Call To Action: Help Save Black Radio On The Mainstream Airwaves (& Independent Radio In General)

What's up to our and syndicated FuseBox Radio Broadcast family,

Much thanks and appreciation to all of our readers and listeners who forwarded over the letter below from the head of Radio One, Cathy Hughes (as well as our folks on Twitter), about this absurd bill that Rep. John Conyers (Democrat - Michagan) is trying to pass through the U.S. Congress that if various NEW music costs are passed on to station owners, will essentially not only cause a great deal of Black-owned Radio Stations to shut down, but a lot of radio stations owned by People of Color in general and community based radio stations.

In other words, the few voices and different types folks that are off the beaten path we may have on the mainstream radio airwaves - which let's be real, isn't really a hell of a lot, especially in regards to talk radio, air personalities and DJs who can be adventurous - would be severely cut back (or at the worst, silenced) for future generations.

As folks know who listen into the radio show we have, both myself and Jon Judah have severe issues with various corporations trying to define only one definition of what Black Radio is supposed to be and entail.

Looking at this particular news story however, we know that positive change cannot be made with the current airwaves and freedom of speech and music if what is known as mainstream Black Radio on the FM airwaves essentially as we know it ceases to exist, even while other pathways are being forged to keep Black Radio alive via the internet, college radio (though there is a disturbing shift happening at some stations) and satellite radio.

Please read the letter below and for all of my peoples in the U.S. (anyone from anywhere would be great, but especially our folks in the States need to do this), please send a letter, e-mail or call of protest in regards to the John Conyers Performance Tax Bill (HR848).

For no other reason, if this passes, who knows what else is going to drop to damage the average man & woman getting different forms of cultural & intellectual exposure for essentially free?

We need to remember regardless of who's in the White House, there is still a LOT of work to do to maintain and gain (unfortunately still) the rights people in this country of all ethnic backgrounds deserve.

Here is the letter from Cathy Hughes below and some extra news links to explain the HR848 bill:

Related News Stories:

Proposed Performance Tax Could Be Black Radio’s Death Knell
- Black America Web
John Conyers Performance Tax Bill (HR848) Information from
John Conyers Performance Tax Bill (HR848) via Library of Congress Website


The Honorable John Conyers, our 80 year old African-American Congressman is the sponsor of a new bill that could put many black owned radio stations out of business. And force others to abandon their commitment to provide free music, entertainment, news, information, and money losing formats like gospel and black talk.

This is Cathy Hughes, founder and chairperson of Radio One with an urgent call to our Radio Family.

The John Conyers Performance Tax Bill is the brain child of the foreign owned record industry who would receive at least 50% of the revenue that would be charged to radio stations in order for them to play music. The music that you now receive free from us - we would have to pay millions of dollars for.

And in the midst of this economic depression, black radio stations simply do not have that financial ability.

There has been only one hearing on the bill and that hearing did not have any black ownership representation. Black Radio owners and community leaders including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton, Dick Gregory, Tom Joyner, and myself have all begged Conyers to at least allow us the opportunity for a hearing. He has flatly refused.

We now ask you, our radio family, to assist us in saving the future of Black Radio. Please call or email or visit the offices of John Conyers today.

His phone numbers are 202-225-5126 and 313-961-5670 and his email address is

TELL HIM that you oppose this bill that would murder Black owned radio and the free music that you now hear on all free radio stations.

In the midst of an American economic recession, it is not the right time to send millions of dollars to foreign owned record companies that don’t even pay taxes like you and me in this country.

This bill is not in the interest of Black people! Please help us save Black Radio!

WANT TO LEARN MORE? See below why it is IMPERATIVE that we act to save Black radio:

1. The promotional value of free local radio airplay translates into significant revenues for artists and record labels:

  • According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), record sales in the United States in 2007 were approximately $10.4 billion;
  • Touring revenue in 2007 in the U.S. was approximately $5 billion;
  • The above figures exclude the several billion dollars derived annually from merchandise, songwriting royalties and licensing deals for commercials, films, etc.; and
  • Also excluded is the boost that U.S. popularity provides for foreign sales and concerts.

2. Local radio also actively promotes artists by:

  • Devoting considerable and valuable airtime to promoting artists’ concerts;
  • Featuring artist weekends
  • Providing opportunities for live in-studio performances; and
  • Creating buzz through on-air ticket and album giveaways, helping to drive concert and merchandising revenue.

Without doubt, the engine driving these billions of dollars into the pockets of the record labels and artists is free, local radio promotion.

