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Jackson, Sharpton Attack Industry

Jackson, Sharpton Attack Industry

Fueled by Michael Jackson’s recent accusations that the record
business treats black artists unfairly, Reverend Al Sharpton and
his National Action Network held a summit and press conference
today at their headquarters in Harlem, New York City, to reveal the
group’s plan for combating racism in the music industry. Along with
Jackson and other recording artists, Sharpton addressed the group’s
two main concerns: record companies’ exploitation of black
communities and black artists’ failure to recoup royalties for
their songs.

“The issue for us is if 30 million dollars gets spent promoting
an album [Jackson’s latest, Invincible, for example], how
much of that money goes back into African American communities,”
Sharpton said. “We want record companies to work with us to
[ensure] that they at least do as much business with us as they get
from us.”

Although on Saturday, Jackson focused on his own feud with Sony
Music Entertainment (and went as far as to call the company’s
chairman Tommy Mottola a “racist”), today he focused on the broader
issues. “All forms of popular music — from jazz to rock to
hip-hop, and dance, from the jitterbug to the Charleston — are
black,” Jackson said. “But go down to the corner bookstore, and you
won’t see one black person on a cover. You’ll see Elvis Presley.
You’ll see the Rolling Stones. But where are the real

Sharpton also looked to shift the focus away from the
Jackson/Sony saga, saying that reducing the dialogue to an isolated
charge against one record company would “trivialize the pain and
sacrifice of a lot of black artists.”

Other artists spoke mostly about their personal record industry
grievances, discussing the ongoing battle for the publishing rights
to their songs. Former Crystals singer La La Brooks said that she
has never received any royalties from the group’s songs, claiming
that she was misled by producer Phil Spector. “I will live until
Phil Spector is brought down to give every one of us all the money
we deserve for making all the hits in the 1960s,” she said.

Old-school rapper and beatbox pioneer Doug E. Fresh, who
released his last album in 1995, said that he didn’t want future
hip-hop artists to suffer the industry injustices he’s seen. “If
artists are getting jerked, they’re getting jerked,” he said. “And
we need to do something about it.”

Jazz flutist and indie label head Bobbi Humphries further
explained the challenges black musicians face. “If [major] record
companies don’t own it, [radio] won’t play it,” she said. “And if
they’re not going to make money off of it, they certainly won’t
play it.”

NAN hopes to meet with the heads of the four major recording
companies to address what Sharpton calls “the racial disparity of
money in the industry.” Sharpton has added attorney Johnnie Cochran
for legal support and said that he may look to the courts if record
companies fail to meet the group’s demands.

In This Article: Michael Jackson


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