paid her own son, Radio One CEO Alfred Liggins, a $10 million bonus. Far from a struggling company, Radio One sounds more like one of those Wall Street rip off firms where executives pay themselves big bonuses while they rip us off and throw their workers in the street.

If their profits and the bonuses Ms. Hughes has paid her son are any indicator, Radio One is hardly struggling. But there are small stations, especially gospel stations, in our communities that we love and that deserve our help. That's why the Civil Rights for Musicians Act protects these truly small radio stations while insisting even a big corporate radio firm like Radio One would only pay roughly what they earn off of about five commercials each day.

You can begin to understand Ms. Hughes' willingness to rip off black artists when you take a look at who she attacks and the kind of company she keeps. During the last presidential campaign she repeatedly attacked Barack Obama, calling him "a dazzling deception" and implied that we supported him because black people are easily fooled. She has even supported the current chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, who said he would attract more African Americans to his party by offering "fried chicken and potato salad." This is hardly a woman who is looking out for what's best for the African American community.

The struggling musicians who need the Civil Rights for Musicians Act don't want a handout from Cathy Hughes or Clear Channel or the National Association of Broadcasters, which is the mouthpiece of big -- largely white -- corporate radio. They just want to be paid for their work. This legislation would make sure that these artists are directly compensated, not the recording executives who may have stolen from them much as Ms. Hughes and Radio One steals from them now.

I am proud of my support for the Civil Rights for Musicians Act, even if it means suffering though the tirades of Ms. Hughes. I hope she understands that the struggle to pass the Civil Rights for Musicians Act isn't about us any more than Rosa Parks bravery was about getting a better seat on the bus.

Better women than Ms. Hughes have spent a lifetime toiling to ensure equal rights and economic opportunity for black Americans. There is nothing "stupid" about insisting that African American workers are paid for their labor. The Civil Rights for Musicians Act is about economic justice for African American artists. It's about what's right. And it's about time.


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Anonymous said...

This is a very good article. I'm glad Dionne wrote this letter. I'm soo SICK of hearing Cathy Hughes whining on the radio about this bill. It needs to be passed. And the way she pronouces the word "radio" makes me ill! Musicians should be compensated for their music being played, it makes sense. I could care less baout her losing money. it's like asking a band to play for free at your wedding...not logical.

Anonymous said...

This is a very bad bill. The artists need radio to blow them up. Otherwise, they would be nobodies. This bill would send most of the money the stations would have to pay to the record companies and not the artists.

Dionne and other artists that support the bill should go after the record labels for the shoddy contracts they signed, including royalties.

Business Woman said...

This is a double edged sword on the one hand, yes musicians should most certainly be compensated for their work. On the other hand when radio stations play the recordings this could be considered as advertising. Radio is still the most popular venue for listeners/consumers to hear new music...And yes it is the selection of Artist that attracts the audience who then purchase the music.

While I have and continue to be a fan of the honorable Congressman John Conyers I believe his battle's time has passed and his solution misses the mark. With the Internet and the variety of options it poses radio stations as we know them will soon be obsolete and Mr. Conyers argument becomes a mute point as Artist will be able to align with whomever they desire in addition to having the capability to webcast their own music. New Artist are producing their own CDs and hosting and marketing themselves as their own brand drastically changing the landscape of the way business is done. The old way of doing business is out. This is a new day and Congressman Conyers, Dionne Warwick and Kathy Hughes all need to be paying attention if they want to continue to get paid.

As a business person I have to pay to advertise my products and services on the radio and yes music is one of the reasons that I listen, but more often than not it is the demographics that I pay attention to as an advertiser. Moreover, it is the content of Public Radio that I find most attractive and rewarding.

Considering the fact that most Artists’ music is played multiple times a day and most radio stations sponsor several live performances every year featuring their most popular Artist I'm not sure where the complaint is unless your brand of music isn't that popular and the infrequent plays are not generating sales of your songs nor invitations to perform. Now that's the individual Artist's concern. But more importantly: To Internet or not to Internet? That is the question.

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