Artist Examples of Increased Sales From Local Radio Airplay

Each of the next graphs details and compares the spins on over-the-air radio (highlighted in red on each graph) with the retail sales and downloads of the artists’ releases (highlighted in blue on each graph). The results are consistent in every artist example: Significant play on radio results in significant sales of the artist’s song, demonstrating the significant promotional and economic impact that free, local radio provides to the recording industry.

The recording industry suggests that the Internet and viral marketing is now the way to break a new artist. However, despite numerous new methods for artists to showcase their music, such as, retail outlets, etc., radio’s promotional value in spiking and sustaining sales is clearly demonstrated by the information included below.

Kanye West

Kanye West is an American record producer and is a multiple Grammy Award-winning rapper and singer who rose to fame in the mid 2000s.


He released his debut album “The College Dropout” in 2004, his second album “Late Registration” in 2005 and his third album “Graduation” in 2007. His first three albums have received numerous awards (including nine Grammys), critical acclaim and commercial success. The first two singles from “Late Registration” sold over 860,000 copies in its first week, and earned him eight Grammy Award nominations including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the song “Gold Digger.” His first three albums have certified sales of three million, three million and two million copies respectively by the RIAA.


Kanye West headlined 190 concerts between 2004 and 2007, grossing an average of $244,669 and selling an average of 5,235 tickets per date. (Source: Pollstar Artist Profile Report, © 2007)

50 Cent

50 Cent is an American rapper.


He rose to fame with the release of his albums “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” (2003) and “The Massacre” (2005). Both albums achieved multi-platinum success, selling over 21 million records worldwide, including 11 million RIAA certified sales in the United States.

The lead single from “Get Rich or Die Tryin’,” “In da Club,” which The Source noted for its “blaring horns, funky organs, guitar riffs and sparse hand claps” broke a Billboard record as the most listened-to song in radio history within a week.


50 Cent headlined 199 concerts worldwide between 2002 and 2007, grossing an average of $632,272 and selling an average of 11,406 tickets per date between 2005 and 2007. (Source: Pollstar Artist Profile Report, © 2007)


Heather M said...

Very interesting post - I actually wrote about the same thing this morning, but from an opposite perspective - I support the bill. You've given me some things to think about. I am in favor of the bill because first of all, 75% of stations will be subject to a maximum blanket license fee of $5,000, noncommercial, community and college radio stations will pay a maximum of $1,000 and talk radio stations and religious broadcast stations will pay nothing.

I've worked in the indie music industry for going on 15 years now, so I never sneeze at even such small figures. I know how hard meeting a $1,000 per year fee can really be. However, I think this bill is really designed to make sure that the stations that are making billions are paying the musicians who have made the records that are bringing in the advertising money. As someone who works with musicians, though, I just think that musicians need to be compensated for their work - so they can keep making music. It's a model that works almost every place else in the world.

The flipside of the promotion issue is that while, yes, radio is an extremely effective promoter, significant radio play is available to such a small, small percentage of artists. The vast majority of artists don't get much bang for their radio buck. I won't listen to a Clear Channel station, but the record label person in me knows that in the US, local radio doesn't sell records on a signficant scale. I've been kind of dismayed to see so many people who are wealthy already be so willing to throw so many musicians under the bus rather than requiring US radio stations to pay such a small fee. Many of these people get paid for their own radio appearances - why shouldn't the musicians?

Likewise, US musicians could start collecting their overseas royalties - and since overseas stations do not tend to have the cookie cutter formats of US stations, many more of our musicians could be making money. That tax thing goes both ways.

Just some thoughts from my perspective. Very interesting read, though!

Anonymous said...

the only problem with this bill is that record companies would be the ones paying out the royality tax, they should write a loop hole into the bill making a independant party pay the artists, as for cathy hughes I find out foul and sad her using this bill as a call to arms to save black radio, when she has helped put it where it is today, I also find it foul that people are championing this save black radio campaign by her when all she is doing is having them fight a battle she never intended to fight herself, but make money from. Make no mistake hr848 is by no way a savior to recording artists, but it is also not a death nail to black radio, what cathy hughes leaves out is that she over extended herself when she began taking out finacing to aquire clear channel stations at even a discount, wich was added at the last minute to the 1996 telecomunications act, that major stations should sell some of there extra stations they would have to sell any way, sell to a minorty at a discounted price, many said cathy was making moves, but she was also buying debt and going into debt, then gobbled up blcak owned stations, many said "She's saving them." but how when they become radio one? Black radio once had a history of being innovated, not trying to be a browner clear channel, the business model of radio is dead, and she's still trying to play by that model.